Behind the Music of Dr. René Clausen
Feb 06, 2013
On campus, Dr. René Clausen may be best known as the face of The Concordia Choir.
Clausen is also an in-demand composer. His works are commissioned, performed and recorded by high school, collegiate and professional ensembles nationwide.
Most recently, the Kansas City Chorale dedicated an entire CD to Clausen’s work titled “Life and Breath: Choral Works by René Clausen.” It won three Grammy Awards.
For Clausen, music is more than what he does – it is who he is.
“I don’t really have a choice. It’s like breathing the air. I just have to write. It’s part of the expression of who I am,” he says.
Clausen played many instruments in high school – alto saxophone in the jazz band, trumpet in the marching band, French horn in the orchestra and tuba in the youth band. He even played the flute for a period of time so he could play duets with a flautist that he was dating.
It naturally followed that his first arrangement was instrumental. He was a high school senior. Three friends of his who played bassoon, bass clarinet and French horn needed a trio to bring to a music competition. Clausen composed three Baroque variations on “Light My Fire,” a popular ’60s rock tune by The Doors.
Now Clausen can’t remember a composition of his that hasn’t been performed. In addition to his compositions for The Concordia Choir and the annual Concordia Christmas Concert, Clausen has been commissioned to write pieces for video, solo voice, choir, orchestra and band.
“When I’m writing for commission, I have a certain deadline, a certain medium and a certain level,” he says. “When I am commissioned I have to remember that the technical demands for a church choir are going to be different than a high school choir or a boys’ choir.”
What Clausen enjoys most is writing music with complete freedom.
“When I’m just writing for myself, I write what I want to write,” he says. “That’s where I stretch myself, even if it may never get performed.”