Listening Page #52: Jesse Ayers

FEBRUARY 22, 2009

Jesse Ayers, The Fire of the Living God performed by the Valparaiso University Chamber Concert Band Jeffrey Scott Doebler, conductor

PROGRAM NOTES

“The Fire of the Living God” is the third and final movement of “…and they gathered on Mount Carmel”, a surround-sound work based on the great contest in ancient Israel between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal recorded in I Kings 18.   It was completed in 1995, 10 years before Jericho (the narration-audience participation piece appearing on my last listening page). This movement was performed in Slovenia in 2003 at the ISCM World Music Days festival.

The piece is scored for both band and orchestra, and both of these come in two versions each: an expanded instrumentation for surround-sound, and a reduced instrumentation that sacrifices the surround-sound in favor of smaller, and less expensive, performing forces, making a total of 4 versions for each movement. The other two movements are (I) The Incantations of the Prophets of Baal and (II) The Prayer of Elijah. The recording is of the band version, expanded instrumentation.

The brass are divided into two choirs on either side of the audience, usually playing in a standing position in the aisles.  There are also two alto saxes in the rear two corners of the hall, plus a number of extra people behind the audience twirling whistling tubes.

The current movement begins as God answers Elijah’s prayer by sending fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice not to mention the very stones of the altar.  (I bet the crowd felt like they had been to church that day!)

If your wondering about the last section with all the repeating woodwind rhythms, it is a reprise of material from the first movement used to tie the piece together.

In the closing seconds of the piece, the two brass choirs play antiphonally (one note on the left, the next on the right) the last phrase of Luther’s Ein Feste Berg , which is quoted as a benediction to Elijah’s deliverance and vindication as he stands alone against a host of 450 adversaries.  (I’m sure I would likewise never cower before today’s cultural high priests, or do I?)

STATEMENT OF FAITH

In the Old Testament, God ordained that every fiftieth year (after seven cycles of seven years) was to be a Year of Jubilee: all debt was cancelled, indentured slaves were set free, and inheritances (land) were restored.  It was to be a year of fresh starts and new beginnings.  Jesus affirmed that He was the permanent fulfillment of Jubilee in Luke 4 when he read the Scripture in the temple beginning with the words “The Spirit of the Lord in upon me,” and concluding with the words “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (a direct reference to the Year of Jubilee).

My experience has been that Jesus is still in the business of fresh starts and new beginnings. My debt to the enemy (Satan) was paid in full at the cross; I am in the process of being set free from slavery (slavery to sin, slavery to other’s opinions of me, slavery to the emotional baggage of old wounds); and my inheritance (the Father’s plan for my life) is being restored.  I am Ezekiel’s dry bones being breathed back to life — all because of the incomprehensible mercy and love of Jesus and His direct intervention in my life.

BIO

Jesse Ayers’ music has been performed in Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and over 85 U.S. cities, with a Beethoven-meets-Jerry-Lee-Lewis piano 8-hand work scheduled for the SCI national in Santa Fe in April. Ayers more important works explore the interaction between the spiritual and natural worlds and the redemptive intervention of God in the affairs of the human race.  He holds a BM and MM from the University of Tennessee and a DMA  from the University of Kentucky.  He currently teaches at Malone University in Canton, Ohio.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Jesse directly at: jesse.ayers@sbcglobal.net. Visit Jesse’s website at http://www.jesseayers.com/

If you are a member composer interested in submitting a composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page, please contact Bill Vollinger at williamvollinger@aol.com.

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