Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians Reviews

The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians published reviews of Dan’s Phoenix Processional: Trumpet & Organ Version, Glory and Peace: A Suite of Seven Reflections for Organ and St. John’s Suite: Four Chorale Preludes for Organ in its March 2014 issue.

Phoenix Processional: Trumpet & Organ Version
This relatively brief composition has had an interesting evolution. The original Phoenix Processional was commissioned by Union Theological Seminary for the 1980 rededication of James Memorial Chapel, the Phoenix representing the re-birth of the chapel after a complete renovation. The original scoring was for brass sextet, organ, and percussion. In 1985, a newly composed section was added and the scoring was reduced to brass quartet, forming Phoenix Fanfare and Processional. Later, organ solo and full orchestra versions were created in 1996 and 2007, respectively. “After numerous requests,” according to the composer’s preface, the trumpet and organ version was published in 2011. The grandeur and expansiveness of the main theme surely accounts for much of Phoenix Processional’s popularity.

The theme is stately and regal, and the harmonies that underpin it are warm and stirring. The composer suggests the possible use of chimes in the quieter middle section, originally scored for glockenspiel and organ. My personal preference is for softer foundation stops alone, since organ chimes often do not blend well with other stops, but each performer will have to make his or her own decision on each instrument. There are two repeat options, either da capo or dal segno, and a coda. My only criticism
with the publication layout is that the coda indication appears only in the trumpet part, printed on a staff above the organ part, and it appears on the first measure after a page turn, rather than at the bottom of the previous page. This oversight is, of course, easily remedied with a pencil, but it is unfortunate.

Phoenix Processional
would make an excellent addition to the standard wedding repertoire, and this trumpet and organ version provides a welcome option for scoring. It would also be ideal for graduation ceremonies or any service that calls for something grand and tuneful. It is interesting to note that, although there are three pedal glissandos in the coda, many of Locklair’s signature compositional traits such as mixed meter, trills, syncopations, and strongly articulated phrasing are absent in this early piece. It does, however, demonstrate rhythmic drive in a different way, simmering below the surface and decorated with dotted iambic and trochaic figures. If you do not know this piece, it is well worth investigating.

Glory and Peace: A Suite of Seven Reflections for Organ
Glory and Peace was commissioned by the Association of Anglican Musicians, together with the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, for the 2009 AAM conference in Los Angeles, where it was premiered by Thomas Murray at Disney Hall. Each movement is inspired by a phrase from George Herbert’s poem Praise (II), commonly known by its first line, “King of Glory, King of Peace.” The theme of that year’s conference was “Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise Thee.” That phrase is explored in movements II and III, a pair of traditional English dances — Pavane and Galliard. A second pair of delightful miniatures is found in movements V and VI with a Scherzo and Trio. These pieces are generally lighter in texture than the other movements and the historical forms provide a welcome change in character. The remaining movements are in Locklair’s expansive, Romantic style. The first movement, “King of Glory, King of Peace,” is a prelude in the Mixolydian mode in which sustained harmonies support a long arching melody that is heard in seven permutations (symbolizing the seven whole days). Pure diapason tone accompanies a solo reed in the outer sections, while celestes accompany solo flute and reed stops in the quieter middle section. After a grand climax, the movement ends with a gentle coda on the celestes. The centerpiece of this symmetrical Suite is an aria, “… I will love thee…,” which is based on similar melodic material to the first movement.

It builds to a dramatic climax and moves through an equally dramatic series of tonal centers — A minor, E-flat minor, E-flat major, D-flat major, C major, and finally, A major. The final movement of the Suite recasts the material from the opening into a highly rhythmic movement in the same mold as many of Locklair’s other works. It is exciting and appealing, but what I find most attractive about this Suite as a whole is the variety in textures, sonorities, and forms that are employed. Each movement can stand alone, certainly, but the work as a whole is structured in a satisfying symmetrical form, with thematic connections linking the three large movements and the four shorter movements, cleansing the palate in between.

St. John’s Suite:
Four Chorale Preludes for Organ
St. John’s Suite consists of four preludes based on hymn tunes suitable for Holy Week and Easter; each is headed by a quotation from the Gospel according to St. John. The most dramatic, and I would argue the most effective, is the first, based on “St. Theodulph.” Dramatic double-dotted figures and a slow tempo evoke the tradition of the Baroque overture as entrance music for the King, and which many composers have used to reference coming of the heavenly King in the person of Jesus. The harmony is not Baroque, however. Locklair transforms the familiar tune into the minor key and alters the rhythm and pitches enough to disguise it for most listeners, even though it is quite clearly there. The piece continues to build on these materials in B-flat minor until a dramatic shift to B-flat major. At this point the texture breaks forth into a double pedal statement of the tune in the major key, underneath chords on the full organ. After three strong phrases there is a diminuendo followed by the final phrase in long note values played on the clarinet stop. In a masterful stroke, Locklair returns to the minor mode for the short coda and concludes on a soft dissonant chord.

This prelude does an excellent job at conveying the drama and conflicting emotions of the Palm Sunday liturgy and I highly recommend it. The second prelude is a scherzo-like take on Galilee, the old tune for “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult,” not a hymn one might expect to be treated in a light manner. An explanation may be found in the quotation that heads the piece, “…lovest thou me more than these?” referring to worldly pleasures. This hymn is not exclusive to Holy Week and this could be used as a voluntary whenever this Gospel reading comes up in the lectionary.

The third piece of the Suite is a lyrical aria in which sustained harmonies and a pulsing pedal line accompany a free melodic take on Herzliebster Jesu. It could be seen as a contemporary Air on the G string , not for its harmonic or melodic content, but in its mood and accompaniment figures. The Suite concludes with an energetic setting of “O filii et filiae” that contains many of Locklair’s most characteristic traits, such as quick alternation between duple and triple meter and highly rhythmic phrasing. This would make an exciting postlude and seems to be slightly easier than other similar movements by the composer, such as the final movement of Glory and Peace.