James Abbington

Dr. James Abbington’s research interests include music and worship in the Christian church, African American sacred folk music, organ, choral music, and ethnomusicology. Along with his roles at Candler, where he has taught since 2005, Abbington is executive editor of the African American Church Music Series by GIA Publications (Chicago). In addition to writing and editing, he has produced numerous recordings under GIA.

One of the nation’s most respected choir directors, musicians and authors, Abbington is a popular speaker, performer and conductor at universities, conferences, symposiums and churches around the world. From 2000 to 2010, Abbington served as co-director of music for the Hampton University Ministers’ and Musicians’ Conference, and as the national director of music for both the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the NAACP. In 2010, Hampton’s Choir Directors and Organists Guild honored Abbington by naming their Church Music Academy after him, and in 2015, he became the second African American to be named a Fellow of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

James Abbington’s 2019 Fall Institute Events

Thursday, October 17

Samples of New Music in the African American Church Music Series and Morehouse College Series
Breakout 1 (9:00 AM – 10:15 AM) | Gratz Room 4E

In this workshop, James Abbington will showcase a few of the newer choral anthems in GIA’s AACMS and Morehouse College Series. This session will function as a small reading session where Dr. Abbington will give background information and performance suggestions on each piece while also providing thoughts on when it might be appropriate to use during the church year. 

Using the Negro Spiritual in Worship and Concert Performance
Breakout 4 (2:45 PM – 4:00 PM) | Gratz Room 4E

This session will examine the differences between the Negro folk, or congregational spiritual and the concert, or arranged spiritual in worship and concert performance. These sacred folk songs, created by anonymous individuals or groups of individuals and by arrangers are truly an American creation and have been captured in four-part settings in hymnals and collections and in extended arrangements for choirs. Using various examples from current denomination hymnals and concert choral arrangements of Negro spiritual, the session will focus on their appropriate liturgical uses and general performance practices of this genre.

Friday, October 18

The Music of the People: Dvorak Revisited

Keynote Address (9:00 AM – 10:00 AM) | Buchanan Chapel

On 21 May, 1893 an article appeared in the New York Herald, part interview, part manifesto, part advertisement for the National Conservatory in New York entitled “Real Value of Negro Melodies” by the Bohemian Director of the conservatory Antonin Dvorák. A week later, the composer amplified his viewpoint in an article entitled “Antonin Dvorák on Negro Melodies.” In it Dvorák stated, “It is my opinion that I find a sure foundation in the Negro melodies for a new National school of music…The new American school of music must strike its roots deeply within its own soil.” It was the beginning of his great influence on the future of American music and his challenge “to go after our own folk music.” In this keynote Dr. James Abbington will focus on Dvorák’s contribution to and influence on American music with a particular focus on how our own folk music and the “music of the Negro” informed the works of some of the greatest American composers.