Walter Henry Moss Jr. was a renowned organist who served as White Rock Baptist Church’s minister of music for more than 40 years.
Moss died Wednesday, April 10, 2013. He was 90.
He was born April 14, 1922 to the late Walter Henry Moss Sr. and Carrie Lawrence Moss. He attended Philadelphia public schools.
At the early age of four, Moss demonstrated a serious interest in the piano. When his father purchased a violin for him the very next year, he began to take lessons under the tutelage of such musical greats as Herbert Siegal, Alexander Harris and Margaret Garret. He continued his work in piano and added the bass violin and the organ.
After graduating from Simon Gratz High School, he pursued advanced musical education at Philadelphia Musical Academy, now the College of the Performing Arts, and studied the organ at the Guilmont Organ School in New York City. He continued studying the organ under the late Robert Elmore, a famous 20th century organist, composer and teacher. In later years, Moss studied music at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.
Moss’ first church membership was at the Wayland Baptist Church. He began to play for worship services there when he was 18 and continued as church organist under his early 30’s. It was also at Wayland Temple that he married the late Martha Ann Mason Moss in 1949. She was a one-time member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Troup.
It was not unusual for Moss to serve two churches concurrently.
While at Wayland Temple, Moss played for the Bethel Presbyterian Church, where he organized a concert choir. In the 1950s, Moss began serving the Sanctuary Choir of St. Paul Baptist Church of Cinnaminson, N.J. as accompanist. He later assuming the position as choir master/organist in which position he served for 25 years.
“Wherever he served, Walter has profoundly touched and markedly improved the musical life of that congregation,” his family said.
Moss’ musical career has included work in the public service sector as well as the religious arena.
He has performed at the New York World’s Fair, at the Academy of Music, at Fort Dix, N.J., and other military installations. In 1950, when the National Baptist Convention met in Philadelphia, he trained and directed a 1,000-voice choir. He also frequently worked with biracial groups promoting black culture.
Since 1967, Moss served White Rock Baptist Church as its minister of music. His service to his church, church community, and the city of Philadelphia, found him even more engaged with progressive activities in church music ministry, including the use of piano, voice, organ, hand bells and other instruments. During his years at White Rock, he also served as organist at Redeemer Moravian Church and Ebenezer Seventh Day Adventist Church.
For a number of years, he also served as national vice president and director of Branches for the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM).
Moss’s accomplishments over his lifetime were many and immeasurable, including many honors and national acclaim.
“These stand in tribute to the labor of one who was faithful in the ministry of music for close to 80 years,” his family said.
He is survived by his sisters, Carrie Moss Cannicle, Dr. Edith Moss Jackson (Dr. Wendell Jackson); nieces, Robin Cannicle (Charles Pinkett), Renee Jackson; godson, Kevin Felton and other relatives and friends.
Moss’s body will lie in state April 20 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Services will be held April 21 at White Rock Baptist Church, 5240 Chestnut St. Viewing is at 3 p.m. Services will follow at 6 p.m.