Two visual inspirations for local composer Dan Forrest’s latest commissioned composition, “Lux: The Dawn From On High,” for the Greenville Chorale, came from a summer trip to Europe.
One was the Poulnabrone dolmen in western Ireland, a stone tomb that’s more than 5,000 years old. Forrest describes it as “a place of profound beauty and history.” The second was the French cathedral at Reims.
“With its incredible use of light and stained glass, right when I was working on a piece about light — it was an utterly transcendent experience to behold it,” he says. “And I’d like to think that some of that feeling worked its way into my piece.”
“Lux,” which is the Latin word for light, will premiere Oct. 28 with a performance by the Greenville Chorale and Greenville Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bingham Vick, Jr. The chorale began rehearsing “Lux” on Sept. 4 with Forrest at the piano.
The work was commissioned by long-time Greenville residents Sarah and Gordon Herring. The Greenville Chorale performed Forrest’s first major work, “Requiem for the Living,” in fall 2014.
The Bob Jones University-educated Forrest says he was mulling ideas for the piece for more than a year, sketching possibilities for eight to nine months and writing for three to four months.
“I’m still orchestrating right now,” he says. “Even after the premiere, there will be continued proofing and editing, and writing smaller chamber ensemble accompaniment versions for publication.”
The piece, in standard four to eight vocal parts, consists of five movements. Texts are drawn from liturgical Latin, ancient chant, Scripture, and modern secular poetry; they’re combined to form a narrative about dawn, specifically the metaphorical aspects of the sunrise and light.
Musically, along with standard symphonic orchestration, the work features the vibraphone, a large metal xylophone, which, among other unique aspects, has an electric motor for vibrato, and in this piece, it will be played with a stringed double bass bow, Forrest says.
Chorale director Vick says his challenge, now that he has the work in hand, is to recreate what he understands Forrest to be saying in the music.
“He and I think much alike when it comes to interpretation of written music,” Vick says. “Our previous work together has shown that my instincts and understanding as a conductor, and his intentions with the music, are very compatible. He trusts my decisions regarding phrasing, tempo, expression, and that is reassuring to me as the conductor.”