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Henry Van Dyke's "The Other Wise Man" Becomes a Concert and Stage Production by Daniel Carter
Artaban, the Other Wise Man, Logo Painting
Henry van Dyke's Most Beloved Story
Henry van Dyke's novelette, The Other Wise Man was published in 1896 by Harper and Brothers of New York. The fictional tale of a fourth wise man who, like his three other magi friends, sees the signs in the heavens and makes plans to meet them and caravan to give gifts to the newly born Messiah. Artaban's gifts were a ruby, sapphire and pearl. Their plan was to return home in three months time and continue their lives as before. But on his way to meet the caravan, Artaban, the fourth wise man, was delayed. He found a dying man and revived him, thus interrupting Artaban's journey, forcing him to miss his connection with his three magi brothers.
As a result, he is forced to sell his sapphire to buy provisions to journey across the desert. Arriving in Bethlehem discovers that the baby and his parents have fled to Egypt. But while he is there, he saves the life of another baby boy by offering his ruby to Herod's soldiers as they stormed the streets of the village in their rampage of slaughtering all male babies.
Artaban leaves Bethlehem for Egypt, and arrives back in Jerusalem as Jesus is about to be crucified. Old and in failing health, watching the events of the scene of the crucifixion unfold before him, he gives his last treasure, the pearl, to save the life of a young woman forced into slavery. As the earthquake signals the death of Christ, Artaban lay in the street, dying, when he hears a voice saying, "Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me." At which point, Artaban at last finds his King, and understands his gifts meant for Jesus were used to sanctify Artaban, and save the lives of others.
The CD and Performance Book Are Now Available
The CD recording of Artaban, the Other Wise Man, along with a production book for creating your own production are now available.
Buy the CD, performance book and other products here.
Retelling the Story with Songs
In 1994 I found an early edition of van Dyke's "The Other Wise Man" at a little antique mall in Weatherford, Oklahoma. I was there for a family reunion. I bought the book for about $5, vaguely familiar with the story. As I read it, I started penciling notes in the margins. "This should be a song," I wrote, and circled a paragraph or incident. I got excited at the prospects of making this story a concert as well as a stage production.
In 1995 and 1996, I had a performing group of singers and a few instrumentalists, and we performed our version of "The Other Wise Man" about two dozen times with ongoing requests to perform the next year, but I wasn't satisfied with the concert version. I dumped all the music and recreated 25 songs with narration, orchestrated it, and in 1998 the new version of the concert was performed by collaboration with the Celebration Orchestra, comprising a 40 piece orchestra, combining an 80 voice choir and adding soloists and narrator. The work was preformed four times locally around the Salt Lake City area. By the end of that Christmas season, I was at a difficult point in my life, and I shelved the work and let it sit till 2004. At that point, I recreated the work by collaborating with my long-time friends, the Bjarnsons.
Eric and Grace, father and daughter team, co-wrote the adapted story of "Artaban, the Other Wise Man." Dianne Bjarnson, Eric's wife, became project manager and executive producer. Finn Bjarnson, son, became the audio producer for the CD. Christian, another son, became webmaster and designer of the new website.
In writing this adaptation of the story, the biggest challenge became how to overcome the 33 year gap in van Dyke's writing from when Artaban went to Egypt to finally arriving in Jerusalem 30-odd years later. Wanting to keep the beloved story in tact for the generations of fans who loved it, we decided that we should ask ourselves what the readers and concert goers would expect. And the story was told from that perspective, with songs included.
Since 2004 a few very small concerts of this version have been performed in the western United States. Development and interest continue to grow for live concerts, recordings, and DVD. The stage version continues in development as well as thoughts for film.
Since it's beginning, my version of this story has had over 100 pieces of music written for it, with about 25 new pieces since 2004 surviving. Seventeen years of writing and rewriting, with performances of each version has given focus and purpose to retelling this beloved Christmas story.
Paintings and illustrations of the Story by Daniel Freed
Daniel Freed was commissioned to produce several paintings and illustrations for a beautiful gift book. Freed is a fine artist and graphic designer, who is well known for his life-like portraits and lush, beautiful settings. The exotic background of van Dyke's story excited and inspired him. Scouting for models, making and finding clothing, and photo shoots became a common occurrence as the project has developed. The gift book is nearly completed and will be released August 2014.
Artaban, the Other Wise Man has a fan page on Facebook. Promotions, free CDs and other give-aways with any new updates are posted on the page. You can "like" the page here.