Merritt Johnson (1902-1978) was a pianist, organist, and composer on faculty at Northern State College (now University) in Aberdeen, South Dakota; having studies with the likes of Josef Lhevinne and Darius Milhaud in addition to earning degrees from Oberlin, he was head of the NSC piano department for twenty-five years and played in the symphony orchestra there for forty-five. He was also organist and Choir Director at Bethlehem Lutheran Church during that time.
In addition to teaching and performing (and being Dean of the South Dakota Chapter of the American Guild of Organists), Johnson was also fairly prolific in composing and publishing: he was the first South Dakota composer commissioned to create a work for the National Music Teachers Association. He once learned that his compositions had been used in the Moscow Conservatory of Music and throughout Europe, as well as in Turkey, Alaska and Canada.
Johnson’s daughter Mitta Angel has been a violist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 1965 and Dr. Susan Vaughan (one of his students) recently became a resident of Denton, hence a project to digitize Johnson’s music was undertaken at the UNT Music Library.
http://digital.library.unt.edu/explore/partners/UNTML/browse/?fq=untl_collection%3AMRTJC is a link to the collection in the UNT Digital Library, which includes:
Chord studies and technique books for piano
Anthems for mixed chorus in vocal score
Compositions for both organ and piano
Transferred LP recordings of piano, organ and choral music
Since this project was done with the approval of Johnson’s family, all items are digitally available open access; their physical counterparts are being cataloged and added to the UNT Music Library’s collection.
Efforts are also underway at Northern State to digitize Johnson’s manuscripts, with an eventual plan to share the digital content between the two institutions.
We sincerely hope this effort brings Johnson’s music to the awareness of more people, so please feel free to share!
Founded in 1941 by Anna Harriet Heyer and Wilfred Bain, the University of North Texas Music Library has become one of the largest academic music libraries in the United States and has served as a fruitful training-ground for many highly successful music librarians. To celebrate its seventy-five years of activity in collection development, cataloging, and user services, the UNT Music Library will sponsor a symposium focusing on various themes relating to music libraries and music librarianship. In addition to paper or panel sessions, we will schedule concerts and social events. Attendees will also have the opportunity to explore the print, media, and special collections holdings of the UNT Music Library. Please consider joining us for this very special event!
Registration is $50 and includes coffee breaks on both days, as well as a reception (admission to concerts is free).
Contact Mark McKnight for more information.
In this inaugural post, we are happy to present the first in a series of videos featuring our Model B Ampico Knabe reproducing piano, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Troika”, No. 11 from The Seasons (Op. 37a):
This piano and over 5,400 rolls (as well as thousands of CDs, 78s, cylinders, etc.) were donated in 2013 by the estate of Joe Morris, a Dallas collector of sound recordings and vintage playback machines. You can see the full list of piano rolls at http://findingaids.library.unt.edu/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=274.
Suffice to say we’ll be uploading more videos of piano rolls in performance on a regular basis!