Mark Hayes is a prolific composer of choral music, a revered pianist, a well-traveled conductor, and even a successful publisher. His work has been used by choirs and pianists around the globe for decades, and his popularity shows no sign of slowing down.
In his newest choral piece, “The God of Abraham Praise,” published by Hinshaw Music, Hayes tackles this well known sacred text and the Hebrew melody to which it is usually wed. As with publications that have come before this one, Mark adds his own touches that make it truly magical. To kick it all off, the first sounds are that of a piano playing an arpeggiated passage. The first thing I thought upon hearing this introduction was that Hayes truly is a pianist at heart. There can be no denying that the man really knows how to write for piano! Even though the melody is well known, Mark gives it a contemporary touch with his accompaniment.
Additionally, Hayes’ chord structuring is ingenious. Instead of staying in the traditional box by using intervals of fourths or fifths, Hayes blows up the convention and brings in new chords to make this piece truly shine. In afact, it is these chord choices that set this piece apart. There was at least one instance that hit me in the face. Instead of following the expected phrase cadence II-V-I, Hayes used II-bII-I, descending chromatically. The juxtaposition of a traditional Hebrew melody with this typical jazz cadence was both surprising and refreshing. It is this kind of detail which makes the music really stand out.
Mark Hayes successfully integrates a personal touch into this traditional sacred work, making it a unique experience. He’s been doing it for years, but he refuses to rest on his laurels. With “The God of Abraham Praise,” Mark invests the creative energy to shape an inventive and exciting new version of a time-honored classic. His expert integration of sacred material with fresh musical ideas is what makes the piece a real work of art.