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James Johnson

Location: New York, USA
JAMES JOHNSON Williams College BA 1964, Yale University Doctorate of Musical Arts 1978, organist in Adolphus Busch Hall at Harvard University 1971-1991, AGO, ASCAP, Mensa, Who's Who in America,,  biographical page below:
1) "Hodie, Christus natus est" (3:05) SSAAA, difficult (also available transcribed for brass quintet)
2) "In Monte Oliveti" (2:40) SSATB, motet for Maundy Thursday, easy-medium difficulty
3) The Lord's Prayer (3:00) unison treble choir (or soloist) and organ, written in a soft jazz style, available in 
     both Protestant and Roman Catholic texts, easy-medium difficulty
4) A Christmas Hymn (3:30) SATB setting of Richard Wilbur's famous poem, medium difficulty
5) Peace (4:10) SSAA setting of the famous poem by Henry Vaughan 1622-1695, general use, difficult
6) "Welcome All Wonders" (3:20) SATB & organ setting of poem by Richard Crashaw 1613-1649, Christmas, medium difficulty
7) A Burnt Ship (1:40) SSSAA setting of poem by John Donne 1572-1631, concert use, very difficult,
also transposed down a whole tone for SSATBar, male voices preferred for this work.
8) "Ivy, Chefe of Trees" (2:35) SATB setting of poem from The Oxford Book of Medieval Verse, Christmas, medium difficulty
9) "My life flows on in endless song" (4:10) SATB & organ, the familiar 19th C. American text set in the
style of an English verse anthem, medium difficulty
10) Magnificat in F (6:35) SSAA, difficult
11) Trees (3:10) SATB setting of famous poem by Joyce Kilmer, easy
12) Trees (3:10) SSAA arrangement of SATB Kilmer poem above, easy
13) "How they brought the good news by sea" (2:00) SA divisi setting of Norma Farber's delightful
poem explaining how the creatures of the sea witnessed the Nativity, Christmas, medium difficulty;
also available transposed down a seventh for TB
14) Jubilate Herbis (5:00) SATB setting of Norma Farber's poem extolling the many plants which
celebrate the Nativity, difficult
15) "The Sun on Easter Day" (3:30) SATB divisi and organ setting of Norma Farber's poem,
  Easter or general use, difficult
16) Magnificat in A (10:00) SATB divisi & organ, for liturgical or concert use, difficult
17) Easter (1:15) treble solo or choir, text by the composer, medium difficulty
18) Unicorns at Harvard (2:30) medium voice and piano setting of satirical poem by Norma Farber, medium difficulty
19) The Windhover (5:00) men's chorus and organ setting of poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, medium difficulty
20) The Walrus and the Carpenter (13:20) SATB & piano setting of humorous poem by Lewis Carroll, medium difficulty
21) Loveliest of Trees (1:50) SATB setting of poem by A. E. Housman, easy
22) Because I liked you better (3:00) TTBB setting of autobiographical poem by A. E. Housman, easy
23) The Blind Men and the Elephant (2:55) SATB setting of gently satirical poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) medium difficulty
24) "How they brought the good news by sea" (2:00)  TB divisi, a new edition of this 1982 work for male choirs. Please see #13 above for
original version. Available in B-flat or C, highest notes G, A. 
25)  The Death of Lincoln (2:45) SATB, a setting of the 1871 poem by William Cullen Bryant, easy.
26) A New Hymn for a New Organ, tune "Florida Keys" 1992, text and music by James Johnson, available without charge.
27) Psalm (2:10) SATB, from Richard Wilbur's recent book of poems, Anterooms, this fifteen line poem
is memorable, medium difficulty.
28) "I Hear America Singing" (4:50) SATB, clarinet, organ (or piano), cello (or bassoon, bass clarinet) 
      on poem of Walt Whitman, medium difficulty
29) Ozymandias (7:00) for six part male choir: T-T-Bar-Bar-Bass-Bass, 
       a setting of Shelley's most famous poem, difficult
30) "I think continually of those who were truly great" SATB 5:05, a setting of what is perhaps Stephen Spender's (1909-1995) greatest poem,
       permission kindly granted by the Estate of Stephen Spender, challenging by hardly intimidating to any auditioned and well-rehearsed chorus,
       and firmly tonal. 
