Moses Hogan, Composer of Spirituals

Moses Hogan

We are lucky to have heard two pieces by Moses Hogan in two weeks at St John’s: last week, you heard our wonderful mezzo-soprano soloist Lenore Stefanik sing his setting of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”; and this Sunday, the choir will sing “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace”.

Moses Hogan, who tragically died from a brain tumor at the age of 45 in 2003, was one of the inheritors of the great tradition of African-American spiritual arrangers.  A number of these composers are still wide performed today–including H.T. Burleigh, brothers John R. and J. Weldon Johnson, R. Nathaniel Dett, William Dawson– though their arrangements date from the first half of the twentieth century.  Moses Hogan, whose Moses Hogan Chorale recorded his own arrangements, is considered perhaps the greatest successor to these earlier musicians.  His arrangements combine the traditional a cappella tradition with wonderful piano parts that include references to blues and gospel music.  They are profoundly moving, and Hogan’s arrangements have, if anything, gained in popularity since his premature death.

Here is a performance of “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” by the Calvin College Alumni Choir, to whom the work was dedicated in 2001.