The Composer:

Robert J. Powell was born in 1932 in Benoit, Mississippi. His education in, and passion for, sacred music began before adolescence. By seventh grade, he had started to compose – his lifetime output of published compositions stands at over three hundred. Through his teen years, Mr. Powell studied piano and organ, and by the age of eighteen, he was serving as a pianist and organist for various worship services – activities he would continue through college and his tour of service in Japan with the U.S. Army.
Powell earned a B. Mus. from Louisiana State University in Organ and Composition (where, for the first time, he heard a four-part choir), and a Masters degree in Sacred Music from the Union Theological Seminary of New York, where he studied under the eminent composer, organist, and educator, Alec Wyton, of whom it has been noted, “He has brought together and caused to flourish three separate traditions: English church music, American church music, and music from outside the churches.” While still a graduate student, Powell took a position as choirmaster of a small Presbyterian church in the Bronx (whose musical library consisted of two anthems). It was then that he began composing unison and two-part choral pieces for volunteer choirs.

Upon completion of his studies at Union in 1958, Powell, at Alec Wyton’s urging, served for two years under his mentor as assistant organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan. From 1960-1965, he was organist and choir director at St. Paul’s Church in Meriden, Mississippi. He served from 1965-1968 as director of music at St. Paul’s School, a boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire. And for thirty-five years, from 1968 to 2003, Mr. Powell was organist and choir director at Christ Church in Greenville, South Carolina – a church teeming with musical programs and opportunities for all ages and interests, from their “Cherub Choir” (ages 3-5) to youth and adult choirs and ensembles, as well as instrumental ensembles.

Mr. Powell is a long-time member of the Association of Anglican Musicians, and a Fellow and Choirmaster of the American Guild of Organists. He is also a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), from which he has received the Standard Award for the past twenty years.

Powell’s Service music for the Episcopal Eucharist liturgy appears in the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church. He has written a Gloria, Sanctus, and Fraction Anthem, all of which are popular and regularly sung in churches nationwide, as are his numerous anthems for choirs. Creative as ever, he continues to compose and publish music.

Robert Powell and his wife, Nancy, soon to celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary, are the parents of three and the grandparents of four. And now, thanks to fortunate happenstance and diligent follow-up, a link has been restored between him and St. James, and a new one forged with The Anglican Singers.

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