Robert J. Powell
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There are not many people in the American Church who have not sung
a hymn concertato. This form of placing a familiar hymn tune and
text in an elaborate musical setting has become a very popular means
of adding a festive quality to a celebration. The additional instruments
such as brass and/or woodwinds and strings heighten the excitement
of an occasion that deserves a heightening of its excitement. Robert
J. Powell has contributed immensely to the popularity of this form.
his setting of the tune LASST UNS ERFREUEN with the text "Ye
Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" (G-2427) is no doubt one of the
most stirring arrangements of this German Catholic tune. Only zombies
come away unaffected by his arrangement.
He comes equipped to the task of such arranging. A native of Mississippi, he took his B.A. in music in organ and composition at Louisiana State University and the master of sacred music at Union Theological in New York, in 1960. After being awarded the master's degree, he held the posts of assistant organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, organist and choirmaster for St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Meridian, Mississippi, and director of music at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. In 1968 he assumed the post of organist and choirmaster at Christ Church (Episcopal) in Greenville, South Carolina, a position he still holds today.
With about two hundred works in print for choral, solo, organ, and brass resources, his music has found wide acceptance in both the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches. GIA numbers over thirty-five of his works, including many collections. He stands as an example of a "shared facility," a composer whose output bridges denominational boundaries and who is able to serve the larger Church. he has made ecumenical sharing a reality-and always with a genteel touch.
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