Joseph Musser, the organist at the First Presbyterian Church in Delaware, will play a recital on the Klais organ in Gray Chapel in Ohio Wesleyan’s University Hall at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23. His program will include music by composers ranging from the 17th to the 21st centuries. It will feature baroque composers (Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach), romantic composers (Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and Charles-Marie Widor), and 20th-century composers (Herbert Howells and Paul Hindemith).
The program will also include a partita that Musser wrote to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Namdaemun Presbyterian Church in Seoul, South Korea, where he played the premiere in 2015. The Namdaemun Church traces its founding to Dr. Horace Allen, a medical missionary from Delaware, Ohio. Allen was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University (1881). He and his wife served briefly in China, then moved to Korea where he established modern medical care and education. Through his medical work, he won the gratitude and respect of the Korean monarch. In 1890, Allen was appointed secretary of the U.S. legation in Seoul, and in 1897, became the U.S. minister and consul general, and later the U.S. envoy to Korea (1901-1905).
The Rexford Keller Memorial Organ in Gray Chapel was built by Johannes Klais Orgelbau of Bonn, Germany. It was installed in Gray Chapel in 1980 and restored and renewed in 2013, when a new division, the Bombarde, was added in memory of Homer Blanchard. Orgelbau is one of the world’s most renowned organ builders, and this instrument is considered one of the finest in the U.S.
Musser has been the organist of the First Presbyterian Church, Delaware, since 1985. He began serving as a church organist when he was a junior in high school. He studied organ with Hugh Allen Wilson at Union College and with Charles Bradley in Charlottesville, Virginia. He served as accompanist for the Union College Glee Club and for the Charlottesville-Albemarle Choral Society. When on the faculty at the University of Kentucky, he was a member of the university’s Collegium Musicum (as singer and recorder player).
During the summers, Musser has sung for over 40 years with the Chautauqua (NY) Institution’s Motet Choir and Sunday Choir. At Chautauqua, he also plays piano in the Motet Consort, and is the organist at the Episcopal Chapel of the Good Shepherd.
Musser has regularly performed recitals on the Klais organ in the Asbury Methodist Church’s First Thursday Series. He also has frequently offered programs on a harpsichord that he built from a Zuckermann kit. His compositions include organ chorales and partitas, anthems, and music for piano with various combinations of instruments. He also wrote two processionals for organ, brass quintet, and timpani for the inauguration of Rock Jones as Ohio Wesleyan’s president in 2008.
Musser received his B.A. from Union College (Schenectady, New York), and his M.A. and Ph.D. (English literature) from the University of Virginia. Recently retired from his position as professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan, Musser served for 23 years as chair of the English Department. He was president of Ohio Wesleyan’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter for many years, and from 1989 to 1992, he was the Spencer Professor of Literature. In 2010, he received the Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award and in 2014, the Daniel E. Anderson Award for Service. He has published essays on William Cowper, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the aesthetics of picturesque theory.
Follow The Delaware Gazette on Twitter @delgazette. Like The Gazette on Facebook.