Variations on a Korean Folk Song
by James Barnes Chance

John Barnes Chance (1932-1972) was born in Beaumont, Texas. In high school he played percussion in the school orchestra and began composing. Chance went on to study at the University of Texas where he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His composition teachers included Clifton Williams, Kent Kennan, and Paul Pick. After studying at the University of Texas, Chance played timpani in the Austin Symphony Orchestra. He also played percussion, conducted and arranged music for the Fourth U.S. Army Band in San Antonio. Later, he joined the Eighth U.S. Army Band in Korea. After his discharge from the army, Chance was selected by the Ford Foundation to be part of the Young Composers Project. He was composer-in-residence from 1960 to 1962 at Greensboro, North Carolina public schools. There he composed seven pieces for school ensembles including his first work for band, Nocturne and Dance, which later became Incantation and Dance. Throughout his short career, Chance composed for band, orchestra, chorus, chamber groups and solo instruments. Chance’s brief yet successful career was ended abruptly when he was accidentally electrocuted in the back yard of his home in Lexington, Kentucky in 1972 at the age of 40.

Year of publication: 1967

Publisher: Boosey and Hawkes

Grade: 4

Type of composition: Theme and Variations

Programming suggestions: Chance won the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award for this work in the year following its composition. He provided the following information concerning the work in the Journal of Band Research for Autumn 1966: I became acquainted with the folk song Arrirang (pronounced “AH-dee-dong”) while serving in Seoul, Korea in the Eighth U.S. Army Band in 1958-59. The tune is not as simple as it sounds, and my fascination with it during the intervening years led to its eventual use as the theme for this set of variations. The work is in six sections—the opening pentatonic theme stated by the clarinets followed by five distinct variations. The first variation features temple blocks and woodwinds. Variation two is quiet and serene with the original melody, now inverted, played by the oboe. The third variation is a fast march, the fourth is broad and solemn, and the fifth is more involved with various sections of the band playing one of the two phrases heard in the opening theme.

Solo instruments: temple block, oboe, trumpet, snare drum, timpani, vibraphone.

Anecdotal notes: Many instrumental passages consist of fast runs with very few repetitive sequences. Some sections of the piece consist of call and response areas which may take time to work out. Several meter and time changes. Players could get lost in sections with long, similar rhythmic passages. Runs consisting of 7 and 12 notes occur within the time of one beat. Sudden dynamic changes will require good control by the ensemble.

Discography: Inaugurals & New Beginnings CD. Eastern Kentucky University. JOSEPH H. ALLISON, conductor…. Teaching Music Through Performance In Band.Vol. 1 Grade 4. North Texas Wind Symphony. Eugene Migliaro Corporon, Conductor

Recording of "Variations on a Korean Folk Song"