An eclogue


noun ec·logue \ ˈek-ˌlȯg , -ˌläg \
a short poem, especially a pastoral dialogue.

See —
Finally plowed fields,
Bluffs and copses of leafless trees —
Windswept streams feeding chilly lakes
The sun, dear friend of the North,
Casts long and shadowed tendrils across the brittle grass,
The grainery is full and hay bales are stacked high.

See —
Jackets, coats, and hats find their way out of closets,
Children excitedly try boots from last year —
As the oven brims forth a joyful heat
Gently floating up to kiss frosted window panes.
And, Oh! the bouquet of sweet bread in the air.

See —
The lingering, yet bitterly expectant breath,
This, the concluding harvest —
The long moment of quiet rest
Allowing a tender offering of thanksgiving.


This time of year is special if you sit still — if you take the time to watch and see.  It is a precious few weeks of ‘between-ness’, this climax of autumn.  Contemporary society has unfortunately cartooned the experience by what we now call Thanksgiving, which is relegated to an hour or two of over-eating with football games blaring on the television in the background.  It is difficult to get a real handle of this season, but for me, Gerald Finzi’s Op. 10 “Eclogue” (shown in the video above) has been a way to emotionally walk towards a knowing of what is important about these quiet days.  Perhaps as much as any composer throughout history, Finzi can uniquely corner and capture this feeling powerfully.  Please listen.

It’s easy to get distracted these days from the simple, the plain, the good, the warmhearted, the wholesome, and the kind.  Yes, these things are growing increasingly rare, but I remain convinced it is possible to become a trader in them.  To seek them out with patience, to wait and listen, and then to act upon them for others…. Merely being nostalgic doesn’t quite contain what I am speaking to here, and certainly not being maudlin.  It is so much more, yet paradoxically it remains simple and basic.

It is the smell of dirt and hay and pumpkins and sugar beets, rosy cheeks and noses, the crack of trees and crunch of grass and leaves, baking breads and pies, mittens and hats, hot cider, the gathering of friends and family, just to name a few tender things (though there is a myriad).  It is this Shaker line:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

I think it is a shame most people may read this today and think: “how silly,” “how naive”, or “how quaint.”  Perhaps this image hasn’t been helped by Joseph Brackett’s tune (and I myself am not really a fan of it either), but in reading Elder Joseph’s lyric penned so long ago in Maine, it is a painful affront to our lives right now, is it not?  So much striving… Simplicity seems to be only found in the Self Help section of the local Barnes and Noble.

Oh, to listen instead of needing to be heard.
Oh, to be kind instead of putting ourselves above anyone.
Oh, to be okay being simple, though the world wants complexity.
Oh, to to be vulnerable of heart, bowing and bending without shame.


Lord on High,
Please help us be still,
Please help us remember with joy in our hearts,
Please help us Give Thanks for Good things.
Please help us to Love others.

Please help me.


Oraison | קֹ֫דֶשׁ


And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire … and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth …. And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever … that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished …
— Rev 10:1–2, 5–7

This was the text that inspired Olivier Messiaen’s transcendent Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time).  It is also truncated in his preface to the score with this haunting phrase: “In homage to the angel of the apocalypse, who raises his hand to heaven by saying: ‘There will be no more Time.'”  It is a powerful text, given that Messiaen composed this piece in late 1940 whilst held in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner of war camp, by the Germans of the second World War.  Though there is much to say about this mystical 8 movement work, its creation, instrumentation, or initial performance on a rainy day in 1941, I am consistently drawn to one movement: Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus 

An overarching and obvious aspect of this piece is stated quite nicely by Messiaen’s initial tempo marking in the score:  “Infiniment lent, extatique” (Infinitely slow, ecstatic).  He deals with concepts and preconceptions of time wonderfully in this piece in a variety of ways with his manipulation, contraction, and expansion of musical time.  Dealing with time in this manner seems to be apropos to the Revelation text, the peculiar ‘there should be time no longer’ and an entrance into something that either doesn’t include time, or transcends it in some way.


Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

Messiaen describes the movement this way in his preface:

Jesus is considered here as the Word. A broad phrase, “infinitely slow”, on the cello, magnifies with love and reverence the eternity of the Word, powerful and gentle, “whose time never runs out”. The melody stretches majestically into a kind of gentle, regal distance. “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I want to focus here on the words “regal distance,” which is a fascinating way of speaking to what I personally get from the score.  In my opinion, it is one of the best instances in music that successfully portrays the concept of קֹ֫דֶשׁ, (Hebrew: qodesh).  In Greek, it is ἅγιος (hagios).  In English, it is holy.

