Lyrics by Rev. Dr. Fred Anderson and Leslie Melcher
In October of 1994, Melcher was commissioned by Central Presbyterian to write a composition to be premiered at a concert celebrating Central Presbyterian Church's 175th anniversary and benefiting the Cornell Children's Fund. The work, The Spirit of our Time, was completed September 1996 and premiered on October 26th 1996 in New York City. This CD is a recording of this performance.
The Spirit of our Time stems from 4 notes centered on B-flat. The original motif slapped Mr. Melcher one afternoon on the corner of East 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue as he was carrying his groceries. The challenge - says the composer - was to create a liturgical work that was true to form (Cantata - loosely based on Psalm 127), true to the occasion, true to our times and true to the mystical dimension in ourselves. Although the piece may sound rather typical of what could be considered "Church Music", its true foundation borrows more from a fusion of Blues, Modern Classical, Rock, Electronic and Jewish folk melodies. From bar progressions (Bb-Db-Eb), elaborate rhythms to secondary elements that imitate rock-like electric guitars to ostinati, delays, syncopations, silence and half tone intervals, The Spirit of our Time owes as much to today's music than to the tradition.
Examining the church and its architectural floor plans, Melcher created a musical structure in imitation of the architectural and spatial areas of Central Presbyterian. This why the work is divided into six movements, each of which has a correspondence to six prominent sections of Central Presbyterian Church. In 2003, Melcher was detained for hours by the Canadian customs for having blue prints of an old church building they suspected he might bomb. He had quite a hard time explaining to very dubious officers the musical significance of the documents...
As such The Spirit of our Time is a distant relative of spatial descriptions in narrative works such as Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition or Saint Saens' Le Carnival des Animaux. The composer was struck by the way each part of the church flowed into the next, yet remained an entity unto itself.
By constructing the six parts of the work to reflect six parts of the church, the composer has given the piece a formal sense of direction as one can travel along with the music through time and space, through the church, through the spirit of our time into the Spirit that lies within us all (or so he would like to believe.). In the very place where Composer Charles Ives - Choirmaster and Organist at Central Presbyterian - composed and performed his early works, The Spirit of our Time was very well received; the standing ovation lasting for so long that Melcher got slightly impatient as he was craving a glass of water. Acknowledgments from many as well as famous musical luminaries made Melcher believe he had finally succeeded.
The Spirit of our Time was never performed again.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Silence of the Winds
2. Labor in Vain
3. Children of God
4. Dark Praises
5. All Shall Pass Away
6. End of Days