Home » Uncategorized » René Clausen and “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier”

René Clausen and “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier”

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René Clausen (born 1953) is an American composer, conductor of The Concordia Choir since 1986, and professor of music at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, whose 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.  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. 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.

Clausen is also the artistic director of the award-winning Concordia Christmas Concerts, which are frequently featured by PBS stations throughout the nation. A renowned composer and arranger, he is a frequent guest conductor, composer-in-residence, clinician, and lecturer, both nationally and internationally. He has conducted All-State choirs in more than 15 states. 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 Clausen’s 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. Among his many accolades, his recent recording, “Life & Breath: Choral Works by René Clausen,” received three Grammy Awards at the 55th Grammy Awards in 2013.  One of his arrangements is “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier” for the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series.

“Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier” is an English folk song. The tune and lyrics are very similar to the 17th century Irish tune “Siúil A Rún.”  The lyrics lament the sacrifices that men and women make in going off to war. Men would help by going off to war and women would help by sacrificing men and selling goods to buy military supplies.  This folk song was popular throughout the American Revolutionary War.  American folk singer-songwriter Pete Seeger did a cover version available on his album American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 4. Peter, Paul and Mary used the first and third verses of the song in the arranged song “Gone the Rainbow” from their second album Moving (1963). The song is heard several times in Ken Burns’s 1989 documentary film The Civil War. It is performed by pianist Jacqueline Schwab and recorder player Jesse Carr.  The gothic rock band Requiem In White did a version for their album Of The Want Infinite (1994) performed by Lisa Hammer.

The following work by Rene Clausen is contained in my collection:

Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier (arr.).

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