Pslam Tune Variations
by James Curnow
Grade 3

James Curnow was born in Port Huron, Michigan and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan. He lives in Nicholasville, Kentucky where he is president, composer, and educational consultant for Curnow Music Press, Inc. of Lexington, Kentucky, publishers of significant music for concert band and brass band. His formal training was received at Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan) and at Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan), where he was a euphonium student of Leonard Falcone, and a conducting student of Dr. Harry Begian. His studies in composition and arranging were with F. Maxwell Wood, James Gibb, Jere Hutchinson, and Irwin Fischer. James Curnow has taught in all areas of instrumental music, both in the public schools (five years), and on the college and university level (twenty-six years).

Year of composition: 1987

Publisher—Jenson Publications (Out of Print)


Type of Composition: Variations based on a hymn

Style: Theme and Variations

Programming Suggestions: This set of three variations is based upon the Old American Psalm Tune “Pleading Saviour.”The text usually associated with this tune is “Hail, Thou once despised Jesus” by John Bakewell. The piece begins with a fanfare based on the Psalm Tune, and is followed by a full presentation of the tune itself. The first variation is based on melodic fragments from the Psalm Tune. The second variation is slow and expressive and features several solo instruments playing an original melody. The final variation is a fast but lifting melody interspersed with driving percussion accents and colors. A majestic finale featuring a broad presentation of the Psalm Tune completes this variation. The piece comes to conclusion with a fast rhythmic ostinato juxtaposed over the opening fanfare.

Solo instruments: trumpet, alto sax, oboe,

Anecdotal notes: heimola figures in some sections. Syncopated rhythms and accents. Several tempo changes and rallentandos. Requires good and full instrumentation of ensemble. Needs an oboe player, but solos have cues. Requires 5 percussionists and xylophone, bells, triangle, timpani (pitch changes). Several key changes (Bb, Ab, F). Mutes required for trumpet parts. Uses simple and compound meters. Crisp articulation required by woodwind players. Section features require strong players throughout the section.

Recording of "Psalm Tune Variations"