The Blue Rose Variations is one of several works in which the composer has drawn on ragtime and blues. The organ work is based on two transformations of the popular piano piece To A Wild Rose (Woodland Sketches, Op.51 No.1) by the American composer, Edward MacDowell (1860-1908). During the course of the Variations, To A Wild Rose appears as a blues and also as a classical rag, often as both together.
The sections are Theme: a quiet blues; Variation I: a pedal solo in varied metres based on the blues in fast tempo; Variation II: the first appearance of the rag as a background to the blues as a 2' pedal solo; Variation III: a version of Variation I now involving manuals too; Variation IV: another blues solo against the rag; Variation V: another version of Variation I with the pedal solo almost entirely transferred to the manuals; Variation VI: a final confrontation between the blues and the rag, now much decorated. First performed in New York in April 1986. Duration c.15 mins.