I feel quite certain that most modern people do not understand the concept of (qodesh) holiness, or if they do, feel a little uncomfortable with the idea.  Of the variety of possible translated meanings, (according to the NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries) qodesh can mean apartness, consecrated, dedicated, hallowed, sacred, sacrificial, holy, and my personal favorite: sanctuary.  Of the variety of possible translated meanings, hagios can mean set apart, sacred, holy, or my personal favorite: sanctuary.  These ideas circle around what holiness actually is: an ‘otherness’ or ‘separateness’ or ‘sacredness.’  It is a placement or condition of being and is a very antithetical idea to our current society (or perhaps any society).  It is most easily and temporally seen as a concept or condition of personal moral character, but there seems to be a larger, more cosmic (immeasurable, limitless, infinite) aspect to it as well.

This concept is seen, or felt, here in this movement fairly explicitly.  There is an aspect of holiness that is achieved by the eradication of Time, is there not?  Part of the nature of God (Jesus), is that He is timeless or transcends time (“whose time never runs out”).  He “Is,” or differently stated, He is eternally now.  That is a holy concept.  It is absolute, and absolutely pure.  And particularly in Christianity, He ‘is’ sanctuary (holy).  When one enters into the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ, it could be thought that one enters into eternity.  The pairing of holiness and timelessness can also be seen in 1 Peter 1:13-25.


For Messiaen, the end of time also meant an escape from history, a leap into an invisible paradise. Hence the hypnotically simple E-major chords in the two “Louanges.” The postwar avant-garde composers who studied with Messiaen—Boulez, Stockhausen, Xenakis—wanted to eradicate all traces of the old world, but their teacher was not afraid to look back. In fact, Messiaen based the “Louanges” on two of his prewar compositions—“Oraison,” from a piece titled “Fête des belles eaux,” for six Ondes Martenot, one of the first electronic instruments; and “Diptyque,” a 1930 piece for organ. The scholar Nigel Simeone tells us that “Fête” was written for the Paris Exposition of 1937, one of whose attractions was a “festival of sound, water, and light.” Women in white flowing dresses played the Ondes in conjunction with spectacular fireworks and fountain displays. The opening phrase of the first “Louange” originally accompanied a colossal jet of water.

It is disconcerting to associate the Quartet with Moulin Rouge-style production values. But Messiaen always took joy in skating between the mundane and the sublime.

— “Revelations: Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time” by Alex Ross; The New Yorker (March 22, 2004)

As stated by Ross above, Messiaen transcribed Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus from his 1937 work Oraison.  Oraison is a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in southeastern France, which at the time of Messiaen’s composition had a population of around 1750.  Given the nature and goals of The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (The International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Modern Life) in May 1937, Messiaen’s selection of the ondes Martenot (invented by Maurice Martenot in 1928) would have been an excellent choice.

But why, while in Stalag VIII-A 3 years later, would he look back to this particular work and repurpose it for his Quatuor pour la fin du temps, especially the Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus?  I think if you listen to Oraison played on the original instrument, you may have suspicions:

When I hear this played on original instrumentation, I get an even deeper, almost visceral, connection to the concepts described above, “קֹ֫דֶשׁ,” “ἅγιος,” …holiness.  It is the nature, strangeness, and mystical sonic profile of the ondes Martinot that does it I suspect.  It is even more affective than the 1941 transcription, in my opinion.  (The violoncelle sound is more earthbound than the otherworldly ondes Martinot). The build and gravitational tension building at 5′ and subsequent denoument and release into space at 5’30” to the end (or 6’30” – 7’30” in the Yo-Yo Ma recording) creates a powerful εἰκών of the “gentle, regal distance” of God (Jesus).  It is the image of the cosmic King and the holy sanctuary, the Λόγος — the Word of God.

On January 15, 1941, The Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus was first heard on deteriorating instruments by 400 prisoners and guards at Stalag VIII-A.  It was raining.  Messiaen was said to have recalled “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension.”  They perhaps saw what could be described as “hope” in imagining the apocalyptic angel declaring Time be no more.  There will be justice and there is an infinite Being who will provide it.

It was a perfect time in history to hear such a thing, as it remains now.



