|"He took students from
inner cities and from small towns across America," Morgan
President Earl S. Richardson said in a statement, "and
made them international travelers."
Dr. Nathan Carter
Dr. Carter, an internationally renowned teacher of vocal music,
directed the choir at the historically black college in Baltimore
for 34 years. The chorus, with up to 150 voices, performed music
from the classical, folk, pop and gospel repertoires and was known
for both its vocal precision and its rich, emotionally expressive
"In the quarter-century of his leadership," Washington
Post critic Joseph McLellan wrote in 1997, "conductor Nathan
Carter has made this ensemble not only one of the best choruses
but one of the best musical ensembles of any kind in the United
Since the 1970s, the Morgan State choir had embarked on tours
of Europe, Asia and Africa. It appeared three times at the White
House and performed at an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope John
Paul II in Baltimore. It recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
and performed with the New York Philharmonic and other leading
orchestras, as well as with opera singer Kathleen Battle and pop
star Stevie Wonder.
In January, Dr. Carter led the choir on its first tour of Russia,
performing a concert version of George Gershwin's "Porgy
and Bess" with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as well
as a program of spirituals and other music in St. Petersburg.
The audience clapped in unison as the chorus -- reportedly the
first African American chorus to appear in the 170-year-old Grand
Hall of the Philharmonia -- performed gospel tunes and several
songs in Russian. Dr. Carter received a louder ovation from the
audience than did Yuri Temirkanov, the Baltimore Symphony's Russian-born
A trim, dapper man with a stunning wardrobe, Dr. Carter was a
relentless perfectionist who drilled his choristers in the finer
points of phrasing, diction and musical dynamics. He often recruited
singers with no formal musical training and whose majors were
in fields far removed from music. His groups generally had a core
of 20 to 32 called the Morgan Singers; a 50-voice concert choir;
and the full university choir, which could swell to 150 members.
|After his triumphant concerts
this year in St. Petersburg, Dr. Carter described the meaning
that music brought to him and his choir.
"We preach not only music, but learning good work habits,
discipline, responsibility," Dr. Carter told the Baltimore
Sun in 2000. "We expect them to be punctual and to look sharp."
Under his leadership, the Morgan State choir performed at the
Kennedy Center with the National Symphony; at New York's Lincoln
Center with the New York Philharmonic; at Carnegie Hall's 100th
anniversary tribute to Marian Anderson; in Paris with the National
Orchestra of France; and, at the invitation of Archbishop Desmond
Tutu, on a tour of South Africa.
"It is impossible to overstate the accomplishments of the
Morgan State University Choir during Carter's tenure," wrote
Baltimore Sun critic Tim Smith.
Wherever it traveled, Dr. Carter insisted that the chorus perform
at least one song in the language of the country it visited. In
Prague, Czech residents greeted the singers in the streets with
chants of "Morgan, Morgan, Morgan!"
Dr. Carter was born and grew up in Selma, Ala., where his mother
was a singer and pianist and his father a minister and a professor
of Old Testament theology at Selma University. A musical prodigy,
Dr. Carter could not remember a time when he did not play piano
or sing. Visiting professors came to his family's home to give
him piano lessons by the time he was 5.
He graduated from Hampton Institute in Virginia and received
a master's degree from the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
He received a doctorate in music from Baltimore's Peabody Institute.
Before coming to Morgan State, he was a music professor and choral
director at Knoxville College in Tennessee.
In addition to teaching his singers and preparing for tours,
Dr. Carter was chairman of Morgan's Department of Fine Arts and
director of the university's performing arts series. He led a
fundraising drive for the school's $40 million performing arts
center, which opened in 2001. He also founded the music program
at the Baltimore School for the Arts, as well as a school of music
at Baltimore's New Shiloh Baptist Church, whose pastor is Dr.
"What matters most in the end is that we communicated with
people," he said.
Nathan M. Carter, 68, who led the Morgan State University Choir
in performances all over the world while building it into one
of the premier vocal groups in the nation, died July 15 of pancreatic
cancer at his home in Baltimore.