YAHWEH

YAHWEH (2011) for Wind Ensemble [28:00]
I. Jehovah Shammah (“I am the God who is always there”)
II. Jehovah Rapha (“I am the God who heals”)
III. El Shaddai (“I am your all powerful God”)
IV. Jehovah Roi (“I am the God who loves you”)
V. El Simchathgali (“I am the God of exceeding joy”)
VI. Jehovah Shalom (“I am the God of peace”)
VII. Jehovah M’Kaddesh (“I am the God who sanctifies you”)
VIII. Jehovah Jireh (“I am the God who provides for you”)
IX. Jehovah Nissi (“I am the God who defends you”)

~ 11 X 17 score and set of 34 parts
 
YAHWEH: Sample 1 YAHWEH: Sample 2 YAHWEH: Sample 3 YAHWEH: Sample 4 YAHWEH: Sample 5 YAHWEH: Sample 6 YAHWEH: Sample 7 YAHWEH: Sample 8 YAHWEH: Sample 9
 
Program Notes: This work was inspired by a series of sermons delivered by my father, Pastor Chuck DeVos, in the winter of 2005. The series was entitled “How God Meets Your Deepest Needs,” and each lesson discussed a different Hebrew name for God portraying one of His characteristics. I was entirely fascinated by the distinct attributes each name represented yet how they all described the same thing: God. Each of the nine movements in this work depicts one of those names. The movements may be performed separately or in any combination, with the exception of the final movement, which references the themes from the other movements and therefore makes the most sense in the context of the entire piece.

I. JEHOVAH SHAMMAH (“I am the God who is always there”): The work begins with a brass fanfare, the melody of which becomes the basis for the first movement. This melody is transformed through different meters and moods, but it remains present throughout the entire movement, representing the omnipresence of God. The movement is roughly in arch form (A-B-C-B-A) where the A section is the brass fanfare, the B section is fast and rhythmic, and the C section is dream-like and mysterious.

II. JEHOVAH RAPHA (“I am the God who heals”): Movement II opens with a low-register flute duet; flutes are not particularly strong in this register and thus were chosen to symbolize the frailty of human life and the need for a healer. The duet is based on a Lydian pentachord and appears four times in different instruments throughout the movement. After the first time, the ensemble comes in with a chord made up of three minor thirds with a minor second on top, and after each successive time, one of the minor thirds collapses into a major second until a Lydian pentachord (three major seconds with a minor second on top) is left. In this context, the theme is stated one last time, this time fully orchestrated and exultant: healing has occurred.

III. EL SHADDAI (“I am your all powerful God”): This movement begins with a flourish and then transitions into an accented and syncopated melody underscored with strong forte-piano chords in the low brass. A more subdued middle section presents another melody characterized by harmonization in parallel fifths and then builds to a return of the faster tempo, where both melodies, along with their various accompanimental figures, occur simultaneously. This creates a raucous mass of sound in which it is difficult to distinguish one part from another, depicting the overwhelming and incomprehensible power of God.

IV. JEHOVAH ROI (“I am the God who loves you”): An alternative meaning of “Jehovah Roi” is “I am the God who shepherds you” (see Psalm 23:1). Although this movement focuses mainly on depicting the tremendous love of God, elements of pastoralism, such as “horn fifths,” are also introduced. The movement is otherwise hymn-like and lyrical, becoming more and more passionate as it progresses.

V. EL SIMCHATHGALI (“I am the God of exceeding joy”): Joy is portrayed in this movement by an upbeat, gigue-like rhythm in the melody, along with embellishments such as trills and triangle rolls and the use of high-register woodwinds and mallet percussion. The slow section retains the same “joy” theme, but it is transformed into a reflective waltz with a twinge of sadness, showing how it is possible to retain a sense of joy even through life’s misfortunes and monotony. Finally, the buoyant gigue-like melody returns and accelerandos into an exuberant climax.

VI. JEHOVAH SHALOM (“I am the God of peace”): This movement is based around a repetitive pattern of five cluster chords which are first stated in forward order and then reversed (||:1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2:||). Each chord, with the exception of the third (which uses a D-flat), uses the same six notes along the circle of fifths (A-flat, E-flat, B-flat, F, C, G) in various configurations with a different bass note each time; the result is a feeling of motion within stasis. Saxophone trills and movement in other woodwind parts also create activity and almost threaten to jeopardize the peace, but these, too, are subdued over time into the slow harmonic rhythm of the movement. Other key features include a mallet percussion soli and the lack of high-register wind instruments.

VII. JEHOVAH M’KADDESH (“I am the God who sanctifies you”): In order to depict sanctification, or the process of being made holy, it was first necessary to depict sin, which causes the need for sanctification. In this movement, sin is represented by an unrelenting G-sharp (which is the solfege syllable “si” in a fixed do system) throughout the entire first half of the movement. Over this pedal point, however, overbearing combinations of fully-diminished seventh chords undergo a transformation that turns G-sharp into the leading tone in A major. The arrival on A major is punctuated by a brass chorale on the hymn tune “Holy, Holy, Holy,” which had been alluded to previously but never stated in full. This section also changes to a compound meter, which harks back to medieval times when musicians believed that triple divisions of the beat represented the Holy Trinity and were therefore superior to duple beat divisions.

VIII. JEHOVAH JIREH (“I am the God who provides for you”): The theme upon which this movement is built is comprised of only two pitches, depicting neediness; it is introduced by a single oboe. Each of the five additional woodwind entrances is transposed up a third and offset by one beat. While the additional timbres, pitches, and rhythms produce a sense of motion, it still sounds “empty” and melancholy, which represents man in his inadequacy trying to provide for himself. The woodwind solos drop out one by one, just as they entered. A tuba solo ushers in a brass chorale on the same theme from the opening, but now it is harmonized with rich, quintal chords, showing how God can take what little one has to offer and make it into something beautiful.

IX. JEHOVAH NISSI (“I am the God who defends you”): The mixed-meter theme in the final movement is loosely based on a melodic representation of the tonal center of each movement in chronological order. The majority of the movement is aggressive and rhythmically driving, but a contrasting middle section presents a retrograde of the theme over ethereal marimba tremolos. Finally, the brass fanfare from the first movement returns toward the end, this time with the woodwinds playing motives from every other movement above it, which ties all nine movements together in a dramatic climax.

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