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Simmons, Morgan

Growing 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.

At 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.

After 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."

His 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.

In addition to compositions in the MorningStar catalog his works have been published by H.W. Gray, Augsburg, Hope, Selah, and Darcey Press.

Organ music by Morgan Simmons