Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



Document Type



Thomas Kerr, Jr. (1915-1988), African-American organist, produced works for organ, piano, and choir. His most significant organ work, Anguished American Easter, 1968, was a musical reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Powerful and dramatic, the work draws on all the forces of the modern pipe organ. Anguished American Easter, 1968, based on the spiritual He' Rose expresses the sorrow and horror of death and the power and hope of the resurrection. A profound composition, it reflects the anguish of an oppressed race. The purpose of this monograph is to examine the compositional techniques Thomas Kerr, Jr. used in developing the spiritual He' Rose in Anguished American Easter, 1968. Kerr's piano composition, Easter Monday Swagger Scherzino, 1970, based on the spiritual Walk Together Chillen, which expresses African-American unity, will also be discussed in analyzing Thomas Kerr, Jr.'s utilization of the spiritual. The examination will include analyses of how Thomas Kerr, Jr. artistically interpreted the anguished African-American and the theology of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message. The value of this study is to provide insight into Thomas Kerr, Jr.'s Anguished American Easter, 1968, as well as the struggle and oppression of the African-American race and their resulting legacy of faith as expressed through the genre of the spiritual. Chapter 1 provides biographical information and an introduction to Kerr's musical style; Chapter 2 examines Kerr's application of the spiritual; Chapter 3 analyzes African-American oppression as evidenced in Anguished American Easter, 1968. The conclusion summarizes Kerr's musical style and the historical and theological messages inherent in Anguished American Easter, 1968.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Herndon Spillman



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