King Variations

for piano

Commissioned and performed by pianist Robert McDonald
World premiere performance 10/30/2021, All Saints Moda Church, Istanbul, Turkey

Program Note

King Variations was commissioned by pianist Robert McDonald and is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend David Colbert (1972 – 2020) who contracted COVID-19 and passed away on April 18, 2020. David was a valued member of a small group Bible study that Robert and I led in Austin, TX in 2017 – 2018. In the short amount of time that we were fortunate to have with David, we learned that his life was filled with many struggles and trials, but also contained moments of great happiness and joy, which I believe can be attributed to his fun-loving nature, light-hearted spirit, and faith in God.

For many years, David was homeless and lived in various places in and around downtown Austin. He was quite large in stature and was known to many as “Sasquatch Dave,” due to his imposing size. Sasquatch Dave became somewhat of a familiar local street character in the downtown area and could often be found performing on his harmonica and singing original songs to anyone who cared to listen. Many of his sweet, soulful, bluesy songs are inspired by his two great loves: Cajun food and Jesus.

After David passed, Robert approached me to write a piece in his memory, and I immediately had the idea to compose a theme and variations using one of the melodies from David’s original songs. Fortunately for me, David’s YouTube channel contains many videos of himself performing and singing his music. After listening to his entire catalogue, I eventually settled on his “Blessed be the King,” which is a song of praise to God for the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of our souls. The theme of King Variations is taken from the first twenty-six seconds of this song. Scan the QR code below to watch David’s performance of “Blessed be the King.”

King Variations is comprised of a theme with eleven variations. In the final variation, and as a nod to David’s talent as a harmonica player, I ask the pianist to play long sustained tones on a harmonica in addition to the piano part. To me, this seemed an appropriate way to end the piece and a fitting farewell gesture to my friend who left us before we were ready for him to go.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22, ESV