DAN LOCKLAIR: Requiem – Choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – Subito

Personal, private, and persuasive sum up this subdued and very intimate piece.

DAN LOCKLAIR: Requiem – Choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Winston-Salem, NC/ John Cummins, organ & cond./ Members of Winston-Salem Sym. – Subito Music, 38:30 [12/15/15] ****:

I have been a fan of Charlotte native Dan Locklair for some time now. His music, in the best American tonal tradition, is always engrossing, engaging, and well-considered at every turn of the pen on paper. Currently Composer-in-Residence and Professor of Music at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, his is a muse that is also reflective in many ways of the best tradition of local influence and inspiration. Having grown up only a few miles from where he now works, I can testify to the particulars of his native region reaching deeply into his considerable art.

This holds true for this meditative and optimistically bittersweet Requiem, given in its world premiere performance by the choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Don’t expect technical precision from the choir or orchestra—there are some moments of intonation slips and exuberant missteps. But that is hardly the point, as the human element in this work is only exacerbated by the very human performance it is given. Locklair was very close to his parents, and the idea of this piece first emerged with the death of his father in 1986, and given new life when his mother passed in 2005. But sometime after that he realized that the work needed reworking, and he added a string orchestra that he now considers the final and best performance option, though it can still be given with organ alone.

I wish I could list its influences in a more concrete way, but that is quite difficult to do in a work as personal as this, one that seems to float along on thought and memory instead of preconceived organizational elements. Faure makes a brief appearance in the Lux aeterna, but only as a passing guest giving an approving nod. The work is not too demanding for the chorus, but it surprises every once in a while that takes performers and listeners by wonder, as well as the orchestra. Its exceeding sense of the personal is the one quality that makes it difficult to perform.

The sound is very good here, not audiophile by any means, but clear and deep. The performers have a lot to be proud of, and I am sure Mr. Locklair is quite satisfied at the efficacious outing of another fine piece, especially one as meaningful to him as this.

—Steven Ritter

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