March 13th marked the 62nd birthday of late composer and musical pioneer Moses Hogan. He is considered a pioneer of the modern spiritual, bringing the heart and soul of these historic songs to choirs across the nation. His work gave voice to the rich, deep history of the genre and brought it into the modern era.
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Hogan studied piano at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts under jazz legend Ellis Marsalis. He was part of the first class at the institution, and after graduation he pursued a career as a classical pianist. He attended Oberlin College, and later Juilliard. He found success in New York City, winning the 28th annual Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Competition for Young Pianists in 1977.
He returned to New Orleans and began to explore composing choir music. He started the New World Ensemble choir in 1980, for which he composed much of the music. His choral works brought him great success and led to the formation of the Moses Hogan Chorale and the Moses Hogan Singers, which toured both across the United States and around the world in such storied venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Sydney Opera House.
Hogan’s talent and expertise were widely sought after. He arranged several compositions for the PBS documentary The American Promise, released recordings made with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and was selected as the editor of The Oxford Book of Spirituals.
Sadly, Hogan passed away in 2003 from a brain tumor. In remembrance of the man and in honor of his work, we would like to share this segment from our interview with composer Rollo Dilworth, friend, admirer, and mentee of Moses Hogan.