Locklair: Symphony No. 2 “America”

“My Symphony No.2, ‘America unabashedly celebrates ‘The Land of the Free.’” And so, Dan Locklair introduces us to his newest orchestral work which premieres on October 7 with the Western Piedmont Symphony. Completed in July 2016, the 22-minute work features three movements that individually reflect a quintessential American holiday. John Gordon

“Last year, when I started planning my 27th and last season [with] the Western Piedmont Symphony, an Americana concert seemed to be a logical choice for the opening concert. I recalled a conversation I had with Dan Locklair — while we were serving] as judges at a chamber music competition — when he talked about his then-current project, a Second Symphony. A few months later, his agent contacted me and it seemed that Dan’s new piece would fit perfectly as the closing work on this program. It contains well known melodic material including “Materna,” “Taps,” “We Gather Together,” and other snippets of well-known tunes. Of course the holiday themes — perhaps a nod to Charles Ives — also added to its programmatic appeal. I know the orchestra will [enjoy] performing this piece, and the Western Piedmont Symphony is honored to offer the first performance….” — John Gordon Ross

Ross conducts the premiere at P.E. Monroe Auditorium at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC.

Locklair comments on his new symphony. “Each movement is a reflection upon a holiday that is at the heart of America: 1) ‘Independence Day;’ 2) ‘Memorial Day;’ and 3) ‘Thanksgiving Day.’ A single, well-known melody associated with the essence of each of these American holidays is heard in each movement.

John Gordon Ross, conductor

The opening movement, “Independence Day,” is as full of energy and excitement as is the freedom-marking holiday it reflects. It opens [with a] fanfare-like idea based on the 1882 melody, MATERNA, by Samuel Augustus Ward…Since 1910, this stirring melody has been joined with Katherine Lee Bates’ beloved 1893 poem ‘America the Beautiful’ (a patriotic hymn felt by many to be the unofficial national anthem of the United States). [As the section develops,] the opening fanfare-like idea returns to end this celebratory first movement…

Movement No. 2, “Memorial Day,” features the simple 24-note melody “Taps” [which serves as] the basis of this serene section. The final movement, ‘Thanksgiving Day,’ festively celebrates America’s unique holiday of Thanksgiving.

Long associated with the Pilgrims, the well-known 16th-century folk melody KREMSER or ‘We Gather Together’ is actually of Dutch origin [and has been present] in American hymnals since 1903…Over the years, its appearances at ecumenical services for school children has made ‘We Gather Together’ the quintessential American Thanksgiving hymn. As a nation that celebrates a unique ‘melting pot’ heritage, it is appropriate that Symphony No. 2 (‘America’) concludes with a movement based on a ‘melting pot’ hymn.”