Choral Arts (Seattle), under the direction of Dr. Robert Bode, recently performed my choral piece “I will lift mine eyes” during their Pure Sound concert series. I just received the recording and it is FANTASTIC! What an excellent group of voices and a phenomenal conductor. Dr. Bode’s ability to create a clear, balanced, and lush sound is outstanding and the choir’s phrasing had intense emotion and clarity. Congratulations to all!
Here is the program note Dr. Bode wrote for the piece:
Jake Runestad is the youngest composer on tonight’s program, born in 1986 and only 25 years old this year. He is represented tonight by his lush setting of Psalm 121, “I will lift mine eyes,” which he composed when he was a mere 20 years of age. Being the youngest composer amongst the three, the influence of the past on his compositional style might not be as evident or extend as far back as [Nico] Muhly’s, for example, but it is as clearly drawn. Runestad grew up in Illinois and Minnesota, and as you listen to his work, you can hear the influence of the great Lutheran choral style so prevalent in the North Central U.S. With its roots in the centuries-old Scandinavian choral tradition and its typically lush, sonorous writing, it has wielded a strong influence on the sound of choirs and choral compositions in the United States. You will also hear echoes of more contemporary Minnesota composers a generation or two ahead of Runestad, including René Clausen and Stephen Paulus, along with more than a hint of frequently performed choral composers Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre, whose influence has been pervasive in the compositional style and harmonic language of young choral composers over the past decade at least. The presence of these influences is clear in Runestad’s sumptuously beautiful psalm setting, at least for listeners familiar with the works of those composers, In his setting, Runestad clearly demonstrates a command of the choral idiom and of the formal shape of his piece. It is always fascinating to hear works by young composers who are in the process of developing their own distinct voices, and we can all look forward to hearing more works from Runestad as he, just as did Duruflé and Vaughan Williams, absorbs and integrates the influences of the past, while achieving his own unique voice in the future.