By Andrew Caster
PUC’s resident artist, Asher Raboy, is a conductor by day but a composer by night. A romantic at heart, Raboy has struggled in the past to have his pieces performed. Why? Romantic music has fallen out of style. Minimalist, new age music is all the rage in concert halls across the country. Critics and managers want fresh sounds. Romantic music has not been pushed by the wayside by popular music, but by other classically-styled music. However, he remained true to his heart throughout his career and continued to write the music he wanted to write, not the music audiences supposedly wanted to hear. Raboy adamantly maintains that writing for your own time and not the future is the key to musical success. He principally cited Mozart and Haydn, who wrote pieces exclusively with their employers in mind and not the opinions of listeners 200 years down the road. The weekend of April 20-22 marks both the inauguration of President Robert A. Cushman and the 50th anniversary of Paulin Hall. Tasked with writing a composition for this occasion, Raboy has produced a masterpiece. At first, he intended to write a piece based on the book of Revelation. According to him, Revelation is a book with a greater influence on Adventist theology than other books of the Bible. But during the process of writing, Raboy became unhappy at how the tone of the book would translate into music. He felt he would much rather write something on a lighter note. Thus, the composition “The Beatitudes” came about. Raboy said that no composition had ever come to him more quickly or more easily than this one. It is an eight-movement cantata featuring choir, orchestra, and three vocal soloists. Each movement refers to a different blessing on a different group of people. Raboy’s aim with naming each movement after a blessing was to incorporate an inclusive mentality as Jesus would have done. His biggest gripe with our current culture was its “us vs. them” mentality, and he wrote “The Beatitudes” as a statement against that. Raboy named three influences which guided both the composition of “The Beatitudes” and his musical style in general. His favorite composer of the past century, Paul McCartney, showed him that it was possible to be successful and write anything you wanted without worrying about being judged. “The Beatles” are a prime example of writing for their time, which is a key factor in their continued popularity today. His favorite composition, “La bohème” by Giacomo Puccini, showed him how it is possible to enjoy music without knowing why. And his Russian-Jewish background gave him greater appreciation of Slavic culture and music, motifs from which found their way into his music. “The Beatitudes” showcases these influences and those of his personal faith in a message of blessing to all its listeners.