Obituary: Horace Clarence Boyer, professor emeritus of Music

Horace Clarence Boyer, 73, of Amherst, professor emeritus of Music and a noted scholar and performer of gospel music, died July 21.

Born in Winter Park, Fla. he was a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1958-60 before attending the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he earned his master’s degree and doctorate. He was a Ford Foundation fellow from 1969-72.

As a very young boy, he formed a gospel-singing duet with his brother, James. As the Boyer Brothers, they began recording as teenagers, making several recordings for Excello, Vee-Jay and Savoy Records. As gospel performer, he and his brother traveled to 40 states.

He taught at Albany State College in Georgia, Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla., and Florida Technological University before joining the Department of Music and Dance in 1973 as an assistant professor. He was a member of the faculty for 26 years until his retirement in 1999.

From 1973-77, he was the director of the Voice of New Africa House Workshop Choir, an ensemble of 50 singers drawn from the Five Colleges. The group performed throughout New England and in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. The choir also appeared with musicians Max Roach andArchie Shepp, gospel singer Dorothy Love Coates and poet Sonia Sanchez.

As a vocal soloist, he appeared in numerous recitals and also served as musical director for productions of “Purlie,” “Do Lord, Remember Me” and James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mr. Charlie.” He also toured internationally, performing in Poland, Japan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy and France.

He also lectured at Harvard, Yale, Temple, Howard and Tuskegee universities, Oberlin College, the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Harlem School of the Arts.

In 1985-87, he was named curator of musical instruments at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. During his residency at the Smithsonian, he also served as distinguished scholar-at-large of the United Negro College Fund, where his duties included directing the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers.

In 1988, he was the Cesar Chavez-Rosa Parks-Martin Luther King Professor at the University of Michigan and in 1992, served as senior research scholar and visiting professor at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music. In 1993-94, he held faculty residencies at Ithaca College and the University of Buffalo.

His research produced more than 40 articles in publications such as Music Educators Journal, Black Music Research Journal and Black Perspectives in Music. He contributed 45 biographical entries and an essay on black American gospel musicians to the New Grove Dictionary of American Music. He also served on the editorial advisory board of the journal Rejoice. He was the author of “How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel Music,” published in 1995.

He also furnished liner notes for Columbia Records’ gospel legacy series that included re-issues of recordings by Mahalia Jackson, Marion Williams and the Staple Singers.

He contributed 10 arrangements of Negro spirituals and gospel songs to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a 1982 supplement hymnal for the Episcopal Church of the United States. He also contributed six chapters on classic gospel composers to “We’ll Understand It better By and By: African American Pioneering Gospel Composers,” published in 1993 by Smithsonian Institution Press.

He was listed in the Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, as well as International Who’s Who in Music and Musicians’ Directory.

In 1990, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal as a Distinguished Faculty Lecturer.

During his career, he received many citations, awards and honors from schools, colleges, churches and professional groups, including the Martin Luther King Heritage Award from his hometown of Winter Park, Fla. He was also given lifetime achievement awards by the Society of American Music and the Union of Black Episcopalians. The University of Colorado awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1996.

He leaves his wife of 44 years, Gloria Boyer, of Amherst; three brothers, Clem of Maitland, Fla.; James of Manhattan, Kansas, and Joe Boyer of Huntsville, Ala.; two sisters, Minnie Boyer Woodruff of Orlando, Fla. and Edythe Boyer Jones of Orangeburg, S.C., a goddaughter, six sisters-in-law, and many nephews, nieces, cousins, friends and associates.

A private graveside service is planned. A public memorial service, to be held at Grace Episcopal Church, will be held at a later date.