Aaron Beaumont’s new song explores the psychedelic nature of Peter’s vision in connection to his introduction to Cornelius as described in Acts 10.
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1 There was a certain man in Cæsarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band , 2 A devout man , and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. 3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. 7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; 8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
9 ¶ On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: 10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. 17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate, 18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19 ¶ While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. 21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? 22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. 23 Then called he them in, and lodged them . And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And the morrow after they entered into Cæsarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. 25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him . 26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? 30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. 33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) 37 That word, I say , ye know, which was published throughout all Judæa, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; 41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
44 ¶ While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Acts 10 is an incredible – and incredibly wacky – story. Intense heat, a meditation sesh on a seaside rooftop, culminating in a trance in which exotic animals appear out of thin air THREE times. It might be raving mad or psychedelic – either way, Peter definitely looks kind of like a person who, I confess, I would take pains not to sit by on the subway. This made me wonder, “What WOULD this story look like if it happened today? What would I have done in Peter’s shoes?” That’s the basis of Narwhal and Ocelot… that, plus, the irresistible opportunity to (as a theater writer and all around word-play dork) come up with a bunch of rhymes for “ocelot,” which I’ve never had an excuse to work into a lyric (and it was still a stretch) #lifegoals.
Here, Joppa becomes L.A., my beloved former home and a place not especially scared of a little casual afternoon rooftop meditation (possibly paired with hot yoga). Also, Peter’s dietary restrictions – so L.A.! Having grown up a vegetarian, I get it, and still dabble. For instance, I too would abstain from eating narwhal and ocelot, probably even if I thought it was the Lord’s bidding?
And therein lies the crux of this story for me: it isn’t simply that Peter gets this zany vision, but rather, that he also acts on it, traveling to a whole new city to rendezvous with an officer from foreign occupying forces. Highly taboo. And from what I understand, the outcome of all these absurd, weird decisions was (likely) the first non-Jewish Christian community. I, for one, as a healthy skeptic, given to perhaps excessive rationalization, would probably have dismissed this vision out of hand (perhaps even as a byproduct of the “shellfish that I ate”). But then, as an artist, and moreover, as a human, I’m constantly challenged to act on a tenuous vision – to organize my life around a conception of reality that is frequently at odds with the actual reality I’m confronted with.
In a recent interview, Todd Rundgren says something to the effect that he’s an idealist, and boldly believes in a bright future for humanity – and as a result, he often finds himself kind of angry at humanity for regularly challenging this organizing principle. To me, the Acts 10 story illustrates the conundrum perfectly: the problems of perception and apprehension, and the elusive, complicated, sometimes absurd, and often frustrating nature of chasing a vision. This time, it works out for Peter. But what do we do with all the days when the crazy, transcendent rooftop vision isn’t accompanied, and affirmed, by an ensuing knock at the door?
Aaron Beaumont has toured the U.S. and Europe as a pianist and songwriter and been invited to share his work in wide-ranging venues from the Sziget Festival in Budapest to KCRW Santa Monica to the Tribeca Film Festival to off-Broadway Theatre 80 in the East Village to the main stage of the West Hollywood Carnaval. L.A. Weekly wrote that Aaron's music brings "a new life to the ancient music-hall/pop piano-man tradition, with clear-headed songs of genuinely witty lyrical oomph and, most of all, a historically informed musical depth – all delivered with style, grace, wit and elan, of course."
Aaron wrote one song, arranged two others, and served as a piano performance coach for the feature Permission (Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, 2017 Tribeca Film Festival), which premieres worldwide February 2018. He also contributed two songs to the forthcoming series Dan is Dead (Drake Bell, Maker Studios) and two songs to the indie feature film Alex & Jaime (2017 Roxbury International Film Festival). Aaron contributed an original co-write (“17”) and several arrangements to Gil McKinney’s 2017 debut album, How Was I to Know, which reached #1 on the iTunes jazz chart and #8 on the Billboard jazz chart. He also co-wrote “Good Love” for Briana Buckmaster’s 2018 debut album (#1 iTunes blues, #3 Billboard blues). Other recent TV and film placements include original songs written for Cedar Cove (Andie McDowell) and Where Hope Grows (Billy Zabka, Danica McKellar; Dallas Film Festival, Roadside Attractions). Aaron has composed original scores for films and theatrical productions, including All the Lovely Wayside Things; Tall, Dark, and Handsome; Heart; Until We Have Faces; Shrew; The Fire Room; the Breakfast Show with Adam O; Companion; and Beyond Imagination, winning best score and sound design at the Hollywood Fringe Festival for his work on Fugitive Kind’s production of The Fire Room by Ovation Award-winning playwright Meghan Brown. In 2016, Aaron wrote a commissioned work for the Spark & Echo Arts project, and in 2017 Aaron created a larger scale work as an Artist in Residence. Aaron also works as an in-house arranger, producer, composer, and mix engineer for the Gregory Brothers / Schmoyoho, whose original music has earned them a gold and platinum record and nearly one billion views on YouTube, along with myriad collaborations on other platforms. Recent Gregory Brothers collabs include the Justice League film (ft. Gary Clark Jr.), Weird Al Yankovic, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bassnectar, Alex Wassabi, LaurDIY, Markiplier, Slow Mo Guys, Todrick Hall, J. Fla, The Resident (Fox Network), and the International Olympic Channel. Songs Aaron has worked on with the Gregory Brothers have received over 175 million plays on YouTube.
