Helen Kemp


The late Helen Kemp was, alongside husband John Kemp, a founding member and leader of Choristers Guild. A lyric soprano, she was well known in her early career for oratorio and recital performances. It was her love for the art of singing that propelled her into the field of children's choirs, which she regarded as the seed-bed for musical, artistic and personal growth of young choristers.

Helen trained children and their teachers in the art of choral singing for more than six decades. Known internationally as a specialist in the area of training young voices, she served as guest conductor and clinician in all 50 states as well as in countries around the world in both university and church settings. A hallmark of her work was her ability to empower dedicated volunteers to be successful choir directors, as well as to present techniques so solid and engaging that highly-trained professionals also could learn from her.

She guided and shaped successful children's choirs in churches, schools and communities in North American and beyond, as evidenced in the documentary video, A Helen Kemp Portrait (Choristers Guild). Her books and prepared instructional materials have become standard resources, and church choir directors around the world use her text,Of Primary Importance, and its Volume II sequel. Her choral compositions for children are widely performed. She is also the subject of a doctoral dissertation by Christine Farrier entitled Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice: Helen Kemp and the Development of the Children's Choir Movement (Univ. of N. Carolina, Greensboro, 1992).

The Kemps served two tenures on the faculty of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ, and held church positions in several states, including one at First Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City, where they spent 20 years developing an acclaimed church music program. Upon her retirement from Westminster Choir College, Kemp was named Professor Emerita of Voice and Church Music, and was awarded honorary Doctorates from Westminster Choir College and Shenandoah University. In 2003, she was awarded The Elaine Brown Award for Choral Excellence from the Pennsylvania ACDA, and a lifetime membership award from the Presbyterian Association of Musicians.