The Idyllwild Master Chorale’s spring concert, under the baton of Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, features soaring melodies and heavenly harmonies by some of America’s most revered contemporary composers. It is the first choral concert at the newly opened William M. Lowman Concert Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus — a hall specifically designed for orchestral and choral music performances.

Headlining the concert is Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna” (Eternal Light), a requiem in five movements, composed in 1997, the year Lauridsen’s mother died. She played swing jazz piano and sang to him when he was a baby, inspiring his love for voice and piano. “It was a natural thing for me to blend poetry and the human voice, which is the most wonderful and personal of all musical instruments,” said Lauridsen, speaking of his undergraduate days. “I ended up writing a great deal of choral music and haven’t stopped.”

Lauridsen is considered the foremost contemporary American composer of choral music. He chaired the composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990 until 2002, and founded the school’s advanced studies program in film scoring. In 2006, Lauridsen was named an American Choral Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Bush at a White House ceremony, “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.”

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Lauridsen continues to return to Waldron, a remote, off-the-grid island in the San Juan Archipelago of the Puget Sound, to experience the silence and contemplative peace of that tranquil place. The silence of those surroundings profoundly influences his compositional style.

It may seem odd that silence, within a choral music piece, can define and enhance the spiritual upwelling of those who hear the music. But that is a defining characteristic of Lauridsen’s compositions, especially “Lux Aeterna.” The silent pauses before chords are sung or a note is played help create the deep emotional resonance of his pieces. In “Lux Aeterna,” one can feel the delicate light filtering through the evergreen forests, gently touched by breezes from the bays and estuaries. First clouds, then shafts of light, then bright, sustaining and eternal light.

Said Lauridsen, “Lux Aeterna - Eternal Light - is an intimate work of quiet serenity centered around a universal symbol of hope, reassurance, goodness and illumination at all levels.”

Also featured on the program are familiar folk songs, with contemporary arrangements such as “Shenandoah,” arranged by Brad Prinz, and a famous poem by Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” set to music by Randall Thompson.

Holmes has long anticipated singing in Lowman Hall, inasmuch as the hall was designed as an acoustical venue for orchestral and choral music. “The opening of Lowman Hall fulfills the hope of two key founders at Idyllwild Arts,” said Holmes. “Festival Choir Conductor Robert Holmes and Founder Max Krone spoke often of their hope to one day have a concert hall with excellent acoustics — one that could match the talent of outstanding musicians. Now that dream has become a reality. As one who studied with composer Morten Lauridsen and grew up with Krone and collaborated with my father, the nexus of those crossroads comes together with this performance of ‘Lux Aeterna’ in this exquisite new facility. This opening concert honors the memory of those who came before us and contributed so much to the arts.”

The Idyllwild Master Chorale’s Spring Concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at Lowman Hall. Tickets are available online at and at the door at $20 for adults and $10 for students.