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Don Marsh is dead at 86

Church musician was half of Avery and Marsh songwriting duo

April 27, 2010

Painting of Don Marsh

Don Marsh


Donald S. Marsh, 86, who with his companion and collaborator of 50 years Richard Avery provided the soundtrack to a generation of Presbyterian camp- and conference-goers, died at Casa Real Health Center in Santa Fe, N.M. on April 10.

For more than 40 years, Marsh served as choirmaster and director of arts for First Presbyterian Church in Port Jervis, N.Y., a small city 80 miles northwest of Manhattan. During that time he collaborated with Avery, the church’s pastor, in the composition of more than 150 published hymns, carols and anthems.

He also founded a church-sponsored community theater program called Presby Players and directed 75 major plays and musicals, ranging from ancient Greek drama to Broadway musicals.

Beginning with a small songbook called "Hymns Hot and Carols Cool" in 1967, the team of Avery and Marsh wrote songs in a variety of contemporary styles that are now found in hymnals and songbooks around the United States and Europe. They include "We Are the Church," "Every Morning Is Easter Morning" and a joyful calypso version of the Doxology.

In the late 1960s, Avery and Marsh began to share their music and creative ideas for worship at church conferences and regional and national assemblies, including 30 summers leading contemporary religious music seminars at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Marsh was born in 1923 in Akron, Ohio. He spent his first 13 years in Singapore and Sumatra, where his father was an accountant on rubber plantations. He earned degrees in art, drama and music from the University of Houston. Then he spent 17 years in New York City acting and dancing on TV and playing the piano, before moving to Port Jervis to work for the church.

Marsh is survived by Avery; his sister, Nancy Marsh Straight; and by numerous close friends in Santa Fe and Port Jervis. A memorial service will be held on May 2 at Westminster Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe.

  1. I am looing for music to the song "Welcome". Any help is appreciated.

    by Debbie

    January 14, 2015

  2. I have two of the books that Avery & Marsh have produced. Contact me if you need more info. I also have the music for the "Doxology" (and love it) and for "Different Is Beautiful."

    by Lucille Sheldon

    April 4, 2014

  3. I'm looking for the words to one of the Avery and Marsh songs--all I can think of is "Different is Beautiful". Some of the lyrics--God bless variety, Just look around and see, etc. Can't put it together in my head and can't seem to find the music in my collection. Any help would be appreciated--music and words. Thanks so much!

    by Judy Clark

    December 30, 2013

  4. am looking for the instrumental sheet music "Doxology" and "O, For a Thousand Tongues" arr by Don Marsh. Found the spectacular music in a CD entitled "A Mighty Fortress" which he produced with Ed Kee. Please, someone must have it somewhere!

    by norma

    June 19, 2013

  5. Do you still need the song, "Mary Too" because I have the book that includes it. If you send me your email address, I can send the info to you.

    by Connie Brown

    November 29, 2012

  6. I am looking fir the lyrics to a children's Christmas song by Avery and Marsh. The titile is Mary, Too. Can anyone out there help me. It will be greatly appreciated. Over the years, my copy of their Songbook has been misplaced. Thanks

    by delores linn

    October 15, 2011

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