Lewis, Derri Joseph: Locus Iste
SATB unaccompanied with divisions
In Locus Iste, composer Derri Joseph Lewis invokes the sense of place that arises when singers meet to create live music in real time, in a unique performance space. This powerful feeling is expressed through richly inflected major chords blending with urgent minimalist rhythms, and two contrasting currents of sound that culminate in one resonant stream. The idea of a unique space chimes with themes of mindfulness too, with community, and with the ‘sacred space’ of our environment itself, appealing not only to young singers, but to performers and audiences of all ages.
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In 2021 I had the privilege to be chosen as one of the four participants in the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain’s annual Young Composers Scheme, and when the National Youth Training Choir requested a new piece from me, I was thrilled to be invited to observe its 2022 spring course in Banbury. I was struck by the choir’s sunny vibe and generous welcome, and especially by its ability to transform a cold and empty hall into a place alive with music.
This idea is at the heart of Locus Iste, which is a celebration of the unique ‘place’ that is created when singers come together to make music.
The words are very simple, and built upon two fragments: the Latin text ‘Locus iste …’ and its literal translation of ‘This place …’ The Latin is best known from Anton Bruckner’s motet of 1869, a brief yet profound setting of the gradual for the annual celebration of the dedication of a church. The text in English leads us firmly back into the here and now, but with the memories of the Bruckner we ourselves have brought to the performance, drawn into the present.
In Locus Iste two sonic worlds represent these contrasting experiences. First there is calm, floating music evoking bliss, which is interrupted by a dynamic buzz whose energy spirals out of control. But the two strands of sound intertwine and overlap as the work progresses, the blissful and the animated enfolding each other in closer orbit before becoming one in a warmly resonant conclusion.
Locus Iste was commissioned by the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain with kind support from Dorico, and was premiered by the National Youth Training Choir conducted by Greg Beardsell at St. Wilfrid’s Church, Harrogate, on 7 August 2022.
– Derri Joseph Lewis
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