American Guild of Organists, Baltimore Chapter
Enriching lives through organ and choral music

Dear John

John Walker, DMA is Artist-in-Residence at Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore, having served earlier as Minister of Music at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and The Riverside Church in New York City. He is a member of the organ faculty at Peabody Conservatory of Music and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Organ at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, following previous teaching positions at Duquesne University, Manhattan School of Music, San Jose State University, and the American Conservatory of Music. His active performance schedule has taken him throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Dr. Walker has recorded frequently on the Pro Organo, Gothic, and JAV Recordings labels. As a student of Herbert Nanney, John Walker earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stanford University, where he was also Assistant University Organist. He holds two Master of Music degrees cum laude from American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where he was later a member of the faculty. Dr. Walker was the 1984 alumni recipient of the Professional Achievement Award from Westminster College. A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, John Walker was elected President of the AGO in 2014, having previously served the Guild in numerous other capacities including several terms as Vice President and Treasurer.

In our "Dear John" series, Dr. Walker answers questions from our Chapter members. An experienced, knowledgeable, and pastoral member, he has graciously accepted the board’s invitation to lead an “advice” column for our chapter newsletter. Many thanks to Dr. John Walker for taking up this challenge. If you have an organ, choral, or church music question, please use our contact form to submit your question to Dr. Walker. He will then choose one question to answer each month.

Music for the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death

Preparing to commemorate in 2018 the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death and also to celebrate Black History Month in February, I have asked Marvin Mills for a short list of recommendations for organ and choral music for use not only in February but also throughout the year. Marvin generously shares the following list of musical resources, all published within the last two decades. --John Walker

Recommendations for Black History Month,and beyond! by Marvin Mills

Organ–Most of these works are easy-moderate in difficulty, with a few requiring a bit more attention. There is a range of styles, from Victorian era through late 20th century.

  • Adolphus Hailstork, Adagio and Fugue in f minor, Morning Star(1999) Two page prelude and three page fugue useful as prelude/offertory and postlude respectively. The fugue subject is the opening motive of the prelude .A good piece for Lent.
  • The Organ Music of Phillip Barnette McIntrye, Wayne Leupold Editions,(2013). Most pieces (or movements) are short, one-three pages, suitable for prelude, offertory or postlude. Hymn settings call for two manuals; other pieces three manuals.
    • Credo Suite–Conception and Birth, Trial and Death, Resurrection (Trumpetings)
    • Good Christian Men, Rejoice
    • Nine Hymns for Organ – Truro, Herzliebster Jesu, Woodworth, Were You There, Morecambe,  Maryton, Walk with Me, Cranham, Rockingham
    • PassionSuite – Sorrows, Tears, Release
    • Reflections
    • Heaven Bound: Suite for Cello and Organ
  • King of Kings, GIA Publications, 2008,James Abbington,ed., Organ Music of Black Composers, Past and Present in two volumes
    • Vol.I–Thirteen works by Ralph Simpson, John W. Work III,D.L.White, Uzee Brown, Jr.(3),
    • Florence Price, H. Leslie Adams, Calvin Taylor, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor(3),
    • W.C.Handy/WalterC.Simon
    • Threeitemsofinterest:
      • Uzee Brown's Lord, Build Me a Cabin in Glory Land (setting of a Bluegrass folk song)
      • Coleridge-Taylor's three pieces, Arietta, Melody and Elegy (Victorian era melody/harmony)
      • Calvin Taylor's setting of the spiritual Talk About a Child That Do Love Jesus is my favorite in this collection. The outer sections present the plaintive melody in a direct manner bookending a fughetta. It has the feel of Franck, aided by the key of c-sharp minor no doubt.
    • Vol.II – Twelve works by Calvin Fuller, George Walker, Florence Price(3), William Farley Smith(2), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Marques L.A.Garrett, Fela Sowande(3)

Choral African American Heritage Hymnal, GIA publications,2001
A hymnal for Protestant African American Churches that has endeavored to preserve the rich oral tradition of African American sacred song in print form.
With 104 readings, 582 hymns, Spirituals and songs, 11 indices, and two informative essays, there is no more comprehensive resource on African American Church Music. Cost $16; keyboard$60 Useful for introits, hymns, songs, responses, altar calls, etc., by choir (children/youth/adult),  congregation, or solo voice. Spanning gospel greats Thomas Dorsey to Richard Smallwood, traditional South African songs to Spirituals, and hymn tunes of Martin Luther to David Hurd,I have continually found  gems of the Black worship experience over the past 16 years. A bargain!!

Louis Gephardt