A Spiritual Pair

(Diptych for organ)

1. Swing Low
2. Go, Tell It!

Don Locklair (b. 1949)

Composed in January 1994, A Spiritual Pair (Diptych for organ) is dedicated to the American organist, Marilyn Keiser, and it was she who premiered it during the autumn of 1994 in New Orleans’s Christ Church Cathedral. An Afro-American spiritual provides the impetus for each of the piece’s two movements. Though phrases of each melody are immediately apparent throughout the respective movements, compositional techniques like inversion and octave displacement transform the musical materials in less obvious ways.

The structure for the free-metered first movement, Swing Low (marked “Still and serene”), is defined by a recurring, step-wise harmonic left-hand and pedal passage (a “chaconne”). After the chaconne is heard at the beginning (played on the organ’s strings), melodic lines for solo flute, then solo diapason, begin to emerge over the chaconne. Eventually the serenity of Swing Low gives way to a crescendo to full organ where a fragment of the spiritual melody is boldly stated in the pedal. Afterwards, following the reduction of the organ’s registration, the serenity of the opening of Swing Low returns.

The virtuosic second movement, Go, Tell It! (marked “Quick, with great vitality”) is, like its well-known spiritual melody, based on the tonal Pentatonic scale. The structure of this movement is defined by pedal solos of large and leaping intervals, answered by equally rhythmical lines of music in the manuals over dramatic pedal trills. The culmination of the movement is reached when the complete spiritual melody is heard in the manuals (first over an inverted and augmented pedal statement of the melody, then over just an augmented statement of it) bringing Go, Tell It! to a rousing conclusion.

Dan Locklair
(Composer-in-Residence and
Professor of Music
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
1. Swing Low = ca. 4′ 30″; 2 Go, Tell It! = ca. 3′
Total duration = ca. 7′ 30″

Dan Locklair
Winston-Salem, NC