A Childhood Hymn

David R. Holsinger
Wingert-Jones Music, 1991


A Childhood Hymn (1991) is an arrangement of the classic children’s hymn “Jesus Loves Me”.  Holsinger beings the piece with a very subdued single reed ensemble (plus horn in F) playing in the key of Bb Major.  Just before measure 9, low brass enters and begins pushing the tempo “faster, with movement”.  The tempo increases until flute take over on a gentle treatment of the main theme at measure 13.  Flute is accompanied by half note chords in the low brass and reeds, while clarinet continues to play a soft, caressing eighth note ostinato.

The entire band has a very exaggerated crescendo leading into measure 22,  where the trumpets make their first appearance in leading the refrain “Yes, Jesus loves me” in the key of Eb Major at a forte dynamic level.

From measure 31 to the end, the band returns to the verse, making this piece a true ABA style composition.  The song comes to a gentle and uplifting conclusion with flute moving on a soft, ascending quarter note line while the rest of the ensemble sustains three measures worth of a Bb major chord.

Performance Notes

Slow and expressive playing is difficult.  But we all knew this before we jumped into the band directing stew. Controlling pitches, dynamics, phrasing, and stylistic integrity at a lingering pace and doing it well is the true mark of the excellent ensemble.  With this in mind, A Childhood Hymn (1991) is guaranteed to stretch your players!  In this short composition, young musicians will be confronted by intense sustained passages, rubato, accidentals, modulation, a wide range of dynamics, and something so incredible as to “peel the paint from the Walls of Tradition”… Absolutely no snare drum has been included in the instrumentation!

It’ll take some concentration, but the composer is sure that, with a director’s
encouragement, young musicians can make beautiful music also.

Musical Challenges

Though the entire composition is only forty-three measures long, there are many opportunities to create tremendous musical moments.  Of course, that leaves just as many opportunities to MISS those same moments. While this piece is in two very familiar keys, and only has one measure that is not in 4/4 time, the musical demands of the chorale are what puts this song on the Grade 3 list.

Students need to be reminded of the rules of chorale style playing.  All phrases should be long, connected, and flowing.  Because of the importance of beautiful harmony, tone becomes even more important than usual.  Sustaining long phrases seamlessly can be a true challenge for a younger ensemble.

Holsinger also makes a point top address the importance of exaggerated dynamics in this work.  In this case, if a little is good, more is better!  Emphasize that the sound should never be louder than the student can control, and never softer than they can support.  Work each day in rehearsal to stretch those extremes before students lose control or support.

Finally, performers must watch the conductor.  A Childhood Hymnis very rubato, but to carry that off, all eyes must be on the conductor.

About the Composer

In 1999, award winning composer and conductor David R. Holsinger joined the faculty of Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee. He is the inaugural conductor of the Lee Wind Ensemble and teaches composition, orchestration, and conducting. He holds degrees from Central Methodist University, University of Central Missouri, and the University of Kansas.

Dr. Holsinger's compositions have won four national competitions, including a two time ABA Ostwald Award. His works have also been finalists in the NBA and Sudler composition competitions. In the summer of 1998, Holsinger was featured as the HERITAGE VI composer during the Texas Bandmasters Association convention in San Antonio. This prestigious series celebrating American wind composers was founded in 1992 and had previously honored Morton Gould, Ron Nelson, Robert Jager, W. Francis McBeth, and Roger Nixon. An elected member of the American Bandmasters Association, Holsinger's recent honors include the Distinguished Music Alumni Award from Central Missouri State University, CIDA'S 1999 Director of the Year Citation, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia's Orpheus Award, the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from Central Methodist College, and the 2003 Excellence in Scholarship Citation from Lee University. Surrounding the premiere of the composer's Easter Symphony, Holsinger was honored by Gustavus Adolphus College with the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for lifetime achievement in composition and presented the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division's highest award.

In the past twelve years, Holsinger has served as Visiting Distinguished Composer in Residence at eleven American colleges or universities.  In addition to his university duties, Holsinger spends much of his energies as a guest composer and conductor with All State organizations, professional bands, and university ensembles throughout the United States. When not composing or conducting, he models HO scale trains.