Tomorrow marks the birthday of famed composer Moses Hogan, one of the most renowned arrangers of classic spirituals and gospel music. Born in New Orleans in 1957, Hogan was strongly influenced by the African American choral music he grew up around, including that of his home church, New Zion Baptist Church. Hogan, along with fellow classmate Branford Marsalis, was among the first graduates of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and he continued his formal study of music at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.
Hogan was an accomplished pianist before the age of ten, and he earned a degree in piano performance from Oberlin in 1979. After graduating, Hogan continued his studies in piano performance at Julliard and enjoyed a brief career as a solo pianist. Hogan worked as an accompanist to opera singer Martina Arroyo at Louisiana State University from 1985 to 1986, but he ultimately abandoned work as a pianist to devote more time to composing.
In 1980, Hogan founded the New World Ensemble in New Orleans, an all-volunteer choral group made up of local music educators. While leading this group, Hogan became concerned about the decreasing popularity of traditional spirituals. This sparked Hogan’s interest in working to revive choral singing of spirituals by composing new arrangements. Hogan remained committed both to New Orleans and to spirituals. In 1993, Hogan began as artist-in-residence at Dillard University, and he formed the Moses Hogan Chorale. This group performed concert spiritual arrangements to international audiences.
Yet another group, the Moses Hogan Singers, was formed through national audition and gained even more notoriety than his other groups. The Moses Hogan Singers performed at the Kennedy Center and the Sydney Opera House, among other places, and they released their debut album, Give Me Jesus, with EMI in 2002.
Though he was an extraordinary instrumentalist, Hogan’s legacy is as a composer and arranger. Hogan published numerous arrangements with Hal Leonard and was the editor of the 2002 Oxford Book of Spirituals. His major arrangements appear in the 2003 compilation This Little Light of Mine. Hogan is almost single-handedly responsible for the emergence of concert spirituals into the standard choral repertoire, and he is credited with the popularization of professional choral spiritual singing. Though he died in 2003, Hogan’s arrangements are today standard works for high schools, churches, and professional and community choirs. His arrangements – often a cappella – are marked by rhythmic and harmonic complexity.
Ths Moses Hogan Papers are held at the Amistad Research Center. The collection consists of personal correspondence, music scores, film and audio reels from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, audio reels of the Moses Hogan Chorale, and other related materials. For any inquiries on this or any collections, please email the reference staff at the center.
Posted by Andrew Salinas
(From the Moses Hogan Papers, Amistad Research Center. Image may not be reproduced without permission.)