In Mystery and Wonder (The Casavant Diptych)

In Mystery and Wonder
(The Casavant Diptych)

Composed late in 2003, In Mystery and Wonder (The Casavant Diptych) for organ was commissioned by Casavant Frères, Limitée, of Saint-Hyacinthe (Quebec), Canada, in honor of this distinguished pipe organ builder’s 125th anniversary. Multiple premieres of one or both movements of the piece are planned by a host of organists worldwide to be played on Casavant organs during the 13 November 2004 anniversary weekend. In Mystery and Wonder (The Casavant Diptych) may be performed on organs of two manuals or larger. Symbolism, as the basis for all musical materials, abounds in both movements and especially in the use of “C” and “F” note codes for “Casavant Frères” (as well as in the unplanned “mystery” that yielded 125 measures of music in the first movement!). Since one of the main melodic ideas from the first movement, Aria, appears in the second movement, Toccata, the composition is cyclic. In order for the Casavant anniversary to be celebrated by the widest range of organists possible, a requirement for this commission was that the first movement be technically modest, with the second movement being more technically demanding. Thus, as an option to the entire two-movement composition being played in worship services and/or recitals, each movement may also be played separately. The subtitle of each movement comes from the 18th century English hymn by William Cowper, God Moves in a Mysterious Way.

I. Aria (God moves in a mysterious way…) – Gentle two-measure phrases, built on “C” and “F” chords, open this movement. A melodic line on the organ’s 4′ Flute is soon heard introducing a melodic line based on the “C” and “F” pitches. Following a slightly varied return of the opening “C” and “F” chords, the primary melodic line of the movement is heard on an 8′ Diapason. A chaconne (i.e. a repetitive harmonic progression over which variations occur) forms the mid-section of this movement. Also based on “C” and “F”, the chaconne is heard five times. Climaxing on full organ, a statement of the movement’s opening melodic line is heard in the pedal, followed by a return to the gentle spirit that began the piece. Then the movement’s primary melodic line is again heard, this time in canon with itself.

II. Toccata (…His wonders to perform…) – This highly rhythmical movement opens with three organ pedal statements of the note-code theme of the piece, “C” and “F”. After each statement, arppegiated chords in the manuals outline various modalities of “C” and “F” harmonies. Soon a vibrant and virtuosic pedal solo emerges, which eventually leads to music characterized by irregular meters and dialogues between the manuals over “C” and “F” tonalities and marked “With zest.” Development of melodic material heard in the pedal solo soon appears again in the pedal, with the movement continuing to pursue and develop these ideas as energy intensifies. The main melodic idea of Aria now emerges with the power of full organ, climaxing in a return of the initial idea that opened Toccata. In addition to melodic and harmonic materials being based on “C” and “F”, virtually all other material in this movement comes from chromatic alterations on those pitches by accidentals (sharps and flats) or by enharmonic spellings (i.e. musical synonyms). Toccata for instance, closes on a B major chord (B/D-sharp/F-sharp), which is the enharmonic equivalent of C-flat major (C-flat/E-flat/G-flat).

I wish to express my gratitude to Casavant Frères, Limitée (André Gremillet, President; Stanley Scheer, Vice President) for offering me this important commission, which celebrates in a unique way the continuing legacy of one of the world’s most distinguished pipe organ builders. It is my genuine hope that organists and listeners throughout the world will find In Mystery and Wonder (The Casavant Diptych) rewarding and that this new creation will help Casavant celebrate its past 125 years and effectively launch the company into its next 125 years.

Dan Locklair
Winston-Salem, NC/ USA
January 2004

Note to the performer: Rather general registration suggestions are given for a 2-manual organ. All organists, and especially ones with larger instruments, may feel free to elaborate upon these suggestions.

Timings: I. Aria = ca. 6′ ; II. Toccata = ca. 4′
Total duration = ca. 10 minutes