O Magnum Mysterium (OLA GJEILO)

In 2015, Guy Johnston performed my Serenity (O Magnum Mysterium) with the Choir of King’s College and Stephen Cleobury as part of the BBC Carols from King’s service.

Having a piece of mine featured on that program was such a massive honor, and it was Guy who broke the news for me a few weeks before, emailing a rehearsal recording for me to comment on. Watching the performance on YouTube later here in the US, I was so moved by Guy’s stunning tone and the grace and musicality of the choir, plus the warm, evocative ambiance of King’s College Chapel in candlelight.

Serenity is a piece of mine for cello (or violin) and choir that I wrote a few years ago; I’d wanted to compose something for that combination, having loved Sir John Tavener’s works for cello and choir/strings so much. I wanted the cello to shine as a soloist at the beginning, with the choir accompanying it through rich, lush textures – while later having it weave through the most important parts of the choral texture.

A few months after the Carols from King’s performance, Guy and the King’s College Choir recorded the piece for the choir’s upcoming album. I’m so glad to have gotten to know Guy a little bit through our email exchanges about Serenity, he’s one of the great cellists of today, and a true artist.

– Ola Gjeilo


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