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Published February 10 2013

Concordia's Clausen says three Grammy wins 'awesome'

MOORHEAD – As blizzard winds howled outside his Moorhead home Sunday afternoon, Concordia College choir director René Clausen quietly read a book by the fireplace with his wife.

Then, his smartphone alerted him to a new email message.

It was short but sweet: “WE WON!!!!!!”

A recording of his composition, “Life and Breath: Choral Works by René Clausen,” had swept all three Grammy Awards categories in which it was nominated.

“It is just very heartwarming and exciting, and I’m just grateful and humbled that this has all happened,” he said. “It was nothing that I expected. Just all of this has come out of the blue.”

Clausen said it was “beyond his wildest dreams” when he learned in early December that the recording of his work by the Kansas City Chorale had been nominated for Best Engineered Classical Album, Best Choral Performance and Classical Producer of the Year for Blanton Alspaugh .

“I thought, ‘Well this is great, we got this far,’ ” he said. “I thought if we got one, well that would be really something to celebrate.”

Winners of the three categories were among those announced during a separate afternoon ceremony before Sunday night’s 55th Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles.

Clausen, now in his 27th year at Concordia, said the email from Alspaugh “surprised me entirely, but it was thrilling.”

The album, recorded in Kansas City, Mo., in early 2011 and released last June, was among seven albums Alspaugh produced.

Clausen said the Best Choral Performance category was the one closest to his own heart.

“Somebody said it all starts with the music,” he said. “… So, I thought, my gosh, that’s just pretty cool. Doesn’t happen to you every day of your life.”

The awards technically belong to the Kansas City Chorale, and Clausen said he doesn’t know if he’ll receive any copies. But he didn’t sound too concerned about it Sunday, which brought a whirlwind of congratulatory emails and phone calls.

“As my college choir knows, I don’t use the word awesome very much, but now I’ll say it. That was a pretty awesome feeling,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528