While reflecting the dark and austere quality of Chatfield’s translation, my choral setting of it also seeks to convey the poem’s lyrical beauty, as well as the brightness and joy that is so beautifully expressed in the final verses of the poem. It was composed in May 2006 and is dedicated to my friend and colleague, David Pegg, in celebration of both his 2005 retirement as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Greensboro, North Carolina-based professional choral ensemble, Bel Canto Company, and of his work as Director of Music of Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The texts for all three movements of The Isaiah Canticles come from the book of Isaiah as found in the The Book of Common Prayer (1979). The words of thanksgiving for Movement I, Surely, it is God Who Saves Me, come from Isaiah 12:2-6, with the more reflective movement II, Seek the Lord, coming from Isaiah 55:6-11. The exuberant text for Movement III, Arise, Shine, for Your Light Has Come, is from Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19.
Like a suite in conception, all the three movements of The Isaiah Canticles are centered on the same pitch, “D.” Each movement is based on a synthetic nine-note mode (D, E, F, F-sharp, G, G-sharp, A, B, C), which is formed by four-note sets derived from the Lydian, Dorian, Aeolian and Ionian modes. A polychord (consisting of C-major and D-major) creates an important harmonic anchor and defines the climax points for all three movements of the piece.
Completed in June 2005, The Isaiah Canticles was the result of a commission from The South Bend Chamber Singers (Nancy Menk, Music Director) in South Bend, Indiana.
Angel Song is a setting of a Christmas hymn text by Moncure Daniel Conway (1832-1907) entitled, Now Let the Angel Song Break Forth! Following his graduation from Harvard Divinity School, Rev. Conway, a native of Virginia, settled in the Boston area and became a Unitarian minister and prolific author. Influenced by the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was an outspoken critic of slavery. Devoting more and more of his time to the abolitionist cause, Mr. Conway eventually left the Unitarian Church and moved to England. His five-stanza hymn text, Now Let the Angel Song Break Forth!, was written in Boston in December 1863 during the American War Between the States and only days prior to President Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. In proclaiming ‘For the New World a Christ’s new birth,’ the poem’s keen insights from 1863 remain ever fresh and vivid. In Angel Song I have sought to musically capture the vibrancy, pain and timeless reflections found in Rev. Conway’s expressive words.
Angel Song was the result of a 2014 commission from John and P.J. Williams in honor of the music program of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Winston–Salem, North Carolina) and its director, Organist/Choirmaster, Dr. John Cummins.
En natus est Emanuel is a lush setting of a Christmas text by German composer, Michael Praetorius (ca. 1571-1621), and comes from Part VI of Praetorius’ large publication, Musae Sioniae(The Muses of Sion, 1605-1610). En natus est Emanuel was composed in 1999 for the Bel Canto Company and Greensboro Youth Chorus (Greensboro, North Carolina, USA), who premièred it during that same year.
Gloria uses the traditional Latin Gloria in excelsis text, which begins with the Biblical words found in Luke 2:14. This ancient canticle is known both as the Greater Doxology and, because of its opening sentences, as “the angel’s song.” In the first part of Gloria, I have sought to symbolize “the angel’s song” aspect of the text that celebrates the birth of Jesus. After a brass and percussion introduction, a small group of singers begins a chant-like statement of the Gloria text. These singers begin singing in the rear of the performance space. As the small group sings, they process toward the larger ensemble, symbolizing the angels bringing the Good News of Jesus’ birth to God’s people on earth. The full chorus and brass gradually enter and the full text of the Gloria is eventually sung. Soon, a symbolic people’s response begins as the Gloria text is fully repeated. This time many dimensions of this dramatic text are musically expressed, ranging from the exuberant and highly rhythmic statements of praise in the opening and closing parts of the piece, to the gentle and reflective antiphonal music in the piece’s mid-section.
Gloria was commissioned in 1998 by the Choral Art Society (Portland, Maine) for a December 1999 World Première in Portland. It is warmly dedicated to the board, members and Music Director (Robert Russell) of the Choral Art Society.
O Sacrum Convivium is a serene setting of this traditional Latin text. Composed in 1999, it is warmly dedicated to Robert Brewer and Frances Anderson (both, at the time, Organist/ Choirmaster and Music Assistant respectively of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas).
Ubi Caritas is a setting of the traditional Latin text by the same name. It was composed in early 2003 and is warmly dedicated to the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Choir (Winston-Salem, NC), Barbara Beattie and Jack Mitchener (then Director of Music and Organist respectively).
Ave Verum Corpus seeks to capture both the lyrical sadness and the radiant Hope expressed in the ancient and enduring Ave verum words. The authorship of the medieval poem, Ave Verum, is unknown. Ave Verum Corpus was composed in the autumn of 2010 and is warmly dedicated to my former Wake Forest University student—now colleague and friend—Andrew Clark, in celebration of his first academic year (2010–2011) as Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University.
St. Peter’s Rock uses brief texts from both the Old and New Testaments. Matthew 16:18, set in Latin (“Tu es Petrus…”), serves as an antiphon heard throughout the piece. After an instrumental introduction, the Antiphon is heard in an expansive manner with the simple chant-like vocal lines being supported by an organ chaconne. The chaconne represents the solidarity of The Church (i.e. “Rock”) on which St. Peter set Christ’s church. A slow, a cappella section, using the Genesis 28:17English text, appears at the piece’s mid-section. Flanking this a cappella section are two fast and rhythmical sections based on text from the New Testament (Matthew 7:24-25) and Old Testament (Psalm 122:1), both of which exuberantly celebrate “the house of the Lord!” The basis for all the musical material of St. Peter’s Rock is the 19th century hymn tune, St. Peter, by English-born composer, Alexander R. Reinagle (1799-1877) and named for the London church Mr. Reinagle served as organist: St. Peter in the East. St. Peter is heard most clearly in the trumpet part during the final section of St. Peter’s Rock.
St. Peter’s Rock was commissioned in 1999 by The St. Peter’s Choir (Ben Outen, Organist and Choirmaster) of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, North Carolina as a gift to the congregation in honor of the Church’s new Parish House. St. Peter’s Rock also pays tribute to the memory of my uncle, Wriston Hale Locklair (1925-1984), Director of Public Relations and Assistant to the President at The Juilliard School in New York City until the time of his sudden death. As a child Wriston was a choirboy at St. Peter’s.
Pater Noster is a Latin setting of The Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew 6: 9-13. Rich and lush in its expression of these beloved words of Jesus Christ, Pater Noster was composed in June of 2000 for Gerre Hancock and The Choir of Men and Boys of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City.
The text for Remembrance comes from The Beatitudes, as found in Matthew 5: 3-12 (KJV). Musically, Remembrance alternates the full four-part SATB choir with the men (TTBB) and women (SSAA) of the choir. An antiphon, “Remember your servants, Lord,” is heard three complete times over the course of the piece, and may be sung (as recorded here) by a soloist.
Remembrance was composed in February 2006 for the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Choir (Winston–Salem, North Carolina) and in memory of my parents Hester Helms Locklair (1918-2005) and Archie Greer Locklair (1916- 1986), It is my hope that the gentle musical language of this piece, as it both conveys this ancient text and floats between the performing forces (eventually leading to a climax of grandeur), will convey to the listener a sense of Beauty and Peace that is inherent in both the text and was in the lives of my parents.
The Lord Bless You and Keep You takes its text from Numbers 6:24-26 (although this setting reverses verses 25 and 26). A traditional benediction response, this short setting of these scripture verses was composed in 2008 and is dedicated to Julia and Jack Mitchener.
Dan Locklair, 2016