The famed Black Catholic liturgist Dr. James E. Moore Jr., globally known for popular hymns such as “Taste and See” and “Come to the Feast,” will be remembered in a Memorial Mass on Sunday afternoon at the Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati.
Moore’s death on August 4 was first announced stateside by GIA Publications, the Catholic music publishing company with which Moore collaborated throughout his career.
“We rejoice in and honor the life and legacy of James E. Moore, composer, conductor, pianist, master teacher, and treasured friend,” they posted on Twitter.
Also commemorating Moore was Holy Family Catholic Church in Middletown, Ohio, where he was a frequent collaborator and participated a city-wide ecumenical concert in 2002.
“Dr. Moore was a world-known composer and presenter of sacred music,” wrote Mary Ellyn Sohn.
“He and his music were loved by many and he will be truly missed.”
Moore, a native of La Crosse, Virginia, was born in 1951 and gained fame during the Black Catholic Movement as one of several notable composers who began fusing Black gospel stylings with Catholic hymnody.
Perhaps the most famous result of that exploration, Moore's Eucharistic tune “Taste and See,” was composed in 1983 and has become a staple in Catholic parishes around the country and beyond, both as a Communion hymn and as a responsorial setting of Psalm 34.
In 1987, the song was included in the inaugural edition of “Lead Me Guide Me”, the nation’s first Black Catholic hymnal.
Among Moore's other notable compositions are “Touch Somebody’s Life” and “Come to the Feast,” both of which were included in his 2001 album named after the latter tune. Twenty years after the release of “Taste and See,” a new version of the song was included in GIA’s compilation album “Catholic Classics, Vol. 7: African American Sacred Songs.”
For several years in the late 1970s and early 80s, Moore served as a professor of liturgy and music at the Athenaeum of Ohio (Mount St. Mary's Seminary & School of Theology), the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. While teaching at the university, Moore also directed music at the former St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cincinnati’s Bond Hill neighborhood. (Following mergers, the parish was renamed Resurrection in 2010.)
Moore also traveled extensively, touring with parishes and choirs in Turkey, Germany, and Italy, before settling permanently in Vienna, Austria in 1984. For three years thereafter, he directed the Chor der Alten Burse in the city, recording an album with the choir in 1987, “That We May Be One.” Moore later served as a private instructor in singing and conducting.
During Moore’s time overseas, his song “An Irish Blessing” reportedly came into widespread use throughout Europe, and was mentioned by St. Augustine Catholic Church of Vienna in a tribute to Moore shortly after his death.
“[He] significantly shaped the choral scene and church music with his compositions and workshops over many years,” the church posted on social media.
Sunday’s memorial Mass in Cincinnati will begin at 2pm ET, concelebrated by Frs Jim Meade, Mike Savino, and others. Assisting is Deacon Royce Winters. A livestream will be available on YouTube.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).