Lansing McLoskey: Zealot Canticles

Lansing McLoskey: Zealot Canticles

An oratorio for tolerance, on the writings of Wole Soyinka
Lansing McLoskey
The Crossing
Donald Nally
Doris Hall-Gulati
Rebecca Harris
Mandy Wolman
Lorenzo Raval
Arlen Hlusko
Catalog Number: 
new classical
Grammy nominated

Philadelphia, PA

Release Date: 
Sep 28, 2018
Liner Notes: 
1 CD

Lansing McLoskey: Zealot Canticles

One Sheet: 

Lansing McLoskey’s Zealot Canticles is based on Wole Soyinka’s Twelve Canticles for the Zealot (2002) – a strangely beautiful and terrifying look into the minds of fanatics. Seven of these poems form the bulk of the libretto, interwoven with excerpts from Soyinka’s plays, interviews, lectures, and speeches; they reflect his upbringing in an environment of tolerance and condemn the current climate of intolerance, bigotry, and violence.  The result is a concert-length choral ‘oratorio’ for clarinet, string quartet, and 24-voice choir, commissioned and performed by The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally and winner of the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.

Soyinka’s texts and McLoskey’s responses are universal pleas for peace and tolerance, yet they force us to look into the mirror and recognize the thin line between devotion and intolerance, zealotry and radicalism – themes that dominate our public discourse every day. 

Wole Soyinka (b. 1934) is a Nigerian poet, playwright, novelist, and recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first African recipient of the award. Throughout the set of canticles, Soyinka makes universal pleas for peace from multiple languages and religious cultures. Seven of these poems form the core of the libretto of Zealot Canticles. Interwoven with these poems are excerpts from Soyinka’s book The Man Died, his play Madmen and Specialists, and interviews, lectures, and speeches reflecting on his upbringing in an environment of tolerance, and condemning the current climate of intolerance, bigotry, and violence.

Of the work, McLoskey says, “From the opening poem I couldn’t help but reflect upon the parallels between the delirium of the religious fanatic and the delirium of Soyinka himself during hunger fasts. Self-deprivation and hallucinations are not the sole prerogatives of the unjustly imprisoned, after all, but also common among zealots of another sort. Soyinka’s own renunciations of self, ‘I need nothing...I feel nothing… I desire nothing,’ are renunciations and exhortations echoed in ultra-devotees from Buddhist monks and Hindu ascetics to Christian hermits and the Taliban. Is there then not a thin line between extreme devotion – zealotry – and radicalism? And that line is both personal and public. The words of Wole Soyinka are not just generalizations or universal in nature, but specifically about us. Right here, right now.”

Lansing McLoskey came to the world of composition via a somewhat unorthodox route. The proverbial “Three B’s” for him were not Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, but rather The Beatles, Bauhaus and Black Flag. His first experiences at writing music were not exercises in counterpoint, but as the guitarist and songwriter for punk rock bands in San Francisco in the early 1980’s. 

This album has been nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.



"The Crossing and the accompanying quintet, led by Donald Nally, give the work a beautifully sung and vividly played performance that fully taps its power and cautionary horror. Uncomfortable as Zealot Chronicles sometimes is, it is so compelling that you want to keep returning to it." [FULL ARTICLE] - Allan Kozinn


"This is an interesting take on classical music not playing pretty for the people. Wild stuff with pros at the helm that shows how you never know where the trip is going to wind up." [FULL ARTICLE] - Chris Spector


"The words of Wole Soyinka are not just generalizations or universal in nature, but specifically about us. Right here, right now." [FULL ARTICLE]


"The small Philadelphia choir The Crossing and its director, Donald Nally, have shown that contemporary music specialists can succeed with carefully selected repertory that connects with audiences." [FULL ARTICLE] - James Manheim


"It would be hard to imagine a better fit for The Crossing than Lansing McLoskey's Zealot Canticles." [FULL ARTICLE]


"It is a work of extraordinary beauty, filled with knowing worldliness and inner certainty. Outstanding." [FULL ARTICLE] - Grego Edwards


"McCloskey's melodic expansiveness and the always extraordinary work of The Crossing, led by Donald Nally, make for a highly absorbing listen." [FULL ARTICLE]