Artistry and Integrity (A Conversation with Lloyd Larson)

It is a small circle of church composers who can claim that they work full time as a writer.  It is even rarer to find writers who for decades have been successful in both ministry and creativity.  Lloyd Larson is one of those exceptional figures who has accomplished this with true integrity.  His music ranges from traditional anthems of praise to Gospel foot tappers, from elegant sacred ballads to thoughtful adaptations of some of our most popular contemporary Christian “hits”.  In each case his unmistakable craftsmanship and excellence are in full view. 

Treasured by many publishers for his reliable and consistent offerings and cherished by his friends for his selfless and caring spirit, Lloyd Larson is truly one of the “good guys” of our sacred music industry.  WorshipSongsOnline visited with Lloyd recently and asked him for answers to our questionnaire.  His responses reflect a humble servant who has devoted his professional life to providing resources for the worshipping church.  Look, listen and learn more about this remarkable artist.

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What was the music of your youth?

The music of my teen years was a rather eclectic blend of classical literature (primarily through my piano studies), contemporary secular artists (I especially liked the music of groups like Chicago, the Beatles, and the Bee Gees, among others), contemporary Christian artists (like Andrae Crouch, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Truth), and the influences of church and choir. I sang in my home church adult and youth choirs as well as my school choirs. My church choir experiences introduced me to classic choral literature while at the same time allowing me to experience hymns and gospel songs in choral settings. My mother sang in an on-going ladies trio that I frequently accompanied, so that, too, was part of my early exposure to church music. I traveled for a couple of summers while in high school with a group based in Los Angeles called the Continental Singers allowing me to experience a nice blend of hymns and more contemporary songs with some very fine singers, instrumentalists, and directors. Going to All-State Chorus in high school enabled me to experience some fine choral literature with excellent singers and renowned conductors for the first time. The sum total of all of these experiences had a huge impact upon my musical development.

 

What music do you listen to now?

My musical tastes are still pretty broad and eclectic. There is very little that I don’t enjoy in some way. I love the great classics (orchestral, choral, keyboard). I’m a fan of classic jazz and big band sounds. I enjoy attending Broadway productions, and I enjoy experiencing the brassy, bold sounds of Drum and Bugle corp groups. I can appreciate quality Barbershop arrangements and the harmonic intricacies of groups like Pentatonix and Take 6, among others. The purity of sound of a European or American Boys Choir is always inspiring to me. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of some country music, though I grew up in a family where gospel music (a close relative) was frequently heard in our home, so I have found a greater appreciation for some music in this genre later in my life. So to answer the question, I try to listen to all of it, regardless of style/genre, to keep myself diverse and reasonably well-versed in multiple styles.

 

Tell us about your faith journey, and how it influences your musical choices.

My faith is at the heart of who I am as a person and as a musician and composer. I grew up in the church and, as I often say, I am really a product of the church. I dedicated my life to Christ as a teenager at a church youth camp. During those teen years and into college I found that my love for Christ and my gifts and interest in music could dove-tail very nicely into my musical endeavors in church, school, community, and eventually college and graduate work. I sensed early in college that God was calling me to serve the church in music ministry, something I did starting my senior year of college. I have continued to serve the church (large and small churches) in both part-time and full-capacities for over 40 years at this point. Even though my “day job” these days is creating and editing musical resources for the local church (something I have now done full-time for well over 20 years), in my mind this is really an extension of my divine calling to serve the church in music ministry. That calling impacts and influences what I do every day of my life when I sit in my office and ask the question: “How will what I create today help music ministries in churches like mine and others to enhance the experience of those who will gather for worship?”

 

Name three things about yourself that would surprise people.

