Spring 2023 Northcutt Lecture Series

March 22, 2023
James Abbington
WACO, Texas (March 22, 2023) – Baylor University today announced The Dunn Center for Christian Music Studies (CCMS) in the Baylor School of Music will host James Abbington, D.M.A., associate professor of church music and worship at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, for its spring 2023 Northcutt Lecture Series. The lecture will be held Tuesday, April 4, at 4 p.m., in the McLean Foyer of Meditation in Armstrong Browning Library, 710 Speight Ave.

Abbington’s topic, “Reimaging Howard Thurman’s Use of Negro Spirituals in Worship,” explores ways in which Thurman imaged and used Negro Spirituals in worship. Thurman constructed services that were faithful to Scripture, historically conscious and relevant, relevant to God, Christ-centered, inclusive of all people, and provided full, active, and conscious participation for the worshiper. Abbington will discuss well known spirituals such as “Deep River” and “Balm in Gilead” and consider how Thurman used hymnody and spirituals in worship. He considers how Thurman’s imaging of these musical elements can serve as instructional and inspirational guidelines for creative ways of reimaging worship and the use of Negro Spirituals in worship today.

“Dr. Abbington is both a superb scholar and an engaging presenter and performer,” said Randall Bradley, D.M.A., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Church Music, director of the church music program and the Center for Christian Music Studies at Baylor. “Having served on the Board of Advisors for the CCMS, Dr. Abbington and Baylor have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. It is a joy to welcome him back to Baylor to present this most prestigious lecture.”

Born in Gary, West Virginia, Abbington received his musical education at Morehouse College (B.A.) and the University of Michigan (M.M., D.M.A.). This semester Abbington is associate visiting professor at Yale Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University in New Haven, CT, where he is teaching Christian Hymnody. He has been Executive Editor of the African American Church Music Series published by GIA Publications in Chicago for over 20 years which is the largest publisher of African American sacred music and worship resources in the United States. Abbington is a member of the historic Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta where he the Director of Music Ministries and Church Organist.

Since its inception in 1985, the Northcutt Lecture Series has become an integral part of the academic and spiritual life of Baylor School of Music. Designed to bring nationally and internationally known church music scholars to Baylor, the Northcutt Lecture is made possible by an endowment from Mrs. Cassandra Northcutt and her husband, the late LeGrande Northcutt of Longview, Texas.
“The Northcutt Lecture is one of the most prestigious lectures on church music in the world,” said Bradley. “Since its inception by LeGrande and Cassandra Northcutt, the lecture has attracted the top national and international scholars in the field.”

This event is free and open to the public. A reception will be held following the event.

Celebrating more than 100 years of musical excellence, the Baylor University School of Music provides transformational experiences that prepare students for careers in music. Students thrive in a Christian environment characterized by a nurturing resident faculty, an unwavering pursuit of musical excellence, a global perspective, dedication to service and devotion to faith. They investigate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the past, develop superior musical skills and knowledge in the present, and explore and create new modes of musical expression for the future. While preparing for future leadership roles, students join with School of Music faculty in enhancing the quality of community life, enriching the larger culture and making Baylor a place in which heart, mind and soul coalesce. Baylor’s School of Music is a member of the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools. Degree programs include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance, music education and academic majors, as well as doctoral degrees in church music. Degrees leading to the Bachelor of Music Education conform to certification requirements of the Texas Education Agency. Visit baylor.edu/music to learn more.
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