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Hall Johnson
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Birth: Mar. 12, 1888
Athens
Clarke County
Georgia, USA
Death: Apr. 30, 1970
New York
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA

Choral director, composer, arranger, violinist. He dedicated his career to preserving the integrity of the Negro spiritual as it had been performed during the era of slavery. He along with Harry Burleigh, were one of two American composers who elevated African American spirituals to an art form, comparable in its musical sophistication to the compositions of European Classical composers. His Hall Johnson Choir, the first professional group of its kind, enjoyed a successful concert and recording career for more than three decades in the United States and abroad. During his professional life He coached hundreds of distinguished musicians, including the famous opera singer Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Leonard DePaur, and Shirley Verrett. The Southern native was born to Alice Virginia Sansom and William Decker Johnson, an A.M.E. minister/ college president. From an early age he showed musical talent and studied piano. As a child he heard Negro spirituals sung by his mother as well as his grandmother, both of whom had been slaves. By the time he was eight, he was already writing down songs he heard. Inspired by hearing a violin recital given by Joseph Henry Douglass, grandson of Frederick Douglass, he wanted to play the violin. Determined to master the instrument, he taught himself to play using a self-instruction manual. He received an extensive education which included The Julliard School in New York. He went on to play the violin and viola professionally, beginning his career as a violinist with James Reese Europe's Orchestra. In time he became more intrested in choral music, forming the Hall Johnson Negro Choir, the first of many choral ensembles, in 1925 to "show how the American Negro slaves-in 250 years of constant practice, self-developed under pressure but equipped with their inborn sense of rhythm and drama-created, propagated and illuminated an art-form which was, and still is, unique in the world of music." The choir made notable appearances in the films, Green Pastures (1936), Hearts Divided (1936), Banjo on My Knee (1936), Lost Horizon (1937), Dumbo (1941), Tales of Manhattan (1942), and Cabin in the Sky (1943). Extremely active in the Hollywood film studios, in 1938 he recruited local African American talent to found another ensemble, the Festival Choir of Los Angeles. Later he organized the Festival Negro Choir in New York in 1946. In 1951, the Hall Johnson Choir was selected by the United States Department of State to represent the United States at the International Festival of Fine Arts held in Berlin, Germany. In 1965 he published an essay, "Notes on the Negro Spiritual," in which he explained the significance of this black American art form. It is noted that he was married to fellow Athenian, Celeste Corpening and was fluent in both German and French. It is also noted that he was the recipient of several awards including the Handel Award by New York City in 1970, honored by hometown of Athens with a plaque in city hall in 1976 and posthumously elected to the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1975. He tragically died during a fire at his New York apartment. 
 
Burial:
Woodlawn Cemetery
Bronx
Bronx County
New York, USA
Plot: Summit, Plot R2 G50
 
Created by: Curtis Jackson
Record added: Jan 25, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 17685302
Hall Johnson
Added by: Curtis Jackson
 
Hall Johnson
Added by: lynn
 
Hall Johnson
Cemetery Photo
Added by: David Zipperer
 
 
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- Saffron♥Wings
 Added: Jan. 14, 2011

- Josie Kinnear
 Added: Jun. 16, 2010

- God Bless You Dearest Angel ~ Rhonda Sue
 Added: Apr. 30, 2010
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