  1. I really wanted to play professional baseball as a kid. I’m an avid sports fan (all sports!), but loved baseball most and played it for many years. But you have to be able to either hit or throw a curve ball consistently better than I ever could to make it a career, so I wound up going the direction of my gifts in music.
  2. I played the lead role of “Curly” as a sophomore in my high school’s presentation of the musical Oklahoma. Not ever having had a curl in my head since birth, I wound up having to have my hair curled for each dress rehearsal and production of the show. A picture of my head filled with my mother’s pink curlers as a 16-year old is something I have tried to keep hidden my entire life!
  3. As a student at Anderson University (IN) in the mid 70’s, I was one of the leaders of a musical group that included soloist Sandi Patty. We wound up cutting her from the group…..or as I prefer to describe it, helped to “jump-start her career.”

 

What projects are currently on your horizon?

Typically I am working on projects from 12-18 months ahead of when they are likely to be presented in a local church setting for the first time. That’s just the nature of the business. So at the moment there are Lenten/Easter octavos on my immediate horizon. I just finished a commissioned anthem for a church based on one of the Psalms. I have two piano books and an organ collection which will be larger writing assignments over the next few weeks as well as some handbell arrangements. I have a larger commissioned work that I am not able to publicly discuss at the moment that I’m very excited about. All of these will keep me “off the streets and out of trouble” as my wife, Marci, likes to say for a few months. I’m grateful for these opportunities and that choirs, keyboard players, handbell ringers, and instrumentalists still find my music to be worthy additions to their repertoire.

 

When are you most creative?

My most creative time these days is morning. The answer to this question has certainly changed over the years. As a college student when I was completing projects well into the early hours of morning and then struggling to make it to an 8:00 or 9:00 AM class, I would never have thought I would someday say I was a “morning person.” But that is certainly the case now. I love the inspiration and focus I find early in the new day after a night of rest.

 

What’s your sacred space?

I think this is a dynamic space and has more to do with “moments” than “location” for me. I have “places” where I like to go and find inspiration. These include “my chair” in our family room where I have my daily quiet time, or the deck on the back of our home which overlooks a wooded lake area, and even the small sanctuary in my home church. But sacred spaces happen for me at various and often unexpected times: a quiet walk; a moment of inspiration as I hear a message or sing a hymn; a conversation with one of my pre-teen grandchildren. I just pray that I am in-tune with the moment to recognize and fully embrace it!

 

Which composers inspire you?

I have been inspired by many over the years. John Carter, John Ness Beck, and Gilbert Martin inspired and encouraged me at the beginning of my career. They introduced me to the sacred publishing world and encouraged me to explore that world, making contributions with my own voice. Over the years I have been influenced and encouraged by numerous colleagues (whom I would call friends) and their enormous gifts in this field: Craig Courtney, Mark Hayes, Joseph Martin, Mary McDonald, Joel Raney, Larry Shackley, and so many others. But I also love the music of contemporary composers like John Williams, John Rutter, and many others.

 

What do you do when you’re not composing?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m an avid sports fan – basically Minnesota teams. So whatever season is happening, I’m involved and following those teams. But I’ve also enjoyed snow skiing over the years. I’m not Olympic material, but do still enjoy getting out when I can and experiencing winter that way. We live near water, so I spend as much time as possible on the lake in the warmer months (which are relatively few in Minnesota!) fishing, swimming, or just being on the water. I also enjoy reading. I’m a big John Grisham fan (among others), having read all of his novels, I think.

 

What is your #1 tip for aspiring writers?

Recognize that none of us can be totally objective about our own music. Take advantage of those individuals or groups (perhaps a local ensemble or choir) who can review your music and offer you candid and objective observations. Listen to them with open and appreciative ears. It will ultimately make a huge difference in your writing.

Editor’s note…please enjoy the following selections by Lloyd Larson.

DECLARE YOUR MAKER’S PRAISE

CELTIC PSALM OF PRAISE

HOLY IS THE LORD

One Comment Add yours

  1. No fleming says:

    I love Lloyd Larson and his music as well as his compassion and humility. His talent is a blessing to his church and the world of sacred music. One of my most cherished memories is singing in his choir!

    Like

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