Unearthing EWB – Dawn


The summer before I moved to Seattle in 2007 I decided to send a couple pieces to several choirs in the Northwest region, including choirs like Choral Arts, Opus7, and The Esoterics.  Now as most composers may tell you this generally is a bit of a gamble and often a waste, for conductors of fine ensembles are inundated with manuscripts from composers trying to find performances.  Most often, the scores sit on the conductor’s piano, glanced at, untouched, or skimmed and filed (maybe even in file 13).  So I knew this, but I took it to be an opportunity at minimum to get my name in the ear of these fine choirs and their conductors.

At the time, Choral Arts was transitioning between two fantastic conductors, Dr. Richard Sparks (currently at University of North-Texas) and Dr. Robert Bode (conservatory at University of Missouri, Kansas City).  My scores were of secondary importance to a choir during an important transition and they could have been lost in the shuffle, but somehow they made it Robert’s box and waited patiently for his perusal.

Richard Sparks, Robert Bode, Eric Barnum

I got a call in August of 2008 from Robert, who I hadn’t met, and we hit it off immediately.  He had a proposition (he wouldn’t say it was risky, but I would! and am still grateful to this day), for me to compose a short piece for their upcoming “Mornings Like This” album, set to a poem written by him.  I instantly said yes without even pondering.  It was an honor to be asked, but to be nearly guaranteed a spot on a professional recording on a label like Gothic is truly a gift for a young composer.  But, the caveat was he needed it quick.  How quick?  Lets just say quick.  He sent the poem on a Friday.

I sent the piece to him on Sunday afternoon.

I don’t mention this to boast about how quick I can compose a piece, but to share my deep belief in the inspirational quality of Robert’s poetry.  This was our first collaboration and we have done many others over recent years i.e. Healing Heart, Carol of the Angels, Conflagration.  Each time feels as though I am transcribing music already present in the text, not necessarily adding anything special of my own.  He and Thomas Hood (1799-1845) seem to be the poets most resonant to my heart.

In 2010, Dawn was chosen for one of Conspirare’s fantastic Carillon concerts by Craig Hella Johnson.  Craig and I subsequently published it through his series with G. Schirmer.  You can find it to order:  (HL.50490262)

(…E.W.Barnum not E.B.White)

From the door’s soft opening
And the day’s first sigh,
Filling the room,
I see before me
A life of doors,
One opening on another,
Doors upon doors,
And sighs upon sighs,
Rising in a tide of mornings,
Rising, until that final sigh,
And the last morning,
And the last holy breath,
Whispering “this…”

The instant I read the poem I thought Scandanavia.  Not sure why, and I usually don’t second guess my instincts.  So I attacked the poem with composers like Alfvén and Stenhammar as my guides.  I wanted to capture both the natural daylight breaking over the horizon, but also the existential idea a new day represents.  Though the existential element is more obvious in the text, I thought I could amplify it yet further by spending most of my time focusing on the light breaking forth idea.

I tried to do this in a couple of ways.  Immediately comes the obvious technique of starting with few voices and adding parts individually to create more and more color, culminating in the rich sonority of an F major chord (which I sometimes think of as the color blue).  The idea of light gradually coming is self-evident in the text “doors upon doors, sighs upon sighs”.  I choose to use this section of text as a spring board into the climax, not only with a repeating rising vocal line transferred from part to part, but also with harmonic tensions created from some unresolved suspensions.  All this resolves in a surprising minor climax, not major.  I think this gives the glory of each dawn a sense not of just joy, but also of mystery and longing.

The end of the piece essentially is an extension of an aleatoric technique I use from time to time.  In this particular piece the word “this” is repeated over and over again, overlapping in a cluster creating the imagery of a light.  Meanwhile a wavelike repeating figure is sung in the lower voices.  In total, one should get the feeling of light reflecting off the gentle waves of a body of water as the sun rises slowly above the horizon.


I haven’t seen too many sunrises, to be honest.  Sunsets have been easier for a night-owl.  Sunrises are glorious things though when you do the work to get up early enough.  It always seems to be worth it ….maybe I should do it more often.  Dawn brings with it possibility.  A newness.  A cleanliness.  The return of the sun has a fresh warmth too it as we shield our eyes from the bright light.

Robert focuses particularly on the aspect of renewal and the possibilities a novel day always presents.  All things are a mystery as you look ahead, but with the rising sun, a special feeling often fills your heart:  hope.  It seems like this poem is a perfect answer to the famous Thomas Hardy poem of hope: Song of Hope.

