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*Hall Johnson was born on this date in1888. He was an African American concert vocalist and composer.
From Athens, GA his father was a minister in the African Methodist Church and a college president. His earliest interest in music came from his grandmother. She was a former slave who exposed him to spirituals. Johnson graduated from Allen University and also studied at the University of Pennsylvania, the Julliard School and the University of Southern California.
His music career began as a violinist with James Reese Europe’s Orchestra. There he played in the 1921 musical “Shuffle Along.” His choir had notable appearances in productions of Green pastures and Lost horizons. Johnson's choir performed with great success in concert and on the radio within the New York City area, and they made their first recording for RCA Victor in 1928. Then in 1930, they sang his settings of spirituals composed for the musical, The Green Pastures, on Broadway.
This success was followed by the Broadway production of Johnson's Run Little Chillun in 1933. Between 1935 and 1943, the Johnson choir was featured in films such as The Green Pastures, Lost Horizon and Cabin in the Sky. Throughout his life, Johnson received numerous awards for his compositions, including The Urban League's "Opportunity Contest" competitions, the Harmon Award (1931), honorary doctorate from the Philadelphia Music Academy, the George Frederic Handel Award, and a posthumous induction to the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.
Hall Johnson died on April 30, 1970, during a fire at his New York apartment. Marian Anderson, who recorded a number of his solo vocal settings, commented, "Hall Johnson was a unique genius. For although he invented no new harmonies, designed no new forms, originated no new melodic styles, discovered no new rhythmic principles, he was yet able to fashion a whole new world of music in his own image."