In Memoriam: Helen Kemp

Helen Kemp


Helen_KempHelen Kemp worked for almost 80 years training singers, teachers and conductors in the art of choral singing. Known internationally as a specialist in the area of training young voices, she served as guest conductor and clinician in all 50 states and around the world in school, university and church settings.

A hallmark of her work was her ability to empower dedicated volunteers to be successful choir directors, and to present techniques so solid and engaging that highly trained professionals continue to learn from her. In 1949 she founded the Choristers Guild, which turned into a nationwide movement. Hundreds of US professionals owed her their first musical experience.

In 2010, The Eastern Division Executive Board initiated the Helen Kemp Award, named in honor of its first awardee, and honoring an individual who, through teaching, performing, and sharing, exhibits a lifelong passion and commitment to the choral art. Helen was, appropriately, the first recipient of this now prestigious award.

Helen had been professor of voice and church music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, where her late husband, John, headed the church music department. She was still conducting into her 90s. Throughout her life, she shared the joy of music with countless choristers, students, singers and teachers around the world. Her mantra, “Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice: It takes the whole person to sing and rejoice” continues to be used by teachers and conductors for choirs of all ages.

As her family wrote upon her passing away, “…Helen Kemp’s life is a life to be celebrated. She blest us on her way with countless gifts of love.” The Eastern Division was especially blest by her life, and we are richer for her presence, her joyful work, and her life’s example.