O sweet To-morrow! –
After to-day
There will away
This sense of sorrow.
Then let us borrow
Hope, for a gleaming
Soon will be streaming,
Dimmed by no gray –
No gray!

While the winds wing us
Sighs from The Gone,
Nearer to dawn
Minute-beats bring us;
When there will sing us
Larks of a glory
Waiting our story
Further anon –

Doff the black token,
Don the red shoon,
Right and retune
Viol-strings broken;
Null the words spoken
In speeches of rueing,
The night cloud is hueing,
To-morrow shines soon –
Shines soon!

The piece Dawn is the tomorrow Hardy speaks about.  It is today!  Today is here and with it brings something new with its unpredictable prism of possibilities.  Dawn also hints that this gift will continue if you choose it.  Hope is born anew each morning.  Mercies are new every morning, if we look to the light.  And when the light rises, it shines light on blessings all around us.

We travelers, walking toward the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessing now appear, risen

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

– Wendell Berry

Choral Arts and “Sing in Dark Times”

This last weekend brought with it a concert by Choral Arts in Seattle called:

Against Forgetting: A Concert for Remembrance for Victims of the Holocaust.

What a program it was.

In case you are unfamiliar with Choral Arts, they are a Seattle-based ensemble of approximately thirty singers dedicated to its mission: To inspire, educate, and enrich its community through the transformational power of great choral music performed at the highest artistic level.  Initially started by Dr. Richard Sparks (now Professor of Music at the University of North Texas) in 1993, the group is now conducted by Dr. Robert Bode, is the Raymond R. Neevel/Missouri Professor of Choral Music and Director of Choral Activities at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.  That’s a mouthful.  Through the years this group has been excellent, continues to be, and in some ways has grown into something more and exciting, especially with their recent CD Release, Mornings Like This, which is truly a special choral CD.

Robert Bode, photo by Danielle Barnum

Robert Bode showed his innovative nature in this particular program of Remembrance for Victims of the Holocaust, partly by programming virtually no music specifically about the Holocaust.  In fact there ended up being only one, my Sing in Dark Times.  Though this was the case, either through tangential means or very choice readings, one could not help but live in a space where swirled images, words, and memories of this terrible event.  Primary readings were taken from Surviving Auschwitz by Primo Levi and read by one of the finest dramatic actors in the Seattle area, David Pichette.    These spoke primarily to select moments of a Jew’s experience being sent to Auschwitz when things were at their worst.

The concert began with Donal Grantham’s We Remember Them, composed in 2001 commemorating the victims of the 1966 clock-tower shootings at the University of Texas.  It moved quickly to Have You Ever Heard Them Breathe a Word? by Giselle Wyers.  The text for this new piece was actually the winner of Choral Art’s “Finding Your Voice” poetry contest for students in area schools.  It was a meaningful setting of a delightful poem.

The Choral Concerto in Memory of Alexander Yurlov, composed by Georgy Sviridov in 1973, followed and packed an emotional punch.  Interspersed where readings from the Levi text.  This Sviridov work is a set of three pieces for Wordless Chorus (Lament, The Parting, Chorale) and through use of extreme dynamics and ranges brings the listener really ‘to the brink.’  I can’t say enough about how well the synthesis between these pieces and the readings worked.  Powerful.

Two movements from Howell’s Requiem (3 and 5) were wrapped around the Intermission, which created a continuity through the break.  Again, another selection that keeps one in that special place of remembrance and highly effective.

from The Hateful Crime

Sing in Dark Times by me, was the bulk of the second half, with three movements (balancing the Sviridov in a way I think).  This piece (the first of many to come in the Richard Sparks Commissioning Project) was, as mentioned, the only piece about the Holocaust.  The first movement The Hateful Crime is a very dramatic work with text taken from the poem The Death of Peace by Nobel Prize winning doctor Sir Ronald Ross.  Rather than being specific to the Holocaust, this text was meant as a ‘set-up’ for the second piece.  It talks about evil in a broad and metaphysical fashion, though exposing it as something quite specific (paradoxical….sort of).  Pigtail, (to a poem by the same name by Tadeusz Rozewicz) the middle movement, was really the meat of the piece and I think it was quite successful in transporting the audience to a particular vision.  It centers on a pile of hair taken from women who were taken into the gas chambers for execution.  This horror is only multiplied by the sight of a single pigtail with a ribbon in the midst of clouds of hair.  The music gives the feeling that this moment is “frozen in time” as a photograph, with a repetitive piano underlying an emotive soprano soloist.  The choir can only comment on this barbarity with a single shocking word, “No.” Over and over again, “No!”  One can only ask the question “What now?” after a vision like this.  We cannot turn back time.  We cannot undo.  A quote by Bertolt Brecht tries to answer this question saying:  “In the dark times, will there also be singing?  Yes, there will also be singing.  About the dark times.” This third movement, Yes, focuses just on that, the word “Yes,” in contrast to the horrible “No” of the second movement.

