Renaming the MDRS Competition

This is a very special year for the MDRS Young Artist Competition. For those of you who have been following us, MDRS has changed the name of our competition to honor the memory of our dear friend Eric Varner. This year’s competition at KSU will include a ceremony to commemorate the renaming. In attendance will be Mr. and Mrs. Varner, Eric’s parents and Dr. Nancy Ambrose King who has served in an advisory capacity throughout the renaming process. Dr. Alyssa Morris, who has written so many beautiful works for the oboe, graciously re-arranged one of her previously written works as a tribute to Eric. The title is “Lead Thou Me On” and it is for and oboe, bassoon and piano. 

About Dr. Varner – 

Eric Van der Veer Varner (1974-2019) unexpectedly passed away while on tour giving concerts and master classes with the PEN Trio in Bangkok, Thailand.  He was a world-class musician, a devoted teacher, a successful business owner, and a generous human being.  His death has been mourned by his family, friends, and his double reed family from around the world. 

The annual Midwest Double Reed Society Young Artist Competition has been renamed the Midwest Double Reed Society Eric Varner Young Artist in his honor, and we celebrate his life with a newly commissioned work by celebrated double reed composer Alyssa Morris.

From the composer, Alyssa Morris – 

In commemoration of the first year of the newly named MDRS Eric Varner Young Artist Competition, I was approached by the MDRS Executive Board and oboist Nancy Ambrose King (a friend of the Varner family) about putting together a musical work in honor of Eric Varner, and in celebration of his legacy.  I chose to re-orchestrate the second movement of a work originally commissioned by oboist Celeste Johnson Frehner, called “Coping.”  The new piece written in honor of Eric Varner is titled “Lead Thou Me On,” for oboe, bassoon, and piano.

Many people turn to fervent prayer to find peace when they are enduring loss, sadness, and pain.  “Lead Thou Me On” is a setting of the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light,” with text by John Henry Newman and music by John B. Dykes.  The hymn is a pleading musical prayer.  The text of the hymn is as follows:

Lead, kindly, Light, amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will.  Remember not past years.

So long thy pow’r hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

As we mourn the loss of Eric Varner, we celebrate kind, generous, positive, and inspiring influence he was to all around him.