Presbyterian Association of Musicians honors life and ministry of Helen Kemp

Honorary Life Member leaves legacy of embodied worship expression

September 14, 2015

Helen Kemp.

Helen Kemp. —Photo courtesy Kemp family (via bodymindspiritvoice.com)

LOUISVILLE

Helen Hubbert Kemp, known to many as "Momma Helen," passed away Aug. 23, 2015. The long-time church musician, respected lecturer and presenter at Presbyterian music events was born March 31, 1918. Kemp’s 97 years were marked by the love of music and music making, children, church, family and a life of faith.

In 2003, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians Executive Board recognized her contributions to PAM and the field of church music by awarding her an Honorary Life Membership. One of only a handful of PAM life members, her mantra, "Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice! It takes the WHOLE person to sing and rejoice!," became a guiding principle for thousands of church musicians around the world who learned from and were shaped by her teaching.

Helen and her late husband, John (1916-97), were married in 1942 and together raised a family of five children. The Kemps served two tenures each on the faculty of Westminster Choir College. In 1949, they moved to First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., where they spent 20 years building a multigenerational choir program of more than 700 choristers.

Together, they were founding members and leaders of Chorister's Guild. Helen served as guest clinician and conductor at universities, churches and conferences in all 50 states, as well as in countries around the world. She served as a faculty member at numerous PAM conferences; most recently as Erik Routley Lecturer on Congregational Song at the 2003 Westminster Conference.       

Honorary Doctorates recognizing her work were conferred by Westminster Choir College and Shenandoah University. Several organizations have established lectureships and awards in her name.

In 2008, Choristers Guild established the Helen Kemp Lectureship. In 2010, the American Choral Directors Association established the Helen Kemp Award for Lifetime Commitment to Excellence in Choral Music. In her later years Helen continued to teach and make music as director of the "Manor Singers," a choir of senior adults at the Manor at York Town, where she lived and thrived.

Kemp’s family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, congregations sing a joyful song in her memory.

-----

The Presbyterian Association of Musicians (PAM) is a national organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for those involved in the areas of worship, music and the arts. Conductors, organists, pianists, players of other instruments, Christian educators, pastors, and other congregational leaders find PAM a valuable resource for creative worship planning. Not only for Presbyterians, members of many worshiping traditions find PAM resources, conferences, and publications extremely helpful in their work for the church.

Registration for PAM summer conferences on worship and music at Montreat and Mo Ranch opens November 15. For more information, please visit, http://presbymusic.org.

  1. A lovely remembrance.

    by Carol Pye

    September 14, 2015

  2. Giving thanks for the ministry of Helen Kemp. I was privileged to have Mrs. Kemp as my middle school choir director when she was teaching at Westminster Choir College. She was irrepressible and exacting and encouraging all at the same time. Her spirit of exuberance and musicianship were equally matched. No doubt she'll have plenty of ideas for the heavenly choir and the verve to make it happen. May her family be comforted in knowing the many, many lives she touched and who have been inspired by her life and music.

    by Noelle Damico

    September 14, 2015