Mississippi College

Professor Lewis Oswalt Contributes to New Dictionary of Hymnology

October 3, 2013

One of America’s leading authorities on the history of church music, Mississippi College professor Lewis Oswalt brings a great deal of expertise to the table in his field.

When publishers of the “Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology” announced plans to update the thick volume for the first time since 1907, the Clinton resident received a phone call and was asked to contribute.

It’s a huge task that previously was considered impossible by previous editors. But the landmark reference book is now moving forward with a fall publication date. A conference in England will mark the milestone in October. The world’s authorities on different aspects of hymnology are coming to be part of it.

J.R. Watson, a retired professor at the University of Durham, and Emma Hornsby, a music professor at the University of Bristol, has edited the new dictionary with help from notable contributors like Oswalt.

“My part is very small – of the thousands of entries, I wrote four,” says the Mississippi College graduate. “It’s a small part of a major work, but I’m pleased.”

One of Oswalt’s entries tells the story of Tennessean Rigdon McCoy McIntosh, a former high school teacher who began composing hymn tunes in the late 1850s. He later became music editor of  the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was chair of vocal music at Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 1875-76, and published Sunday school songbooks in Georgia.

“He was a major musical figure of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,” Oswalt said.

Another one of his pieces profiles Milburn Price, an Electric Mills, Mississippi native born in 1938. Price’s career spans work as an author, educator, composer, hymnologist and choral conductor. Price chaired the Department of Music at Furman University in South Carolina, and was dean of church music at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The former dean of the School of Music at Samford University in Birmingham from 2001-2006, Price served as a guest choral conductor throughout the USA and seven other nations.

The MC professor believes the new dictionary will be a useful research tool when teaching undergraduates in his music classes on the Clinton campus.

Leland Speed Library Director Kathleen Hutchison says she plans to order a copy of the book that will be useful to MC students, music faculty and researchers for decades to come.

So far, 60 USA authors contributed a wide range of essays and entries to the 21st Century dictionary. Their articles add up to 1.8 million words and there are 20 more entries to come.

The 1907 hymnology dictionary, Oswalt said, was “badly outdated.”

Oswalt has proven to be a valuable asset outside of the music world. He’s the voice of Clinton Arrows football games Friday nights on Christian radio station STAR 93.5.

For more information, contact Lewis Oswalt at 601.925.3446 or oswalt@mc.edu.

Photo: Mississippi College music professor Lewis Oswalt contributes to a new dictionary on hymnology.

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