Following this heavy, heavy drama was a bit of programming genius I think, with a heartfelt mvt 3 from Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein.  The simplicity and warmth of the lines contained such a depth in this moment, closing with the words, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

Closing the program was a moving When All Is Done, originally composed by Northwest composer John Muehleisen in 2008 for the University of Wyoming, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard (the victim of a notorious hate crime).  With text by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, it speaks to hope.  Hope we need when things are dark, or wrong.

Choral Arts is quickly approaching their 20th Anniversary season, and in my opinion are putting together some amazing performances, concerts and recordings.  This is an ensemble that sounds so, so, so very good.  And it is a great blessing to be in any way involved with them.

Gerald Finzi: a TragicHero

Gerald Finzi, my dear friend who died who died in 1956, a full 23 years before I was born, continues to be an inspiration to me from the grave.

It is difficult to muster a more suitable statement about this dear composer than one supplied by John Russell in the Autumn, 1954 edition of Tempo:

It would be of no help to anyone to reduce an article on Gerald Finzi’s music to a series of programme notes.  The music is there for all to study and perform, and all one can do is to introduce it to those who have so far passed it by.  There is no doubt that it is in the tradition of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Parry, and Holst, but of those only the last could have written a bar of Finzi. …he is not very “exportable,” which means that he is not fashionable.  The musician knows him as a writer of fastidious songs, and as a “Three Choirs composer” (how damning a term – why?); the informed listener has hardly heard of him.  He is either relegated to the neighboring coppice with Butterworth and Gurney or he is entombed in a western cathedral with Parry.  His style is so different from those of his much-noised contemporaries that his is regarded as a placid backwater of the main stream; as one who (it would seem) almost perversely writes music which is a joy to perform and a pleasure to listen to.  There are so many passages which find their way immediately to one’s heart.  There is beauty, sensitivity, immaculate craftsmanship, and colour, all working within what is necessarily a small-scale idiom to provide a richly endowed corner of the none-too-spacious garden of readily-accessible music of our time.”

The last sentence almost puts me to tears in that it is exactly what I aspire to accomplish with my own work, although I have only taken small, infantile steps toward that lofty goal.  I can almost imagine myself making the trek to his home to perhaps a weekly study in composition.  Perhaps I would have nearly the same experience as Alan Walker talked about in the 1959 issue of Tempo:

“On the only occasion that I had the privilege of meeting him personally, when I stayed as a guest in his home for two days, I came to the conclusion that not only was he extremely interested in all new developments affecting music, but that he was also well versed in the minutiae of twentieth-century music.  At that time I was a student, and he showed much interest in two songs which I had just composed.  When we were able to repair to his music room he asked me to play (and sing!) them to him.  I growled and thumped my way through them to the best of my ability, during which time he listened most intently, and after I had finished he got up and walked over to his bookshelves (he must have possessed one of the largest private libraries in the country), pulled down a volume, and said, ‘I wonder if you know this work? Play from the second page here.’ I had never seen the music before, but as soon as started to play it I recognized the style immediately as one almost identical with that of my songs.  Finzi at once removed the the sting by launching a discussion of the problems of word-setting, which I regard as one of the best composition lessons that I have ever received.  Only later was I allowed to turn to the title-page of the work he had shown me.  It was the early piano sonata, op. I, of Alban Berg.”

Certainly he wouldn’t pick out a Berg piece if it were me! …laughable really to consider that thought.  But what if he were to open a page to one of the Baritone solo excerpts from the Sea Symphony of Vaughen Williams, one of his dear friends?  Yes, indeed, I may share the same thoughts as Mr. Walker in the home of Finzi.

