up in the small town of Andalusia, Alabama, Morgan
Simmons found church and music closely intertwined.
His first piano teacher Josie Lyons gave lessons in the ladies
parlor of the First Methodist Church, and it was in that
same room that she conducted the junior choir of which he
was a member from an early age. This daunting lady with strict
standards for behavior and daily practice was also the church
organist, presiding at the console of the three manual Austin
organ that he would later learn to play. Such exposure set
a firm pattern for the life that would follow. In high school
he had the good fortune of well-trained teachers of piano
and organ and continued his studies at DePauw University
in Greencastle, Indiana, coming under the spell of the legendary
Van Denman Thompson. In 1951 he graduated with a Bachelor
of Music Degree in organ performance.
Union Theological Seminary in New York the integration of
church and music became even more prominent as he pursued
the Master of Sacred Music degree, which was conferred in
1953. At the seminary and in the city he was exposed to some
some of the giants in the fields of church music and theology:
Clarence and Helen Dickinson, Hugh Porter, Robert Baker,
Harold Friedell, Seth Bingham, Searle Wright, Reinhold Niebuhr
and Paul Tillich. It was there that he met and married Mary
Day, his wife of 52 years and a consummate organist and accompanist.
a two year stint in the Army, Morgan was awarded a Fulbright
Scholarship to study at the Royal School of Church Music
in Croydon, England, in 1955-56. It was there that his interest
in hymnody was whetted under the tutelage of Cyril V. Taylor.
This interest led him back to Union Seminary for a Doctor
of Sacred Music degree, which he earned in 1961. His dissertation
topic was "Latin Hymnody: Its Resurgence in English Usage."
church positions have included: Minister of Music, The Presbyterian
Church of Bound Brook, NJ (1956-1962); Minister of Music,
First United Methodist Church of Evanston, IL (1962-1968);
Organist and Choirmaster of the Fourth Presbyterian Church
of Chicago, IL (1968-1996). He also served as Assistant Professor
of Music and Worship at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary of Evanston,
IL (1963-1977.) An active member of the Hymn Society of America,
he served as Vice President of that organization and as Secretary/Treasurer
of the Consultation on Ecumenical Hymnody. For over 50 years
he has been closely associated with the American Guild of
Organists and currently serves as Treasurer and Councillor
for Finance and Development.
addition to compositions in the MorningStar catalog his works
have been published by H.W. Gray, Augsburg, Hope, Selah,
and Darcey Press.
music by Morgan Simmons