31) The Chambered Nautilus SSAATTBB 7:45, set to the famously magnificent poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), challenging but
      hardly insurmountable, and of course firmly tonal as is appropriate for a poem written in 1858.
32)  Elegy for Medgar Evers, for treble chorus and full orchestra or organ 8:25. Inspired by the film Ghosts of Mississippi, this work was composed
       first for organ solo, then transcribed for full orchestra. The spiritual "Were you there?" is heard in long note values above the other parts, so it
       then occurred to me to add an optional treble chorus to this cantus (in which there is one short high B-flat). This cannot be sung by a soloist
       because of the extended length of the phrases, but easily by a chorus with a little staggered breathing. The range is very good for boychoir. 
(Also available a number of concert organ works, medium to difficult, listed on my website.)
James Johnson (1942-) received early musical training in the Columbus Boychoir
School (now the American Boychoir) and later won the full-tuition Stetson Scholarship to attend Williams College, where he concentrated in music, English 
literature, and art history. At the Yale School of Music he twice won the Sherman Prize for best student organist, and also audited several courses at the Yale Drama School. His keyboard teachers have included Montserrat Torrent. He has released eight CD albums  (two doubles and one with the Eastman Brass),
and has concertized extensively in the US, western Europe and Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. 
During his years at Harvard, the series of weekly concerts under his direction on the famed Flentrop organ in Adolphus Busch Hall grew into an ambitious format. Many of the performances in the 1980s were recorded live by WGBH-FM Boston for national syndication in a program titled The Classical Organ. He was music director of First Church in Cambridge (UCC) in the 1970s, where he created and directed the Cambridge Concert Series, which presented a wide range of classical repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to fully staged presentations, such as a still-remembered production of Britten's Noye's Fludde in 1974 which he conducted to much critical acclaim. Later he organized the James Johnson Chorale which performed in the Boston area for several years, including two First Night concerts in Trinity Church of Renaissance poly-choral works with brass ensembles.
His many compositions include orchestral and concert organ works, sacred and secular choral and vocal pieces, and a full-length musical comedy, Isle of Iniquity, which he created in its entirety (story, book, lyrics and music). On Saturday, April 6, 2012 at 6PM, a professional staged reading of the show will be presented in a fine small auditorium in mid-town Manhattan, full details to come.  As a composer he was twice honored, as a Fellow and later a finalist, by the Massachusetts Artists Foundation. He has won an ASCAP composer's award for sixteen consecutive years. His work has also been supported by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In recent years he has worked again with WGBH Boston, digitally re-mastering many live takes of past performances at Harvard and elsewhere, for inclusion in the WGBH library and for future CD productions. 
In addition to his musical interests, he completed the first year of the Master of Architecture program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (1975-76). He has contributed occasional articles and letters to newspapers and magazines. In an essay titled Digital Innovations in Pipe Organ Playing Actions, published by The American Organist in January 2006, he predicted a system even then being patented by the Canadian firm NovelOrg ( The system has been used with great success in a large new organ built by Martin Pasi in Houston (  Seven of his CD albums are available from information on his website, and another can be ordered at He can be contacted at, and
"WHEN THE CATHEDRAL ORGAN DANCED: ALL THE NUANCES. GRAZ: Phenomenal, with what virtuosic facility James Johnson commands the King of Instruments. Under the title "Lord of the Dance" he presented to a wide range
of listeners a multi-colored roundelay of most interesting works, through whose interpretation every subtlety was revealed, and offered thereby an hour of pure delight. In a magnificent finale, (Bach's) Passacaglia and Fugue extended in an arch from delicate ripples to an impressively monumental close, after which the artist rose calm and collected from the organ bench." --- JHZ, KLEINE ZEITUNG, July 30, 1996

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