Harry T. Burleigh Place Conaming

On Sunday, September 12, Temple Emanu-El’s own Dr. Andrew Henderson, Jack Cohn and the Temple Emanu-El Choir will participate in the Conaming of Harry T. Burleigh Place on the corner of 16th Street and Third Avenue at 3:00 PM. Refreshments and a musical presentation of Burleigh’s life and work will take place immediately following at St. George’s Church. Henry “Harry” T. Burleigh was an influential African-American composer, arranger and founding member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) who spent 25 years (1900-1925) as the first African-American soloist at Temple Emanu-El, desegregating the congregation.

Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on December 2, 1866, Harry Thacker Burleigh brought a distinctive African-American voice into American choral and art song repertoire to all groups. Renowned as the Father of Spiritual Music arrangement, he composed over 200 works in that genre, including his famous arrangement of “Deep River” in 1917. In 1892, he received a scholarship to the National Conservatory of Music in New York, where he formed an association and friendship with Antonín Dvořák, the Conservatory’s Director. Burleigh was a mentor to Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson and Roland Hayes and a founding member of ASCAP. He was granted a seat on its Board in 1941.

Burleigh was the first African-American soloist at Temple Emanu-El. During that time, he arranged the spiritual “Deep River,” one of his most well-known works, for the Temple Emanu-El Choir using the text from Psalm 19: “May the Words of My Mouth…” He passed away on September 12, 1949 at age 82. More than 2,000 mourners attended his funeral at St. George’s Episcopal Church. To this day, concerts in his honor are held in May each year. A concert celebrating him was held at Columbia University, Miller’s Theatre, on June 2, 2017.