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Requiem; & Other Choral Works, Dan Locklair (b. 1949), in performance order: Introit & Kyrie Eleison, "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled," Sanctus-Benedictus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, "I am the Resurrection," Lux aeterna, "I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes," In Paradisium – Requiescant in pace, Comfort Ye My People, Calm on the Listening Ear of Night, O Light of Light, Arise in Beauty, The Mystery of God, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, The Choir of Royal Holloway (University of London), Southern Sinfonia, Rupert Gough, conductor, Martin Baker, organist, George Nicholls, organist assistant & tubular bells, instrumental principals/(soloists): Richard Smith, vln 1, Charley Beresford, vln 2, Oakki Lau, vla, Claire Constable, vcl, Kate Addis, db; vocal soloists: Hilary Cronin, soprano, Elisabeth Paul, alto, Christopher Willoughby, tenor, Geoff Williams, baritone; Convivium Records CR 070, © 2022, 73:24; $16.99, via Amazon. This is the same label as his CD entitled Gloria that I reviewed in 2016, whose accompanying booklet's pages are also un-numbered – the label has not learned in 6 years from my incorrect printing format comment; but its audio sound is uniformly excellent. The performances on this recording are remarkably gorgeous.
Locklair's Requiem, which instantly brought to my mind my favorite one by Gabriel Fauré [1845-1924], that I sang as a chorus member (but, interestingly, of which I didn't have a really good recording, so I located and purchased one, chosen from the innumerable list of them by the artists performing and its label: naïve [an indy French one that is not a member of the EU outhere consortium] V 5137, Sandrine Piau, soprano, Stéphane Degout, baritone, Accentus choral ensemble, Laurence Équilbey [b. 1962], Cond, + Cantique de Jean Racine, 41:21, out of print, but downloadable from Presto, using the c. 1890 original MS, rediscovered in 1969 by Jean-Michel Nectoux, Fauré scholar, new ed., 1994: there is no violin section, only the violin soloist [Luc Héry] in the Sanctus, with 6 extra violas and 3 extra 'cellos, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 timpani, harp [Isabelle Perrin], organ [Christophe Henry], and no other orchestral instruments). Locklair's was composed in stages over a period of 3 decades after the death of his father in 1986 (Fauré's took a similar amount of time to reach its final form, as you will discover if you read the linked text, having been begun in 1877, 8 years before his father's death in 1885). Both are, therefore, very personal commemorative ritual works, deliberately not following the standard RC Latin one, and both were composed movement by movement, not necessarily in the final order/sequence (accompanying booklets detail this), some of them having been composed for an unrelated specific commission even, and completed after the deaths of their mothers – men are always especially attached to their mothers – and the English words are consequently more universal for listeners.
All of this, including the sources and choices of the texts, some known, others unknown, that also include interconnections with other songs or texts, is detailed in the composer's notes. Track 12 is a world première, and tracks 15 and 16 were commissioned by the Montréal Boys' Choir Course in 2020 for its 40th anniversary. Nonetheless, they all fit together seamlessly as a religious service. It doubles the time-length (c. 35 mins), of Fauré's, although its original version (tracks 1-9, performed/premièred in 2015 in Winston-Salem, and recorded; I reviewed it, although, at 38:36, it's not a full-length CD, albeit it's longer than a single) was close to identical, and includes Fauré's additions (which were, when composed, brand new, some having been contested and criticized by the RC authorities), completed with other texts from sources, biblical, hymnals, and others of all kinds, that are carefully researched and credited, including translators when the originals are not in English or the standard English equivalents, in the 28-un-numbered-page accompanying booklet, with bios on pp. [18-25], that is also replete with 15 interspersed color photos of the rehearsal(s) or performance, including a wide centerfold of the venue, the Romanesque Christchurch Priory, Dorset, UK, from behind the musicians who are positioned in front of the alter, facing the nave.
Locklair is particularly gifted in the setting of texts: the music always suits the meaning and spirit of the words to perfection, and its dynamics also fit them to a T. In this program, he has also created from a potpourri of texts a perfectly constructed, smooth-flowing one that is well-sequenced and stands together as a whole; it is intimate for him, but also for the listener. Some melodies seem familiar, like traditional ones, but there are also new original ones. There are, of course, crescendos and diminuendos in appropriate places, with appropriate climaxes and fading-aways, but mercifully, there is not a bombastic, dramatic, flamboyant, grandiose, or pretentious note or gesture, although there are some high crescendos in appropriate places, for bright, shining moments, mostly in the standard Requiem Mass texts (tracks 3 & 5), in "I am the Resurrection," track 6, and in the Magnificat (track 15), as would be expected, and in some of the anthems, such as track 10, Comfort Ye My People, which is a cappella, and rivals earlier such ones from the days when all sacred music was thus, is perfectly placed in the sequence. "Glory to God" in Calm on the Listening Ear of Night, track 11, is a Christmas anthem, and O Light of Light, track 12, also a cappella, is again perfectly positioned in the sequence. It is more varied and changing than Fauré's because of all the added material, but overall, it is calming, quiet, soothing, contemplative, inspired, and intimate like his, all moods and characteristics that suit the subject, the dual nature and purpose of the event: celebrative and commemorative, perfectly, and the spirit of the common-man/woman/person and listener as well.
While I am not religious, even a believer, really, I recognize that much of the most beautiful music ever composed was written for religious organizations and people, and I find it very lovely and enjoyable. I also see, sense, and understand how this music, especially that in track 9, In Paradisium, one of the new movements that is most impressive in the Fauré, would console a true believer. It's similar, but different, as is often the case, another true plus. I'd classify this work among the group of the most quietly and sincerely powerful as is track 14, The Mystery of God, setting an 1876 poem of American Unitarian minister, Frederick Lucian Hosmer (1840-1929). I have a large number of CDs from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods, when most music was of this nature, and even some from the Romantic and Modern periods, and I'm very pleased to have this one join those on my shelves. It's truly beautiful, with each number offering a different ensemble of performers (track 13, Arise in Beauty, is an anthem for SATB chorus with organ, closing with bells, e.g.), and being a different musical gem. The whole program is a bit long for a regular modern funeral, but it could easily serve as a memorial service.