My former student, Luke Carlson – an outstanding composer – is conducting my Variations on a Hymn Tune tonight at the College of the Ozarks in Point Hollister, Missouri. Luke joined the faculty there last fall.
The Variations were written for the Council Rock school district in Bucks County, PA, for their high school orchestras. Here’s a program note on the piece:
These variations are based on a 19th century hymn tune called “Ebenezer”, written by Welsh composer Thomas J. Williams. I came to know the tune with the text “Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow”, but my music does not reflect that somewhat lugubrious title! After a short introduction, the hymn is heard in the violins. Variations 1 and 3 treat the tune contrapuntally, with the tune sometimes played at different speeds simultaneously. Variations 2 and 4 change the rhythm of the hymn more dramatically. The extended ending of the 4th variation recalls some of the gestures of the introduction.
I tried to write a piece that would include a variety of moods, would appeal to young players, and would give each orchestral section a chance to shine.
Although the piece was written for a high school orchestra, and was most recently played by the Philadelphia Sinfonia, a youth orchestra, it can also be appropriate for college orchestras. It’s in the Presser catalog, and you can find a perusal score here.