In 2015, Aaron participated in the Ultraviolet Music and Arts Festival in Los Angeles as a featured artist and presenter, and performed with his band The Mots Nouveaux for the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 Rockwood Music Festival in Frankfurt, Germany.
Aaron wrote the music and lyrics to the original musical, Behind Closed Doors, which sold out every performance at the historic Hayworth Theater, received multiple Broadway World L.A. Award nominations, and played for thousands of festival goers on the main stage of the West Hollywood Carnaval. Behind Closed Doors was selected to participate in the New York International Fringe Festival as a national show, enjoying a mostly oversold run at off-Broadway Theatre 80 in the East Village. Aaron was selected as a finalist as a composer and lyricist for the Fred Ebb Foundation / Roundabout Theatre Company Fred Ebb Award for musical theater songwriters, and received the Hal Gaba Scholarship for Excellence in Lyrics from UCLA/Concord Records.
Aaron is currently developing new musicals with playwrights Meghan Brown, Andrew Crabtree, Peter Berube, and Cassandra Christensen, and a one-woman show with soprano Lorelei Zarifian. Lorelei and Aaron’s first musical triptych, Midtown Antoinette, was featured on NPR-affiliate WFIT in March 2016 and debuted as part of the Florida Tech / Foosaner Museum French Film Festival. Aaron also occasionally helps produce the outrageous bingo raves phenomenon, Rebel Bingo, in New York and Los Angeles, as featured in the L.A. Times, Guardian, and BBC, and recently played a run of five capacity shows in the downtown L.A.’s Globe Theatre as part of 2016 Night on Broadway.
Aaron has collaborated as pianist, musical director, and/or co-writer with a panoply of music buddies, including Jason Manns, Gil McKinney, Sara Niemietz, Tim Omundsen, Dave Yaden, Nicholas Zork, Aaron Roche, Nick Bearden, Emma Fitzpatrick, Amanda Wallace, Shane Alexander, Ben Jaffe, Brett Young, Courtney Bassett, Eden Malyn, Luis Selgas, Aly French, Sam Heldt, Karma Jenkins, Emily Iaquinta, Lynette Williams, Meshach Jackson, Roy Mitchell-Cardenas, Kamasi Washington, Chad Doreck, J.T. Spangler, and Katrina Parker. He claimed several distinctions as a young classical pianist, including two-time Wisconsin Academy Musician of the Year, Andrews University Concerto Competition Finalist, and the British Royal Conservatory of Music Award of Highest Distinction for Piano Performance at the Newbold Creative Arts Festival. He currently serves as co-chair of the Carnegie Hill Concert Series in New York, featuring leading interpreters of classical and New Music from around the globe.
In 2015, Aaron founded SongLab, an online songwriting community for emerging songwriters. The inaugural SongLab Series welcomed GRAMMY-winner Dave Yaden as special guest.
In addition to working with other artists, Aaron performs as one-third of the pop trio, The Mots Nouveaux, alongside vocalists Emma Fitzpatrick and Amanda Wallace. The band celebrated their latest album release with a residency at Hotel Café, a six-month residency at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, and residencies at Rockwood Music Hall and Sidewalk Café in New York. They were invited to join the lineup for the Broke L.A. Music Festival in downtown Los Angeles, where Lyynks music hailed their set as the “greatest revelation” of the festival, one that “really thrilled the crowd” of thousands at the Lounge Stage (GroundSounds.com). The Mots Nouveaux recorded a new EP in Spring 2017 with co-producer Peter Barbee / Among Savages, with forthcoming tracks slated for 2018 release.
Aaron released his debut solo project, Nothing's Forever (Not Even Goodbye), featuring the first ten songs he wrote, on Milan Records (Warner-Ryko) in 2008.
In his spare time, Aaron enjoys playing the piano, traveling, eating, writing songs, making coffee, drinking coffee, collecting records, going for brisk walks, being near coffee, and composing extensive autobiographical sketches in the third person.