Transformation

Kenneth Downie

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I believe in transformation,
God can change the hearts of men,
And refine the evil nature,
Till it glows with grace again.

So wrote John Gowans in the second verse of his great hymn, “I believe that God the Father, can be seen in God the Son”, written specifically to affirm Salvationists’ beliefs. It is sung to the tune “Bethany” and, in seeking to explore this great subject at the heart of the Christian gospel in musical terms, the composer has used this fine tune as the basis. Although it never appears in its entirety, it is seldom out of the picture and much ofthe work is derived from it.

The other main source of material is the lovely, simple chorus “Some day I shall be like him”. This chorus is especially prominent in the middle section but there are important references to it throughout. There are also brief references to Charles Wesley’s hymn “Love Divine”, in particular, the telling lines “Changed from glory into glory, till in Heaven we take our place”.

The work suggests that, at times, the process of being transformed is a struggle, portrayed with many passages of fraught and demanding music. Considerable reserves of stamina and technique are required while, in contrast, the chorus “Some day I shall be like him” provides the warm, gentle center of the work.

The premiere of the piece was given by the International Staff Band in Cadogan Hall on Friday, 3 June 2011, as part of the band’s 120th anniversary celebrations.