[JPL] Horace Boyer remembered

Tom Reney tr at wfcr.org
Fri Jul 24 15:24:15 EDT 2009

*Here's an article by Chris Russell on Horace Boyer that appeared in 
today's /Daily Hampshire Gazette/ in Northampton, Mass.


AMHERST - "The world is dimmer now, but a heavenly choir is singing with 
more life."

This is how Rob Hirschfeld, pastor of Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, 
described the passing of Horace Clarence Boyer, a resident since 1973, 
who died Tuesday at the age of 74 (Read Boyer's obituary by visiting 
this story on GazetteNET.com).

Boyer gave life to the earthly choirs he sang in as well, including many 
Sundays at Grace Episcopal, where he became a member upon moving to 
Amherst, and on several gospel albums he recorded during the 1950s with 
his brother, James, under the name of the Boyers Brothers.

Music was Boyer's passion. He received a doctorate from the Eastman 
School of Music and was a professor in the Department of Music and Dance 
from 1973 to 1999 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

His passion had a great influence on many in the community. Tom Reney, 
host of WFCR's "Jazz à la Mode," said Boyer had been a mentor to him 
since he first met him as a UMass student in the 1970s, and was certain 
many others would call him a mentor as well.

"He had a genuine gift for teaching," Reney said. "He could bring out 
the innate musicality in everyone. I saw him turn somewhat sedate 
gatherings of people into near revival meetings ¿ by the way he helped 
people discover something in themselves that maybe they didn't know 
existed before."

Reney dedicated Thursday's "Jazz à la Mode" to Boyer in remembrance of 
his musical legacy, contribution to the community and as a way to give 
thanks for his generosity to WFCR and the many hours he volunteered 
helping to run station fund drives.

"He turned it into a bit of a church service, passed the collection bin 
around, and called on all the backsliders to come through with 
contributions," Reney said.

Boyer also dedicated a considerable amount of time to his church. He 
compiled and edited a collection of gospel hymns - "Lift Every Voice and 
Sing" - now used by Episcopal churches throughout the country. 
Hirschfeld said the hymnal was a great contribution - before Boyer 
assembled it, Episcopalians only heard classical hymns from Western Europe.

"He taught Episcopalians everywhere the riches and the enormously 
textured culture of African-American gospel music," Hirschfeld said. "He 
blew the spiritual socks off of people who were used to staid, baroque 

A connoisseur

Boyer was a connoisseur of all musical styles, and did not want gospel 
to replace other traditional genres of music in church, but rather 
complement them.

"He believed church services should be fully musically integrated, so 
that we hear Southern gospel hymns next to the great Gregorian chants," 
Hirschfeld said. "Martin Luther King said Sunday morning was the most 
segregated time in America, and Horace did his best to break down that 
spiritual segregation."

Others in Grace's congregation couldn't help but notice Boyer, such as 
George Goodwin, who has attended Grace Episcopal since 1968, and become 
acquainted with Boyer when he joined the church.

Goodwin said even though he and Boyer were not particularly close, the 
professor agreed to help him raise money for Habitat for Humanity by 
auctioning off antiques.

Goodwin said he did so "rather skillfully, as he was a very 
public-spirited man" and added that he was "a humble man, had a great 
sense of humor, and is someone I wish I had known better."

Daily Hampshire Gazette © 2008 All rights reserved


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