René Clausen (born 1953) is an American composer, conductor of The Concordia Choir, and associate professor of music at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. His works are widely performed by high school and church choirs while his more technically-demanding pieces have been performed and recorded by college and professional choirs.
Clausen is a frequent guest conductor and guest composer/lecturer, both nationally and internationally. He has conducted All-State choirs in 11 states. Prior to his appointment as conductor of The Concordia Choir, Clausen was director of choral activities at West Texas State University, Canyon, Texas, and assistant professor of choral music at Wichita State University. He also served as senior editor of Mark Foster Music Company and as interim conductor of the National Lutheran Choir of Minneapolis.
Raised in California, Clausen graduated from Wilton Senior High School in Wilton, Iowa, holds an undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, and received the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in choral conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Clausen's compositional style is varied and eclectic, and put to sacred as well as secular texts. He has created compositions and arrangements that range over many artistic media including choral, orchestral, wind ensemble, film, video, and solo voice. Clausen's most popular harmonies are mostly based on close dissonances such as the major and minor second. These chords based on dissonance are also called "tone clusters". His style is sometimes classified as Neo-Romantic but this term can mean many things. All of his works are unmistakably tonal yet they push the boundaries of chordal language. The traditional functions of choral progression are blurred by his use of tone clusters. These ideas are mostly exhibited in pieces such as "Tonight, Eternity Alone", "Magnificat", and "I Thank You God". Less difficult pieces exhibit the same structure as any Classical or Baroque choral piece with a hint of Romantic rubato and expression but largely, very traditional chord progressions.
Selected Compositions and Arrangements
- All That Hath Life & Breath Praise the Lord
- A Noiseless, Patient Spider (from Three Whitman Settings)
- Ave Maria
- Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
- Deep River
- Hear Me, I Will Live (from Crying for a Dream)
- How Can You Buy the Sky? (from Crying for a Dream)
- I Thank You God - A setting of e.e. cummings' celebrated poem "I Thank You God." Dissonance, tone color and texture are ever-changing, chord cluster follows chord cluster and changing meter and tempo further accentuate the unbridled happiness expressed in the text. It has been portrayed as a thanksgiving hymn.
- Jubilant Song
- La Lumiere - Translated as "The Light." As the poet's spiritual perception changes, he views his visual landscape in a new light. In much the same way, Clausen transforms the listener's aural landscape with layer upon layer of changing harmony and musical texture. Written for a cappella choir with division in each voice part.
- Magnificat - Commissioned by the Texas Choral Director's Association, 1988. Scored for SATB double choir.
- O My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose
- On the Mountain Top Blows the Wind Mild - Silesian folk tune, arr. RC. Scored for SATB divisi.
- O Vos Omnes - Texts from the Holy Bible, Sacred Latin Poems, Lutheran Chorale, "O Sacred Head Now Wounded", and the Latin Mass.
- Peace I Leave With You - Written for the 1991 Concordia Centennial Alumni Choir, Moorhead, Minnesota. Scored SATB divisi.
- Plenty Good Room - Spiritual, arr. RC. Contains jazz elements including a scat soloist (the part is written out in the score)
- Psalm 100 - Originally for SSA chorus, it is now also available for SATB. Scoring includes Orff instruments and small group of woodwinds.
- Psalm 109
- Psalm 150
- Quicksand Years (from Three Whitman Settings)
- Salutation of the Dawn - Text from Sanskrit
- Seek the Lord
- Set Me as a Seal (from A New Creation)
- Song at Dusk - Much like a vocal tone poem, the colors brought forth in this piece, along with the soaring melodies, dramatically illuminate the poem by Leigh Haynes, once poet laureate of the state of Virginia. Divisi in all parts, it is recommended for the advanced high school or college ensemble.
- Sweet Was the Song - English carol, arr. RC. Written by Clausen on the occasion of his daughter's(Rachel Clausen) birth. Words traditional, except the second verse by his wife, Frankie Clausen.
- The Last Invocation (from Three Whitman Settings)
- The Lord's Prayer - A contemporary setting of the classic prayer, scored in multiple meters and keys by Clausen. For SATB chorus.
- The Salutation of the Dawn - The lyrics of this piece were taken from the Sanskrit poem, "The Salutation of the Dawn." It was first performed by Florida All State Chorus in 1997 and was never performed again until 2009 when it was revived by the Maryland All State Chorus directed by Drew Collins.
- Tonight Eternity Alone - Full of dynamic, expressive passages, soaring soprano solos and simple, but mood-evoking text. A good showcase for moderate-to-advanced skills choir.
- War Song (from Crying for a Dream)
- What a Wonderful World - Clausen provides a most sensitive arrangement of this timeless pop standard.
NOTE: Clausen’s compositions and arrangements are published by Shawnee Press in the Mark Foster Catalog, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Roger Dean Publishing Company and Augsburg Publishing House.
- A New Creation
- The Choral Music of René Clausen
A New Creation
Recorded in 1990 by the Dale Warland Singers, conducted by the composer, this sacred cantata uses both English and Latin texts. "Set Me as a Seal," one of the last movements, has been excerpted and widely performed on its own.
Memorial is a composition for mixed chorus, orchestra and baritone solo, based on subject material, which reflects the horrific events of September 11, 2001, in New York City. Though presented as one continuous movement, the composition follows a program that consists of four sub-sections - September Morning, The Attack, Prayers and Petitions. The baritone soloist is Peter Halverson (a Concordia College Music Faculty member). On this CD, there is also an exceptional performance of Samuel Barber's instrumental piece, "Adagio for Strings", performed by the Concordia College Orchestra.
References and external links