"... and they gathered on Mount Carmel" is a surround-sound musical depiction of the great confrontation between the Old Testament prophet Elijah and the false prophets of Baal recorded in I Kings 18. The brass are split into two antiphonal choirs on either side of the audience and other performers are behind the audience. The work was begun in March 1994 in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, while the composer was an artist-in-residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and was completed in Knoxville, Tennessee, the following March. The work received its premiere in 1995 by the University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Richard Clary and has been recorded by the Valparaiso University Chamber Concert Band under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Scott Doebler.
I. The Incantations of the Prophets of Baal. Scripture records that the prophets of Baal danced before their god from morning until noon and then on until evening, calling in vain on Baal to send fire to consume their sacrifice. Multiple layers of rhythmic patterns of differing lengths which move in and out of phase over an ever quickening harmonic cycle are used to create a hypnotic, rhythmic vitality reflecting this ritualistic dancing. The music grows increasingly wilder and more frantic as the movement progresses.
II. The Prayer of Elijah. The prophets of Baal having failed to call down fire to consume their sacrifice, it is now Elijah's turn to call upon the God of Israel. The composer imagines an almost unearthly quiet, intensified by a low wind, as all eyes turn to Elijah. In contrast to the ranting and raving and blood-letting of the false prophets, Elijah utters a quiet prayer. The effect of the brass blowing air through their horns, the "whistling" of the plastic tubes being twirled, and the synthesizer "string" inverted pedal point creates the sense of eerie silence. The euphonium intones a prayer, which echoes about the mountain (offstage saxophones). Melody is the predominant parameter of this movement to contrast the emphasis on rhythm in the first. The euphonium solo is a development of thematic material presented by the clarinets in the previous movement.
III. The Fire of the Living God. After the day-long, fruitless incantantations and self-mutilation of the propherts of Baal, a nervous tension fills the air as all await the outcome of Elijah's short, simple prayer. A blazing light appears in the sky, speeding earthward; intense fire falls on the altar, consuming not only the sacrifice, but the very stones of the altar itself. The people fall on their faces in awe of the true God, and the false prophets are slain for their wickedness. Contrast of texture is the predominant parameter in this final movement. Massive blocks of sound, some static and others rhythmically active, are juxtaposed against each other. In the closing seconds of the piece, the two brass choirs join forces to play the last phrase of Martin Luther's Ein Feste Berg (A Mighty Fortress), which is quoted as a benediction to Elijah's deliverance and vindication as he stands alone against a host of 450 adversaries.
© Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Jesse Ayers