Dan Locklair: Winter music

by Alicia Anstead

Andrew Clark, director of choral activities at Harvard, was a student at Wake Forest University, he forged an important relationship with his professor, the composer Dan Locklair. Often, as many Harvard alums know, such relationships last throughout a career, if not a lifetime. Clark and Locklair will join forces with the Harvard Glee Club and the Radcliffe Choral Society, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at Sanders Theatre for a concert of traditional carols and treasured works for the season -- as well as the world premiere of Winter (from the Forgottens) by Locklair. The piece is a four-movement suite for mixed women's and men's choruses, set to seasonal but secular poetry by four obscure poets. Saturday's concert will be recorded for future broadcast on NPR. We caught up with Clark and Locklair this week, and asked them about their relationship, the concert and the music that makes this time of year special.


What drew you to Locklair's music?

Dan Locklair was a teacher and mentor of my during my undergraduate years at Wake Forest. For this project, we wanted to create a work that spoke to the spirit of the season, setting secular poetry and that complemented the reflective and traditional music for this holiday concert. We also had limited preparation time and needed a well crafted work of compositional integrity that didn't require a great deal of rehearsal, given our fall schedule. Finally, the piece needed to be festive and accessible, but imaginative and exciting. Dan was the first composer who came to mind, and he delivered exactly the piece for which we'd hoped!

What would you like audience members to listen for in the concert?

The concert should provide an opportunity to escape from the chaos and clamor of the season: final exams and papers holiday shopping, and the busyness surrounding the holidays. The concert offers beautiful works both familiar and fresh, and even gives the audience a chance to participate in singing favorite hymns and carols.

What's your favorite holiday music (besides what's on the program!)?

I love the Ella Fitzgerald recordings of popular holiday songs! Also, I can tire of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, the original orchestral version played by every orchestra December pops concert in North America. I sang with the Boston Pops one year, and got to play the "whip" for a performance - it might be one of my crowning achievements as a musician!


Your piece -- WINTER (from the forgottens) -- has connections to Harvard poets. What are those connections?

Two of the poets, Clinton Scollard and Arlo Bates, have Boston connections. Scollard attended Harvard and, later, spent the majority of his professional career at Hamilton College. Bates, however, was an editor of the Boston Sunday Courier for 13 years. Then he moved on to an English professorship at MIT. The Scollard poem begins my WINTER (from the forgottens) choral cycle and is entitled A BELL and is for SATB chorus and piano. I set Bates's poem as the

Dan Locklair
second of the cycle and it is entitled A WINTER TWILIGHT (for SSAA chorus and piano). The poets of the third and fourth movements do not seem to have any Harvard or Boston connections, but both are northeastern poets. THE STARS is the third movement and is for TTBB chorus and piano and is a setting of a poem by New York City poet Mary Mapes Dodge. The last movement SLEIGHING SONG is a setting of a poem by John Shaw. He was a native of Maryland and spent most of his career (as a physician!) there.

What would you like audience members to take away from the performance on Saturday -- or really any performance of your music?

I always strive for a successful marriage between text and notes in all of my choral and vocal music. These poems, which have truly been forgotten, have such beautiful imagery in them and go together quite well as a way of celebrating the season of winter along with all the hues of the holiday season. In short, I hope that listeners will be moved by what they hear.

What advice do you have for young composers at Harvard?

Work diligently to master craft. Without craft all the inspiration and good ideas in the world will never make a quality piece of music.