Kyle Gann: Fantasy on Protestant Hymns (1972)

for handbell choir

I was the best handbell player the First Baptist Church of Dallas had in the early 1970s. I was in charge of the bottom ten bells, the big ones down to low C, and I was really fast. At the age of 16 I wrote a piece for handbell choir, but the director judged it too "atonal" (sic) and wouldn't let us play it. My high-school composition teacher, bandleader and composer Howard Dunn, urged me to arrange it for the school band, which I did - and then made me conduct it because he said he didn't understand it. I have a tape of the performance somewhere, but I don't think the band arrangement was very good. I put the original up here because I would love to hear it played by handbell choir sometime in my life.

The piece weaves together two Protestant hymns: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand." "All other ground is sinking sand," says the latter hymn, and I had fun making it sink through the shifting tonalities. Mr. Dunn did say with some amazement, "Other students start off composing like Mozart, but Kyle started off composing like Charles Ives."

PDF score

- Kyle Gann

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