Locklair: A Beautiful Christmas Reflection


John Cummins

“I found Edmund Sears’ poem [to be] so rich in imagery and, simply, a beautiful Christmas reflection.” And so, introduces us to the poet behind his newest choral work Calm on the Listening Ear of Night which premieres on December 17 sung by the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Choir in Winston-Salem, NC. Commissioned by Aurelia Gray Eller (a long-time, prominent member of St. Paul’s and the Winston-Salem community), the six-minute work receives its first performance as choirmaster John Cummins conducts it during St. Paul’s annual Advent/Christmas service of Lessons and Carols.

Locklair continues. “Calm on the Listening Ear of Night is lyrical throughout, [and] features evocative text of the same title written by the 19th-century Massachusetts Unitarian minister and writer, Edmund H. Sears. Educated at Harvard Divinity School, and following several brief Unitarian posts in Massachusetts, he was forced into early retirement in 1847 due to ill health. For the remainder of his life, Sears devoted himself to writing. During the first years of his retirement, in 1849, he wrote his most universally beloved Christmas hymn text, ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.’ However, his earliest hymn text, ‘Calm on the Listening Ear of Night,’ dates from 1834 — 15 years earlier. ‘Calm on the Listening Ear of Night’ was first published the same year in The Boston Observer. Sears later revised this Christmas text, and it is that revised version that became so enduring and is the one used in my new choral setting.”

John Cummins (l) with commissioner Aurelia Gray Eller (center) and composer Dan Locklair (r). Photo: Kerry Nesbit

Choirmaster Cummins adds, “We [at St. Paul’s] are delighted to premiere yet another of Dan’s choral works. It was commissioned by a fellow St. Paul’s parishioner, Mrs. Aurelia Gray Eller who is also a personal friend of Dan. She asked specifically that he write it. He found just the right text to focus on Mrs. Eller’s love of the mountains. It will be a beautiful ending to our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols for 2017.”

More Locklair news: also happening this weekend – on December 15 and 16, conductor Sue Klausmeyer leads the VOICES ensemble in two performances of the composer’s holiday season choral work WINTER (from the forgottens) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.