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Variations on a Korean Folk Song

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John Barnes Chance

John Barnes Chance

General Info

Year: 1967
Duration: c. 7:15
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts - $80.00   |   Score Only - $10.50


1. Con moto
2. Vivace
3. Larghetto
4. Allegro con brio
5. Sostenuto
6. Con Islancio


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III (I and III div.)
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Euphonium (div.)
Percussion (5-6 players), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Gong (or Tam-Tam)
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Temple Blocks (5)
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


In Score:

  • Horn II and IV, Trombones, Euphonium, and Tuba, m.234: Flats missing in the score. Parts are correct.
  • Mallet: It appears that the mallet player switches from Vibraphone to Xylophone from p. 32 to 33. This is in error. The player remains on Vibraphone.

In Parts:

  • Piccolo, m.65: add flat last sixteenth
  • Piccolo, m.125: correct 16 rest to ‘6’
  • Piccolo, m.183: add 3/2 time signature top of p. 4
  • Piccolo, m.199: add natural to first note
  • Flute I, m.133: add dot to first quarter rest, and remove dot from second quarter rest
  • Flute I, m.169: add natural to second note
  • Flute I, m.241: relocate one bar later
  • Flute II, m.133: add dot to first quarter rest, and remove dot from second quarter rest
  • Flute II, m.169: add natural to second note
  • Flute II, m.241: relocate one bar later
  • Oboes, m.26: A natural should be A-flat.
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet II, m.198: Whole note should have a dot
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet III, m.12: add flag on first eighth
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet III, m.78: correct sp. ‘sostenuto’
  • B-flat Contrabass Clarinet, m.234: add flat
  • Bassoons, m.140: correct 145 placement
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone, m.171: add natural to Bs
  • B-flat Trumpet I, m.115: add flat
  • B-flat Trumpet I, m.196: remove flat before F
  • B-flat Trumpet II, m.165: add slur on three eighth notes
  • B-flat Trumpet III, m.248: E natural should be E-flat.
  • Horn in F I, m.80: add ‘piano’
  • Horn in F I, m.135: Delete the last measure on the second system (This is listed incorrectly as Horn IV in the Fennell article in Resources, below.)
  • Horn in F II, m.29-30: add bar line between
  • Horn in F II m.139, beat 3: E natural should be E-flat.
  • Horn in F II, m.167: add flat on last eighth note
  • Horn in F IV, m.103: Rehearsal number 104 appears one bar early.
  • Horn in F IV, m.135: delete the next bar
  • Horn in F IV, m.135: add natural to F
  • Trombone I, m.223: relocate 223 from 214
  • Trombone II, m.140: add 140
  • Trombone II, m.145: remove sharp from B
  • Trombone III, m.116: add ‘fortissimo’
  • Trombone III, m.140: add 140
  • Trombone III, m.145: add natural to B
  • String Bass, m.53: Change rehearsal number 52 to 53.
  • Timpani (Kettle Drum), m.172: correct herd to head
  • Snare Drum, m.177: add dot on second quarter rest
  • Cymbal, m.240: not on dome as previously

Program Notes

Variations on a Korean Folk Song is based upon a folk tune that the composer learned while serving the U.S. Army in Seoul, Korea. The tune is known as Arrirang, a song of love and heartbreak that can be found in many variations, with an origin that may date back 1000 years. In autumn 1966, for the Journal of Band Research, Chance said: “I became acquainted with the folk song while serving in Seoul, Korea, as a member of 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.”

- Program Note adapted from University of Texas Wind Symphony concert program, 30 November 2016

As a member of, and musical arranger for the Eighth U.S. Army Band, John Barnes Chance served in Seoul, South Korea, during the Korean War. It was during this time that he became familiar with a traditional Korean folk song called Arirang. Chance explains, “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”.

Arirang is a tune based on the pentatonic scale, and it can be dated back to the 18th century as a song of love and heartbreak. It was utilized in the 20th century as a resistance anthem during the Japanese occupation of Korea, when the singing of patriotic songs, including the national anthem, was criminalized. Chance’s set of variations, written for concert band in 1965, begins by presenting the Arirang theme, and proceeds to develop it through five variations. The piece alternates between fast and slow variations, with the final variation being marked “Con Islancio” (“with impetuousness”), and it uses a variety of time signatures and rhythmic motives to alter the theme. Chance maintains the Eastern influence of the original tune through his use of the pentatonic scale, as well as prominent use of distinct percussion instruments, such as temple blocks, cymbals, and a gong.

The piece was awarded the Ostwald Award in 1966 by the American Bandmasters Association.

- Program Note adapted from Baylor University Symphonic Band concert program, 15 September 2022



State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class A
  • Arkansas: IV
  • Florida: V --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • North Carolina: V
  • South Carolina: V
  • Virginia: V
  • Texas: IV


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • National Concert Band of America (Alexandria, Va.) (Adrian Holton, conductor) - 5 March 2023
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Concert Band (Arris Golden, conductor) - 24 February 2023
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) Symphonic Band (Emily Warren, conductor) – 6 December 2022
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) Collegiate Winds (Dustin Ferguson, conductor) - 6 December 2022
  • Northshore Concert Band (Evanston, Ill.) (Mallory Thompson, conductor) - 16 November 2022
  • Kennesaw (Ga.) State University University Band (Daniel Lee, conductor) - 16 November 2022
  • Baylor University (Waco, Tx.) Symphonic Band (Stuart Ivey, conductor) - 15 September 2022
  • Korean Wind Orchestra (South Korea) (Cheolwoong Lee, conductor – 22 July 2022 (WASBE Conference, Prague, Czech Republic)
  • Cherokee High School (Marlton, NJ) Wind Ensemble (D. Michael Lynch, conductor) - 5 May 2022
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) Concert Band (Hunter Kopczynski, guest conductor) - 7 March 2022
  • Loveland (Colo.) High School Wind Symphony (Kyle Freesen, conductor) - 7 March 2022
  • Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) Concert Band (T.j. Anderson, conductor) - 24 February 2022
  • Western Illinois University (Macomb) Concert Band (Matt Thomas, conductor) - 9 April 2021
  • University of Texas at Arlington Symphonic Winds (Christopher Evans, conductor) - 14 March 2021
  • University of Central Missouri (Warrensburg) Symphonic Band (Julia Balmanis, conductor) - 27 February 2021
  • University of North Dakota (Grand Forks) Wind Ensemble (James Popejoy, conductor) - 13 October 2020
  • McClellan College (Waco, Tx.) Symphonic Band (Jon Conrad, conductor) - 13 October 2020
  • Sacramento (Calif.) State University Concert Band (Clay Redfield, conductor) – 11 March 2020
  • University of Florida (Gainesville) Tuesday/Thursday Concert Band (Archie G. Birkner, IV, conductor) – 25 February 2020
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) University Band (Lance Sample, conductor) – 27 February 2020
  • High School Concert Band [Interlochen, Mich.] (Frederick Fennell, conductor) - 20 August 1982

Works for Winds by This Composer