Saving Jesus — for cello and piano

28 December 2019

People sometimes ask me “How do you compose? What’s your process?” I wish there were a simple answer to these questions, but unfortunately the process varies widely depending on the situation. Most of the time, composition is work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enjoyable work, and while it does require some giftedness, it often comes right down to spending time both writing and erasing. For every phrase, voicing, or harmonization that I keep, there are anywhere from 3-10 that end up in the recycle bin. More often than not, it is labor.

But, once in a while, on very rare and glorious occasions, I get an epiphany and an entire composition or arrangement  comes to my brain, wholly formed and ready to flow onto the page, requiring very few revisions.  I can count on one hand, the number of times that has happened for me — it’s that rare.

On the evening of December 25th, I was blessed with just such an epiphany, and oddly enough — the subject was Epiphany! I was scheduled to play piano for all the usual service music during our Dec. 29th morning worship at my church. As I considered prelude, postlude, and offertory music I might prepare, I consulted an e-mail from our pastor, Kurt Borgmann, indicating the list of hymns for the service as well and the scripture reference for the day. His sermon title was “Saving Jesus,” which immediately piqued my curiosity. I read the scripture: Matthew 2:13-23. I know I have read that passage a million times in my life, and I’m quite familiar with the story about the Magi deciding not to return to Herod with a report on where to find the Christ child. I’m also very familiar with the story of the slaying of the innocents at Herod’s command, but for some strange reason, I never connected the two stories together as one situation resulting in the other!

I was suddenly inspired to write an arrangement of “We Three Kings” for cello and piano, interpolating, even super-imposing the “Coventry Carol” tune (about the slaying of the innocents) within and layered on top of the “Three Kings” tune. I heard the whole thing in my head, so the writing was basically like taking dictation. The entire arrangement was finished (meaning it had been entered into Finale notation including articulations, dynamics, phrase markings, etc.) and ready to print within about four hours. That’s pretty fast!  Naturally, I dedicated the arrangement to my pastor.

For me, this arrangement will always remind me of the time I understood these stories as a chain of events necessary for the saving of a Savior. I am so thankful to have had both a spiritual and a musical epiphany while preparing for an Epiphany service.

Saving Jesus is published by Manchester Music, LLC and distributed solely by JWPepper. To order sheet music, follow this link: