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Dr. John Campbell
Hardin-Simmons professor finds prestige in Spain
By Loretta Fulton /
The headline read "Music Out of Heaven From Texas."
Although it was in Spanish, Dr. John Campbell didn't have any trouble understanding. Nor did he have difficulty translating the words of the text of the story, especially the ones that said he was a prestigious organist from Abilene, Texas.
"I had to go to Spain to be prestigious," Campbell joked.
But even in his own country, and hometown, Campbell is well respected as organist at First Baptist Church and head of the Department of Performance Studies at Hardin-Simmons University.
Being from Texas just added to Campbell's appeal during his two-week stay at Caceres, a city of 80,000 in the western region of Spain known as Extremadura. Even the programs spelled "Texas" in all capital letters, just to grab people's attention.
"They're fascinated with Texas," Campbell's wife, Lillie said.
Campbell went to Spain at the invitation of two Baptist missionaries and the mayor of Caceres.He took with him a letter of greeting from Abilene Mayor Gary McCaleb. Caceres is learning much about Texas. Last year the choir from First Baptist Church in Mineral Wells performed there and was invited back again this year. In a letter to Campbell, the mayor of Caceres said the Mineral Wells visit was the "first transatlantic and interdenominational exchange for our city in modern history, and we appreciated all the effort and Christian goodwill we received."
Campbell was most pleased with that report because his missionary friends, David and Joy Borgan, have been working for three years trying to foster that goodwill. Spain is strongly Roman Catholic, and evangelistic missionaries of other denominations are not always well received, although they have been in Caceres, Campbell said.
"What the missionaries there are trying to do is establish credibility," Campbell said.
While in Caceres, Campbell visited with the Roman Catholic bishop of the province, who was very receptive to the Baptist missionaries.
"In this city the bishop is very open," Lillie Campbell said, "but apparently that's not true everywhere."
Campbell played four concerts in Spain, including one in a church, two in historic cathedrals and one at the Conservatory in Caceres. Caceres, according to its mayor, was named the second best preserved medieval city in all of Europe, and that was evident to the Campbells.
As guests of the mayor, the Campbells stayed in a palace that had been converted into a five-star hotel. Campbell also played two antique organs, including one built in the 1600s that was "perfectly beautiful," he said. Performing on those two instruments "was probably the best experience for me," Campbell said. He also was interviewed on national public radio, anchored a symposium at the Conservatory on 20th century American music, and apparently developed an adoring following. Campbell received standing ovations from overflow audiences while performing classical religious music and 20th century American pieces.
As a representative of Hardin-Simmons, Campbell felt compelled to take along a little bit of home for his hosts to see. A plaque with horseshoes from the university's famed Six White Horses proved to be a big hit. Although the horses won't be making a trip to Spain, the Cowboy Band may in 2001, Campbell said. The band was invited this year, but two months' notice just wasn't sufficient.
"The band appeals to them very much," Campbell said.
Having Campbell putting in a plug for them didn't hurt the band's chances, either. As a student at Hardin-Simmons from 1953-57, Campbell played trumpet in the world renown band. He may not be blowing his own horn anymore, but Campbell paved the way for a good reception for the band if it makes the trip in three years.
"You might say I was an advance party for them," he said.