My favorite piece of his for choir continues to be In terra pax, for to me perhaps it is a primary example of John Russell talked of above.  Composition of In terra pax began in 1951, the year Finzi learned he had Hodgkin’s Disease and perhaps a maximum of 10 more years to live.  He kept this news from his family and continued to work between treatments.  It is a Christmas Scene, set for soprano and baritone soli, mixed chorus and string orchestra, with two equally engaging texts.  One is entitled Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913, by Robert Bridges, from The Shorter Poems of Robert Bridges.  The second text is taken from the gospels: Luke 2:8-14.
It begins with a short, four-note motive:

Even in a simple reading of this piece, one will find this motive permeating the entire musical landscape throughout.  These are the bells of Chosen Hill Church, which he heard ring in the new year as a young boy.  He listened to them once again with his dear friend Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1956 during the Gloucester Festival.  It was his unfortunate fate that the sexton’s children had chickenpox that year, which Finzi caught.  Weakened by this disease, he suffered brain inflammation and died.

Now go and listen to it, knowing death was knocking, knocking, knocking on his chamber door.  The depth and meaning sustained in the simplicity is incredibly profound and intense.

To close, here is what Finzi said about Herbert Howells (one who shares much in common with Finzi):  “To some the idiom will appear ‘dated,’ and poorer critical minds attach much greater significance to this word than it deserves.  ‘All only constant is in constant change,’ but too often the generations see only the change and overlook the constancy.  We are, after all, only a link in a chain and each link must, of necessity, lie the opposite way to its predecessor.”

What a sigh of relief to me.  Thank you my dear friend, Gerald.

The Swedes

As of late I have started to really listen to the choral music of my ancestry.  Of course we have all heard the great music of Alfvén, Lindberg et al., but I’m not sure if I’ve ever listened to it as a composer.  There is something really, really special about it.  Here are a pieces to really consider programming if you are a conductor, if you haven’t already.  These are some of the most beautiful and meaningful short choral pieces to have been written (of course in my opinion).

Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960)

Alfvén’s music is distinguished by orchestral subtlety and by a painterly exploitation of harmony and timbre.  His output was almost entirely of programme music, often suggested by the Swedish archipelago; he commented that ‘my best ideas have come during my sea-voyages at night, and, in particular, the wild autumns have been my most wonderful times for composition.’

Best loved choral works:  
– Uti var hage

– Aftonen
– Gladjens blomster
– Som starnan uppa himmelen sa klar
– Och jungfrun hon gar i ringen
– Limu, limu, lima
– Tjuv och tjuv det skall du heta


Oskar Lindberg (1887-1955)

Several of Lindberg’s ancestors had been peasant violinists, and he himself was steeped in folk music, from which we took many of his themes.  He became prominent in the Young Swedes group and developed a rich late Romantic orchestral style, where the influences of Rachmaninov and Sibelius were balanced with those of folk music, most successfully in his slightly impressionist nature scenes.

Best loved choral works:
– Pingst
– Stjarntandning


Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927)

Stenhammar began in the late Romantic style typical of Scandinavia, imbued with influences from such composers as Wagner, Listz, and Brahms.  Later his work came to be dominated by a classicism of his own, based principally on a profound study of Beethoven but also on Haydn and Mozart, and on Renaissance polyphony.  In his greatest compositions these traits are always tinged with a specifically Nordic colour relating to Swedish folk music.

Best loved choral works:
– 3 körvisor
1. September
2. I seraillets have
3. Havde jeg, o havde jeg en datterso, o ja!


David Wikander (1884-1955)

Best loved choral works:
– Kung Liljekonvalje
– Forvarskvall
– Om alla berg och dalar
– Dofta, dofta vit syren


Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942)
Best loved choral works:
– Stamning
– Sommarsang
– Det ljusnar
– Danslek ur Ran
– 8 korvisor


Other Notable Swedish Choral Works:

– En vanlig gronskas rika drakt (Sommarpsalm),  Waldemar Ahlen
– I furuskogen, Helena Nyblom
– Den blomstertid nu kommer, Israel Kolmodin
– Harlig ar jorden, Bernhard Severin Ingemann
– I denna ljuva sommartid, Paul Gerhardt
– I hemmelen, i himmelen, Laurentius Laurentii
– En sommarafton, Adolf Fredrik Lindblad
– Som ett blommande mandeltrad, Hildor Lundvik
– Serenad, Jacob Axel Josephson
– For vilsna fotter sjunger graset, Lille Brar Soderlundh
– Snabbt jagar stormen vara ar, Sven-Eric Johanson
– Mansken, Ake Malmfors


Note: This is of course not an exhaustive list, just highlights.