Last November, a week before Thanksgiving, America lost a living legend. Kenneth W. Louis (1956-2020), a vaunted figure within the Black Catholic community and the wider world of liturgy and music, succumbed to a circulatory condition and departed this life.
His legacy lives on, however, and another Black musical genius, Nolan Williams Jr., collected a number of tributes to commemorate his friend's impact and work.
Legendary gospel composer and recording artist
“Kenneth was a musical icon in the DMV. In fact, his compositions are still sung in churches across the country. Kenneth was a first-class musician, director, and teacher. His presence will be sorely missed. I’m grateful for his legacy, which will live on, and for the many that he touched with his gift!!”
Vice Dean and Professor of Choral Music Education, Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts, Temple University
“Kenneth Louis was a gifted composer and music director who made significant contributions to the liturgical landscape of the modern Catholic church. Joining the work of Fr. Clarence Rivers and Sister Thea Bowman, who helped to usher African American musical styles into Catholic liturgy, it was composers such as Grayson Warren Brown, Leon Roberts, Rawn Harbor and Kenneth Louis who carried the mantle forward. These dedicated musicians, among many others, successfully synthesized a contemporary cultural worship art form by combining the plainchant traditions of the past, the musical languages of the African diaspora, and the faith of a people who desired to see and hear their lived experiences reflected in their worship. Kenneth Louis helped to give voice to African American spirituality through his music; his legacy will continue to live through the voices of choristers and congregants for generations to come.”
Program Manager for the Social Impact department at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
"Kenneth was an extraordinary musician, and leaves a remarkable legacy, to say the least. I had the honor of being under his baton for several years during holiday services at Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Catholic Church of Washington, D.C. Every year, I looked forward to working with him as he displayed a deep base of knowledge while maintaining a fun and musically driven atmosphere for the musicians and church members that came together year after year.
When I began working as a part of the administrative staff at The Kennedy Center, it was far from a surprise for me to learn about all of the work he [had done] on stage with ensembles in our Concert Hall—he was someone who exemplified humor, grace, and musicianship in every space he took presence in. His work on local and national stages will be missed, but his legacy will never be forgotten. I am so grateful to have crossed paths."