Clifton J. “Jerry” Noble, Jr.’s musical compositions and arrangements are requested and performed by singers and instrumentalists around the world. Choruses of all ages and abilities and instrumental ensembles from duos to full orchestras have commissioned and programmed his works.
Noble served the Smith College Music Department as a collaborative pianist from 1987 until his retirement in 2020. Many of his compositions, including Pastorale, A Tonic of Wilderness, Windows of the Morning, A Shakespeare Set, Tidings of Great Joy, and numerous arrangements of folk songs and spirituals; The Erie Canal, This Little Light of Mine, Elijah Rock, and others were written for Smith (treble) choirs.
His vocal music catalog includes many works for mixed choir.
Ensembles that have commissioned Noble include the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Assabet Valley Mastersingers, the Holyoke Civic Symphony Orchestra, the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra, Music in Deerfield, the Canticle Singers of Baltimore, the Bel Canto Singers of Nevada, the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield, Young Singers of Greater Westfield, the Children’s Chorus of Springfield, and the Western MA Young People’s Philharmonia.
Among the acclaimed solo artists who have commissioned Noble are saxophonist Lynn Klock, baritone Donald Boothman, violinist Joel Pitchon, cellist Anup Kumar Biswas, guitarist & banjarist Michael Nix,and pianist Monica Jakuc-Leverett.
Other singular commissions include Parting Words, a cantata celebrating the tercentenary of Northampton minister Jonathan Edwards, and Five Choral Haiku, premiered at the 2004 Five College Choral Festival at Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall. Encounter for orchestra and narrator, commissioned by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with author Jane Yolen, was premiered on April 28, 2008. Noble also collaborated with Yolen to set the text of her book Johnny Appleseed for chamber ensemble, children’s choir, and narrator in the fall of 2008. His Champlain 400, for string quartet and narrator, was commissioned by the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s explorations of Lake Champlain. His arrangement of the African-American spiritual Go Down Moses was premiered at Alden Baptist Church in Springfield in 2008 by the combined Mak’hela and Freedom Choirs, under the direction of Kayla Werlin. Mak’hela also performed Go Down Moses at the 2010 Zimriya World Assembly of Choirs in Israel. In October 2010, the Holyoke Civic Symphony premiered Marching In, a concerto for jazz trio and orchestra. Noble has also been commissioned to produced numerous arrangements for Boston Saengerfest Men’s Chorus, including A Cask of Porter, featuring a medley of songs by Cole Porter.
He also enjoys playing traditional jazz with clarinetist Bob Sparkman. Bob and Jerry have recorded nine CDs of their favorite tunes: Good Talks, Still Talkin’, Talkin’ It Over, Sweet Talk, Something Mellow, Something Blue, Bob and Jerry LIVE, Thanks a Million, Midwinter Blues, and June Jazz. They also collaborated with bassist Genevieve Rose and drummer Richard Mayer on Mayer’s CD Vermont Songbook. In 2016, Jerry and Bob invited bassist Kara Noble to join them to form The Bob Sparkman Trio, and in 2018 the group recorded the CD Tunes in the Key of Three.
A CD of Noble’s Sonatas for Violin and Piano was released in 2006 by Gasparo Records. De Profundis, a sonata for baritone saxophone and piano (comissioned by Lynn Klock, Professor of Music at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) is included on Klock’s Albany Records CD entitled Connections, which was released in 2010. Klock also commissioned Canueon Cymru, a suite of Welsh folksongs arranged for alto saxophone and orchestra, and premiered it with the Pioneer Valley Symphony in February, 2011. In 2020 Albany Records released Klock’s CD Intersections, containing Noble’s Trio for Alto Saxophone, Horn, and Piano, and in 2023, Big Round Records LLC released Michael Nix’s Apercu, with a recording of Noble’s NixPix, commissioned by Nix as part of the New Classic Banjo Project.
Noble is a highly regarded keyboard performer in the Pioneer Valley. He has served as organist and choir director at both Edwards Church in Northampton and Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenfield, and taught general music to students in grades K-6 at Holy Trinity School in Greenfield. He accompanied the Young Singers of Greater Westfield for 10 years, and regularly accompanied student performances in the Westfield Public Schools and throughout the Five Colleges. Noble served as the organist at Christ Church United Methodist from 2016 to 2022. He became the Music Director at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Westfield in January 2023.
Noble was born in 1961. His father taught him to play piano and guitar at age 5, and encouraged him to write music shortly thereafter. His studies at Amherst College (B. A. 1983) and Smith College (M.A. 1988) focused on music composition and English literature. Composition teachers included M. Lewis Spratlan at Amherst and Donald Wheelock at Smith.