Locklair: Noel’s Psalm Premieres

Robert Parkins, organist

On March 25, organist Robert Parkins premieres Dan Locklair’s new work Noel’s Psalm (A Sonata for Organ), as part of Duke University’s Duke Chapel Organ Recital Series. The four-movement, 14-minute work was commissioned by Rebeccah Neff in memory of her brother, Dr. Noel J. Kinnamon, a distinguished professor of English literature at Mars Hill University (Mars Hill, NC) who counted Locklair among his thousands of students. Parkins’ program also includes Locklair’s earlier piece In Memory – H.H.L.

Locklair reminisces. “Dr. Kinnamon’s love for poetry brought about the creation of a number of poems, some of them published. ‘Spring Planting: Psalm 65,’ published in the Spring 1986 edition of Christianity & Literature (An Interdisciplinary Journal), was one of those poems…[It] provided me with the extra-musical stimulus for Noel’s Psalm. The first movement, Chaconne, [is a] rich and lyrical opening to the sonata symbolizing the grounded nature

Spring Planting: Psalm 65

We praise you as we praise the best of hosts,
One who has spared not cost or pain and would,
We know–far more than host–defend us from
The beasts, the ghosts, that grin in each dark wood.

More than host, you cause us to be here and
Give us the run of the place, sweeping up
Behind when we smash the pots or spill the
Wine, confident that you will refill the cup.

Around us sings a green and quivering light,
Mornings come and evenings go, and as you
Water the ridges, settle the furrows,
You promise to crown the year with good things,
And springing hills rejoice on every side.

Give us the grace to join the song,
to feel the dance in the blood.

                              — Noel J. Kinnamon

(text courtesy: Dan Locklair)

of the Kinnamon’s ‘host,’…The short second movement, ‘Scherzo,’ (‘joke’) is based on only four pitches [and] is a playful movement… The third and longest movement, Aria, is the soul of the composition. Lyrical throughout, it begins serenely, eventually building to a rich climax with the power of the full organ before dissolving into a hushed ending. The final movement, Dance, is rhythmical and exuberant throughout, inviting all who hear it “…to join the song, to feel the dance….”

Soloist Robert Parkins adds, “Each of Noel’s Psalm’s four movements reflects the spirit of a corresponding stanza in [Kinnamon’s] poem. Part of the appeal of this sonata is that three of the four movements can work beautifully as separate pieces for service playing. The Chaconne can be used as a noble processional, the Aria a pastoral prelude, and the Dance as a rousing postlude.”