Publication Project: Piano Works of Thomas H. Kerr Jr.

We hope you enjoy learning about one of the publication projects of the Frances Clark Center—publishing piano works of Thomas H. Kerr Jr. Please join us for our Publications Launch Party with Susanna Garcia and William Chapman Nyaho celebrating the first of these publications, Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?: Concert Scherzo for Two Pianos, Four Hands. The event will occur on Wednesday, May 8th at 11:00am ET. Learn more and register here.

Susanna Garcia and William Chapman Nyaho after their performance at NCKP 2023: The Piano Conference.

Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?: Concert Scherzo for Two Pianos, Four Hands is a set of six variations and a coda based on the Negro spiritual. Composed in 1940 by pianist and composer Thomas Henderson Kerr Jr. for his performances on the Black College Circuit during the 1940s, it is an effective showpiece for advanced pianists.

Kerr described it this way: “The piece sets forth the theme transparently and saucily then plunges into querulous, propulsive and percussive ostinato (Allegro Barbaro), with a surprise ending. After a breathing pause (for both players and listeners) comes a slow expressive section (Andante Sognando)…There are two brittle, playful variations (Scherzando) and a ‘Tempo Grandioso’ which leads to a coda which sweeps the players off the stage.”

Nyaho/Garcia Piano Duo
Five by Four
MSR Classics: MS1753

Click here to listen on Spotify

Nyaho/Garcia Piano Duo

About the Composer

Thomas Henderson Kerr Jr. (1915–88) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He began playing and studying piano at an early age. He taught himself the organ and, as early as fourteen, played for church services, as well as in Baltimore’s nightclubs. As a young man, Kerr wanted to attend Peabody Institute, but, at that time, African Americans were not admitted. He instead attended Howard University for one year, then transferred to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he earned three degrees: a bachelor of music in piano, a bachelor of music in theory, and a master of music in theory. At Eastman he studied piano with Cécile Genhart (1898–1983). He graduated summa cum laude. In 1943, Kerr returned to Howard University as Professor of Piano and served as chair of the piano department until his retirement in 1976.

Kerr’s catalogue lists over 150 compositions for piano, organ, voice, chorus, and chamber ensembles, most of which have never been published. They are preserved in manuscripts at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Archives and Rare Books Division, in New York City.

This is the first published edition of this composition and the first in a series of three piano works by Thomas H. Kerr Jr. to be published by the Frances Clark Center.

To learn more and purchase Thomas H. Kerr Jr.’s Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?: Concert Scherzo for Two Pianos, Four Hands, click here.


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