Each year, BYU’s Barlow Endowment for Music Composition hosts three competitions for composers around the world. One of their 2015 Latter-day Saint commission recipients, Lansing McLoskey, wrote the concert-length choral oratorio “Zealot Canticles,” which was performed by The Crossing and won a 2019 Grammy for Best Choral Performance.
“My immediate reaction while sitting there at the Grammys was almost numbness,” said McLoskey. “I saw it with my eyes and heard the announcement with my ears, but my mind couldn’t process that it was real. Then I was flooded with feelings of joy, pride, gratitude; I felt honored and humbled. I do not write music for awards or recognition, yet it’s a humbling and rewarding experience when a work like this is recognized by my peers.”
Ethan Wickman, the executive director of the Barlow Endowment, said the Grammy reflects well on the endowment and its mission, which is to encourage the creation of great music.
“While there are many marvelous works that have been supported by Barlow over the years that won’t win awards in such a public venue, it is a reminder that without the Endowment’s support, this work—and so many others—probably wouldn’t have come to be,” said Wickman. “All of the new music that the endowment supports plays some small part in making the world a better, richer, more fulfilling place.”
McLoskey was one of about 500 composers that judges reviewed during the selection process for the the Barlow Endowment. The judges then selected 13 composers and performers — one Barlow Prize winner and 12 LDS and General commision winners — to receive a commission.
Wickman said, “Commissions are the lifeblood of new music; they provide the financial means for a composer to dedicate the time needed to create.”
The endowment is one of only a handful of major commissioning competitions in the world, which means the aid it provides is vital to composers, performers and other music aficionados around the world.
“I would argue that there is scarcely a corner of the globe with a community of composers of concert music who have not heard of the Barlow Endowment,” said Wickman.
McLoskey echoed Wickman’s sentiment, stating that he applied because “the Barlow Endowment is one of the most important and significant organizations that funds commissions of new music by composers in the country — the world, really.”
Wickman said that one of the things that sets the Barlow Endowment apart from similar competitions is that fact that a portion of the money is specifically dedicated to Latter-day Saint composers, something the endowment’s co-founder Milton Barlow was passionate about.
“These LDS compositions are pieces of artistically valuable music that often do not enjoy the same mass-market, economic benefits as pieces of popular or commercial music,” said Wickman. “That’s why the work we do is so important to developing a high culture within music by LDS composers.”
For McLoskey and other LDS composers, the LDS portion of the endowment opens doors that may otherwise remain closed. McLoskey says his great experiences with “Zealot Canticles” — including collaborating with the performers and their conductor, Donald Nally; releasing a CD with Innova Records; and, of course their Grammy for Best Choral Performance — all began with the Barlow Endowment making it possible for him to write the piece in the first place.
McLoskey pointed out that historically there hasn’t been a lot of support for LDS art and music that wasn’t strictly conservative or traditional.
“The importance of having an LDS (though technically not Church-owned) foundation that specifically promotes, advocates for and supports the creation of music by LDS composers, regardless of how ‘traditional’ it is and irrespective of whether it’s ever heard within the walls of an LDS building or promoted by the Church, cannot be overstated, said McLoskey. “What an invaluable resource for composers — LDS and otherwise.”