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The American Prize has announced that two works by composer Jesse Ayers, D.M.A, professor of music at Malone University, have advanced to the finals round of the American Prize in Composition—Band Division. Seven works in all nationally are finalists in this division. Ayers was the winner of the first American Prize for Orchestral Composition in 2010 for his work The Passion of John Brown. This is the first year the American Prize has offered an award for concert band composition. The two works by Ayers in this year's Band Division finals are Jericho and And they gathered on Mount Carmel.
Jericho, a 16-minute work based on the Old Testament account of the battle of Jericho, is a surround-sound story piece with narration and unorthodox audience participation for symphonic band or symphony orchestra. Jericho has since received 20 performances in 15 states since its 2005 premiere by the Valparaiso University Chamber Concert Band under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Scott Doebler. The orchestral version of Jericho was premiered in Denver by Lawrence Golan conducting the Lamont Symphony Orchestra. Golan has also conducted the work with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra in Washington state.
The other work by Ayers in the finals is And they gathered on Mount Carmel, which was the first of Ayers' surround-sound works. Performed in three movements -- The Incantations of the Prophets of Baal, The Prayer of Elijah, and The Fire of the Living God -- the composition is a 25-minute, programmatic work based on the Old Testament account of the great contest between the prophet Elijah and the false prophets of Baal. The band version was premiered by University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Richard Clary, and the orchestral version by the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra (Maryland) conducted by Sheldon Bair. Mount Carmel has received more than 40 performances from Maine to California, and was selected in 2003 to represent the United States at the prestigious World Music Days new music festival in Europe.
The American Prize in Composition recognizes and rewards the best composers in America of new works for orchestra, chorus, concert band or chamber ensemble that have been publicly performed.
In addition, this past March, the National Honors Band of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod premiered Akedah, a new work it commissioned from composer Jesse Ayers at Martin Luther College (Minnesota). Akedah (AH' key dah'), is Hebrew meaning "The Binding" and refers to Abraham's binding and near sacrifice of Isaac recorded in the Old Testament. The 12-minute work employs narration and audience participation.