Diptych for the Baptism of our Lord
The undulating eighths and triplets in the River Jordan convey the flowing waters of the river Jordan. The continual change of the time signature and the variation of figures mimics the river’s widening and narrowing twists and turns.
Hear the composer’s performance of The River Jordan
The Voice of the Lord attempts to express the all-encompassing nature of the voice of the Lord as described in Psalm 29. The drama of the beauty and terror woven into the composition was inspired by the opening lines of Rainer Maria Rilke’s first Duino Elegy (trans. by Stephen Mitchell).
For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror,
which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us.
This idea that beauty always contains an element of terror is a fundamental component of The Voice of the Lord. There is always some dissonance present at any given moment of the piece, and this terror constantly threatens to emerge and overtake the music. A performer must actively listen to and respond as the music comes to life in order to make spontaneous yet crucial decisions as to the given duration of a bar, how to execute the shimmer gesture, and so forth.
The first Elegy, although in a slightly different sense, also meditates on the practice of listening and the voice of God: Voices. Voices. Listen, my heart, as only saints have listened; and a few moments later Not that you could endure God’s voice – far from it.
The composer writes:
Rilke’s thoughts differ from the Psalmist on a number of themes. I took it as my task to reconcile the impressions they made on me not in word but in music. In the end, it was Psalm 29 that laid the foundation and inspiration for The Voice of the Lord, but it was Rilke’s ‘Elegy’ which gave the music life.
Hear the composer’s performance of The Voice of the Lord
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In addition to concertizing, teaching, conducting, and composing, Joel Peters is co-artistic director and founder of Earth World, a creative force which generates new music, art, and literature through collaboration.
Peters began piano lessons at the age of 15 with Audrey Falk-Janzen in Waldheim, Saskatchewan. Eight years later he earned a Bachelor’s of Music from Canadian Mennonite University, studying piano with Cheryl Pauls and organ with Dietrich Bartel. In 2014, he obtained a Master’s from McGill University, studying repertoire with Hans-Ola Ericsson and improvisation with Dr. William Porter. In 2017, he graduated from the same university with an Artist Diploma.
Among the numerous awards Peters has received are those won in 2016 at le Concours OSM Manuvie: third prize in the organ category; prize for the best performance of the imposed Canadian work; Stingray Rising Stars Award (Public’s Choice); and the Orford Music Prize. And of personal highlight, Peters received perfect scores from the jury members for his final Artist Diploma recital entitled, “Organ Ocean Waves of Sound.” This project also inspired the short story “The Lower Registers” by Toronto-based writer André Forget (core member of Earth World).
Joel Peters is currently Music Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Montreal.