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Music clinic with Rawn Harbor set for June 7-8 in Houston

The nationally known Black Catholic liturgist will lead the event in Texas ahead of an appearance at the Archbishop Lyke Conference in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Rawn Harbor, the internationally known Black Catholic liturgist and composer, will lead a music clinic in Texas this summer sponsored by the Roderick J. Bell Institute for African American Sacred Music.

The two-day event, scheduled for June 7-8 in Houston, comes just ahead of the Archbishop Lyke Conference in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which will take place June 18-22 and also features Harbor as a presenter.

“Rawn Harbor is one of the preeminent African American Catholic liturgists and musicians in the U.S. today. A gifted pianist and composer, he is also a much sought-after workshop facilitator, speaker and liturgist,* reads a flier for the music clinic.

In previous years, the Bell Institute took place as part of Unity Explosion, founded in 1989 as a Black Catholic liturgical gathering similar to the Lyke Conference but based in New Orleans. The institute was founded by the late Black liturgist Roderick J. Bell, a Houston native who died in 1994 at age 32 after leading Unity Explosion for some years.

Unity Explosion later expanded to cover a broader scope of Black Catholic pastoral and social ministry and was partnered with Region X of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, covering Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It has not hosted events since 2018, when it was held in San Antonio. A scheduled 2020 conference in Beaumont was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unity Explosion and the Archdiocese of Houston are sponsoring this year’s clinic with Harbor, who has spent more than 50 years as a musician working in the Church, including his background as a former Baptist. He worked with many of the pioneers in Black Catholic liturgy, including the late Fr Clarence Rivers, and has served in liturgical and educational roles in South Carolina, Kansas, California, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia.

He earned a Masters in Theological Studies from the Franciscan School of Theology, then located at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Harbor, who currently serves as director of music for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Washington, played a major role in the creation of the “Lead Me, Guide Me” Black Catholic hymnal, whose two editions include a number of his compositions. His “Mass of Liberation” composition was released in 2005, one of his many contributions still used in liturgies across the country.

Harbor also served as a collaborator on the “Psalms for the Soul” series, a two-volume Black Catholic recording project that features psalter selections rendered in the traditional gospel style. Most recently, he served as liturgy director for the 2023 National Black Catholic Congress.

His clinic in Texas will take place at the St. Dominic Center Auditorium on Houston’s South Side and registration is now open. Early bird tickets are available for $30 through Wednesday, May 22, and increase to $35 thereafter. Interested parties can sign up online. For more information, contact Cynthia Arceneaux Jackson at (832) 289-0055.

Briana Jansky is a freelance writer, author, blogger, and host of the Geeks For Jesus podcast.