Watch! Spell-Bound: Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, by Jim Bond and Dana Gioia

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Here is O Magnum Mysterium performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale under the direction of Paul Salamunovich

Below: EWTN, Performed by The Choir of the Eternal Word Television Network under the direction of Derek Paul Kluz


Note: TCT Editor-in-Chief Robert Royal, reporting from Rome, will join host Raymond Arroyo on EWTN’s “The World Over” tonight at 8 PM EDT to discuss the just concluded consistory of the College of Cardinals, the pope’s visit to L’Aquila, and other subjects. Shows are rebroadcast at different times after the initial airing (consult your local listings) and are also usually available later on EWTN’s YouTube channel.

Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium (“O Great Mystery”) has become one of the most popular pieces of classical music in the world. First composed in 1994, this a cappella choral work has been recorded over a hundred times. Within a few years of its premiere, the sheet music sold over a million copies.

What accounts for the huge appeal of this work? Contemporary classical music is rarely popular. Sacred choral music has little commercial appeal, especially when the words are in Latin. Nor is Lauridsen’s work an easy piece in a popular style. O Magnum Mysterium is an austere and richly composed setting of a medieval sacred text. Lauridsen’s international success seems in itself a great mystery.

There is little doubt that Lauridsen’s work is a masterpiece, but that explanation is insufficient. Music has many neglected masterpieces. The success of Lauridsen’s motet comes from something singular – it has the power to bring the listener into a mystical trance….

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