David Noon- Hymn Variations

For several years, the saxophonist Paul Cohen talked to me about writing a one-movement piece of chamber music that would include soprano saxophone. The result was Hymn Variations op. 108 (1991) for violin, soprano saxophone, cello and piano. In deciding on the musical material of the piece, I naturally turned to the wealth of hymn tunes that I had heard in church since I was a little child. The rich repertoire of hymn tunes found in almost any hymnal has often been the source of inspiration and actual musical material for American composers. I myself have always felt especially close to the choral music of the Sunday morning service. In some way, it seemed to encapsulate the history of my own family in America. My first ancestors in this country were religious separatists: Amish, Mennonite, Church of the Brethren, who came to this country for religious freedom. One of my first musical memories is that of hearing my Grandmother Noon sing hymns: she was a local church soloist who even sang hymns on the radio.

For my Hymn Variations, I have used four of my favorite hymn tunes: "Resignation" (found in Walker's Southern Harmony,1835), "Land of Rest" (an American folk melody), "Wondrous Love" (an American folk hymn, c. 1811, that is found in Walker's Southern Harmony, 1835), and "Kingsfold" (found in English Country Songs, 1893, and subsequently arranged and harmonized by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the Anglican hymnal of 1906).

David Noon

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