Horace Boyer 1935-2009

Horace Boyer, editor of the Episcopal Hymnal, Lift Every Voice and Sing, a beloved musician who loved teaching others to sing with passion, enthusiasm and excellence, has died at age 74.

Del Glover, member of the National Executive Council of the Episcopal Church writes:

Many of us in the Pioneer Valley had the privilege of knowing and worshipping with Dr. Boyer. He regularly led musical “sermons” at my home parish, St. John’s, Northampton although his parish was Grace Church, Amherst. His deep spiritual fervor was always evident and as a result members of congregations not normally accustomed to singing God’s praise with syncopated enthusiasm, quickly found the beat and joined in under his tutelage. I am an alumnus of Fisk University nurtured on the music of the Jubilee Singers, and so have an additional special appreciation for Dr. Boyer and his contributions to African-American music.

Boyer was featured in the October 2003 issue of Washington Windows

Horace Boyer, editor of the African American hymnal Lift Every Voice and Sing II, will be calling on area residents to do just that when he visits St. John’s, Lafayette Square later this month.

Boyer will be at the church Nov. 15-16 as part of a monthly series of choral Eucharists organized by Bill Roberts, director of music ministry at St. John’s.

“When you’re around Horace Boyer, you just have to say, ‘How can I keep from singing?’” Roberts said. “You’re just caught up in his enthusiasm – it’s contagious.”

As well as presenting a program that includes spirituals, work songs and traditional and contemporary black gospel, Boyer will tell the story behind the music at two separate workshops, where participants will also be able to practice some songs.

“The African American culture has always found a relief and therapy in making music,” Boyer said. “They make a joyful noise unto the Lord. They lift up their voices like a trumpet, not in a muted kind of way.”

But the negro spirituals are more than just beautiful music, he said: They enabled the story of America’s slaves to survive in a way it otherwise might not have. History is written by the winners, and the slaves were not even taught to write. So their music memorializes their suffering, and ensures their place in history.

“These were the songs, these were the testimonies, these were the testament to the fact that the slaves were here,” Boyer said. “It was just as valid as Shakespeare, and they’ll be here as long as Shakespeare.”

Boyer was born into a Pentecostal family in Winter Park, Fla., but was drawn to the Anglican Church as a young man because of its music.

See these bios at PBS and WNCU.

Obituary follows:

Horace Clarence Boyer of Amherst, passed away Tuesday morning July 21, 2009 in Amherst. He was born July 28, 1935 in Winter Park, Florida to Mr. & Mrs. Climmie, Sr. & Ethel M. Boyer. He was the fourth of eight children born to this union. He is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach, FL) and held Masters and Doctorate degrees from the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, NY). His teaching career included tenures at Albany State College (Georgia), the University of Central Florida at Orlando and from 1973 to 1999, the University of Massachusetts as a member of the Faculty of Music and Dance.

As a very young boy, he formed a gospel-singing duet with his brother, James (a Professor of Education & American Ethnic Studies at Kansas State University). As the Boyer Brothers, they began recording as teenagers making several recordings for Excello, Vee-Jay and Savoy Records. He also wrote liner notes for re-issues of Mahalia Jackson records for Columbia Records. As a gospel performer, he traveled into some 40 states. Additionally, he served as a lecturer and clinician on gospel music and the African American Sacred tradition.

One of the highlights of his career was being named as Curator of Musical Instruments at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. During his residency at the Smithsonian, he also served as Distinguished Scholar-at-large of the United Negro College Fund where his duties included directing the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers. Boyer’s research resulted in the publication of over 40 articles in journals such as Music Educators Journal, the New Grove Dictionary of American Music, the Black Music Research Journal, and Black Perspectives in Music.

He is the author of HOW SWEET THE SOUND: The Golden Age of Gospel Music, published in 1995. For several years, he was director of the Voices of New Africa House Workshop Choir, an ensemble of 50 voices drawn from Smith, Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges as well as the University of Massachusetts. Their specialty was gospel music.

Boyer is listed in the Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, as well as International Who’s Who in Music and Musicians’ Directory. The recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship, he served on the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal, REJOICE. In recognition of his teaching and contributions to music, Boyer was named a Chancellor’s Distinguished University Lecturer by the University of Massachusetts in 1990 and was awarded the Chancellor’s Medallion. During his career, he received many citations, awards and honors from schools, colleges, churches and professional groups including the Martin Luther King Heritage Award from the city of his birth in Florida, the Lifetime Achievement Award of The Society of American Music which he received during their Denver Conference in 2009–as well as the Union of Black Episcopalians in 2008. The University of Colorado conferred an Honorary Doctorate upon him in 1996.

He leaves to mourn his passing–his loving and caring wife of forty-four years, Gloria Boyer, 92 Grantwood Drive (Amherst), three brothers: Clem Boyer (Juanita) of Maitland, Florida; James Boyer (Edna) of Manhattan, Kansas and Joe Boyer (Patricia) of Huntsville, Alabama–two sisters: Minnie Boyer Woodruff of Orlando, Florida and Edythe Boyer Jones of Orangeburg, South Carolina, his god-daughter, Dr. Edythe Woodruff Stewart (Robert) of Fresno, California, and sisters-in-law Armetta B. Cason of Olustee, Florida; Fannye L. Morton of Jacksonville, Florida and Fairy Blue of Buffalo, NY and a host of nephews, nieces, cousins, friends and associates. A private graveside service is planned. A public memorial service, to be held at Grace Episcopal Church, will be held at a later date. Obituary and register at Douglas Funeral Home

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