World-famous composer to visit Orcas – from Waldron

Morten Lauridsen, the world’s most frequently performed American choral composer, is coming to Orcas for the Orcas Choral Society’s spring concert May 5 and 6. In one way, it will be a short trip. Lauridsen lives (in summer) on Waldron and San Juan islands. The concert will feature three of the composer’s works, and he will speak about his music and life in the islands at a free showing May 3 of the film, “Shining Night, A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen.”

Lauridsen’s music reflects his love of the sea, and especially of Waldron.

“Looking toward Canada on Cowlitz Bay, it’s completely silent, except for a boat way off in the distance, the sea, and birdsong,” he said.

“We are so grateful for this opportunity,” said Marianne Lewis, artistic director of Orcas Choral Society. “We will hear what our own islands inspire in one of the greatest composers of our age. We’re doubly honored that Mr. Lauridsen will himself accompany the choir on two of his pieces, ‘Sure On This Shining Night,’ and the Northwest premiere of his ‘Ya eres mia (Now You are Mine).’”

Lauridsen composes many of his works in “Crum’s Castle,” his cabin on Waldron’s shore. He originally moved in with a $50 piano, a golden retriever, and a sleeping bag. Now, he composes on an 1890 Steinway barged to the island on a friend’s fishing boat.

“I found complete freedom on this island,” Lauridsen explained in “Shining Night,” which was an audience favorite at the first Friday Harbor Film Festival in 2013. “I just fell so deeply in love with this place. The serenity of it, the beauty of it, the smell of the air.” It’s a life-long connection. Lauridsen first came to Waldron at age nine, when his aunt and uncle bought a summer home there.

Born in 1943, Lauridsen grew up in Portland, Ore. He attended Whitman College and the University of Southern California and has been a professor of composition at USC’s Thornton School of Music for more than 50 years. He was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006. In 2007, he received the presidential National Medal of Arts, the highest award for artists given by the U.S. Government. His works have been recorded on more than 200 CDs, several of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

“This music is going to live for centuries,” said Paul Salamunovich, director emeritus of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Tickets are available at or at the Orcas Center,, 360-376-2281. The film showing and talk by Lauridsen is at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, at the Emmanuel Parish Hall.