From the Bench
By: Heinrich Christensen
October 15th, 2017
The organ voluntaries this week are taken from John Lord's Fantasia on My Old Kentucky Home, written prior to the First World War.
My Old Kentucky Home is an anti-slavery ballad originally written by Stephen Foster, probably composed in 1852. Foster likely composed the song after having been inspired by the narrative of popular anti-slavery novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In Foster's sketchbook, the song was originally entitled Poor Uncle Tom, Good-Night!, but was altered by Foster as My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!
Frederick Douglass wrote in his 1855 autobiography that the song "awakens sympathies for the slave, in which antislavery principles take root, grow, and flourish".
John Edwin Windsor Lord (1862-1929) was born on November 5, 1862, in Rossendale, Lancashire, England. After organ study with James Kendrick Pyne (1852–1938), organist of Manchester Cathedral, he received a diploma in organ from Victoria College in London. After serving as organist-director in several churches in England and as the organist at the British Embassy in Oporto, Portugal, Lord emigrated to the United States. He taught organ at Meridian College in Mississippi, where he received an honorary doctorate. While there, Lord served as organist-director at First Baptist Church and organist at the Strand Theatre. Later, he taught organ at the Whitman Conservatory of Music in Walla-Walla, Washington (scroll down to read the article announcing this appointment), and the Women’s College of Alabama in Montgomery. He served as organist-choirmaster in Montgomery at First Presbyterian Church and Temple Beth Or. Lord died on January 31, 1929, after having a stroke the previous Friday while playing the organ at the Strand Theatre in Tupelo, Mississippi, about a week after accepting the position. The Fantasia is dedicated to J Frank Frysinger (1878–1954), composer and head of the organ department at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Joei Marshall Perry will serve as our soloist in three spirituals selected by Joy to illustrate a path from oppression to redemption. We open with Go Down, Mosesfor the Introit, continue with I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray for our motet, and finally hear There Is a Balm in Gilead as the offertory. Arrangements are by Harry T. Burleigh and William L. Dawson.