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Variations on "We Three Kings", Op. 16 (2008)

For Piano


Joe Clark, piano

Duration: 6'

Program Notes:

I consider “Variations on ‘We Three Kings’”* to be my first mature work. It was conceived in the fall of my freshman year of high school while on a post-Thanksgiving mall trip with my grandparents. While, I assume, listening to the Christmas music continually playing over the speakers, I realized how fond I was of “We Three Kings”. Perhaps it’s the triple meter, the transition between major and minor modes, or some other intrinsic quality that cannot be articulated – but, whatever the reason, I decided I wanted to write a theme and variations on that melody.

I had previously done an arrangement in 5/4 in seventh grade for my teacher and me to play in lessons. I subsequently arranged it out (extremely poorly) for woodwind quintet upon the recommendation of my music teacher. These arrangements provided the genesis for these “Variations”. The idea of variations in different meters was strongly on my mind – as were the interplay of major and minor and the idea of canon (via Douglas R. Hofstadter’s marvelous tome “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid”). The result of my mall-based inspiration and these various ideas is the piece you see now before you.

I will be the first to admit that it is challenging. I myself could not play it for several years after I wrote it – and, even now, some spots still cause difficulties. However, do not be discouraged from attempting the piece! It is intended to be fun to play and listen to – and has been a big hit at family gatherings (typically around Christmas time. I do not advocate playing it at other times of the year, as people are generally hostile to “Christmas music” being played at “inappropriate times”).

*I recognize the inherent typographical concerns resulting from the use of adjacent single and double quotation marks. If you are offended by my typesetting, I sincerely apologise and would love to discuss it with you.