Driving a bright red sporty car, a New Yorker arrived at Oklahoma Baptist University in 1936 to become at the time the youngest college dean in America. In 1977, wearing a bright red jogging suit, he leaped onto the chancel in B.B. McKinney Chapel at Oklahoma’s Falls Creek Baptist Assembly. It was there I first experienced Warren Matthewson Angell, a whirlwind of a conductor, composer and educator. Disregarding an age requirement, at age eleven I had sneaked into the chapel to sing in the Falls Creek Choir, not knowing my subversive act would introduce me to someone who would forever influence my life and work. I eagerly returned each summer to learn from him. With effective teaching, inspiring words and expressive conducting, he revealed to me the power and beauty of the choral music experience. He had been instrumental in developing the concepts and curricula for music ministry among Baptists, and I knew in those summers before college that I wanted to attend his college of fine arts.
Though retired by the time I arrived at his namesake, “Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts" at OBU, I was overjoyed during those years to develop a relationship with "Dean" Angell (as he was called even past retirement). In college I sang in the university's Bison Glee Club he founded, and was selected by him to sing in the Club's "Fallen Angells" Quartet which rehearsed in his home. I gleaned from his work by attending local choral workshops he led, and reveled in his storytelling during several dinner opportunities together. During a Bison Glee Club alumni tour to Hawaii, I was fortunate to be his roommate, providing an extended opportunity to pick his brain on all things church music. He attended my senior composition recital, and while in seminary, I was fortunate to attend the university's celebration of his 50th year since arriving at OBU. When serving as a Minister of Music in South Carolina, I was thrilled to host him in concert and worship at two churches and visit him in his Black Mountain, North Carolina, home. Through the years we corresponded through postal mail where he continued to offer his advice and encouragement.
As a music theory and composition major I was keenly interested in Dean Angell's compositions, and we had discussions on the compositional process. He was a prolific composer and arranger of choral, congregational and keyboard music, and was known to dedicate some of his works to friends and students. In 1999, preparing to depart Greenwood, South Carolina, after visiting my family for what would be the last time, he said to me: "If there's anything I can ever do for you...." and, leaving his statement open-ended, I responded: "Just 16 bars!” Though the conversation went no further, he knew exactly what I meant, and several days later I received in the mail a composition for piano! The title was also the dedication:"16 Bars for Larry, Cindy, Kelly & Ryan." In addition to all I had learned and received from him since I was eleven, I was filled with gratitude that the 92-year-old composer had granted my wish!
The piano piece (exactly 16 bars) is "classic Angell" in its melodic and harmonic expression. Knowing a bit about his creative process, it seems he conceived the rhythmic motion of the melody by mimicking the two-syllable names of each person in my family. Ever the educator, the final chord of the composition is indicated on the score by him as a "chime,” calling attention to the keyboard properties and harmonic structure he used to produce that particular effect. At the end of the hand-written manuscript dated 9-11-99, is a personal message, revealing the Dean’s characteristic sense of humor. The composition’s tempo marking includes the added instruction: “with feeling” - indicative of how Warren Angell approached music and life.
16 Bars for Larry, Cindy, Kelly & Ryan
Piano Composition by Warren Angell
Music © 1999 Warren M. Angell.
16 Bars for Larry, Cindy, Kelly & Ryan
Composed by Warren Angell
Performed by Larry E. Schultz
Many individuals, including myself, consider Warren Angell a mentor. His legacy continues in ministers of music, church musicians, educators, choral conductors, composers, and in persons in professions other than music. I'm thankful for his long and productive life (1907-2006) that brought instruction and inspiration to many!
In 2012, a text by my collaborator, Jann Aldredge-Clanton, seemed especially appropriate for me to compose as a choral anthem in memory of Dean Angell. Gathered Here to Share Our Music celebrates diverse humanity and the power of music that Warren Angell knew could transform the world.
An Interview of Warren Angell
Produced in 1987 by the Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
Larry E. Schultz is a Minister of Music, composer, hymn writer and teacher.