|Nigerian Art Music Composers|
|Thomas Ekundayo Phillips|
Thomas Ekundayo Phillips
Thomas Ekundayo Phillips (1884-1969) is the ‘father of Nigerian church music.’ His contribution to the development of art music in Nigeria is numerable and worthy of mention when writing about this style of music. He was a total-musician, as an organist, choral conductor, composer, scholar, educator and musicologist. He studied organ, piano and violin at the Trinity College of Music, London, from 1911 to 1914. On returning to Nigeria after his training in London, he was appointed as the Organist and Master of Music at the well-renowned Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, in 1914; a position he held for forty-eight years (Euba 1993: 17).
One of his salient accomplishments was the training of the next generation of Nigerian composers who were to take the baton from him. His most famous students include Fela Sowande, Ayo Bankole, Lazarus Ekwueme, Christopher Oyesiku (an outstanding bass singer and brilliant choral conductor), and Charles Oluwole Obayomi Phillips, his son and successor at the Cathedral Church of Christ. Phillips composed primarily sacred music for worship in the church. His works include hymns, antiphonal chants (versicles and responses), several choral anthems in Yoruba language and two works for organ solo, Passacaglia on an African Folk Song and Variations on an African Folk Song. Some of his popular choral works are Emi Yoo Gbe Oju Mi S’Oke for SATB and Organ, Magnificat in C for SATB and Organ, and Samuel, a cantata for soloists, chorus and organ. Phillips wrote the first musicological treatise on African music by a trained indigenous musician, titled, Yoruba Music (Johannesburg: African Music Society, 1953). The book is a thorough documentation of his field research on Yoruba traditional music, showing how modern composers can utilize indigenous creative ideas to create contemporary works.