1792–1872

Introduction

Born: Jan­u­a­ry 8, 1792, Med­field, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Died: Au­gust 11, 1872, at his home, Sil­ver Spring, in Or­ange, New Jer­sey.

Buried: Rose­dale Ce­me­te­ry, Or­ange, New Jer­sey.

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Biography

Lowell was the son of John­son Ma­son and Ca­ty Harts­horn, hus­band of Ab­i­gail Gre­go­ry, bro­ther of Ti­mo­thy Ma­son, and fa­ther of Will­iam Ma­son.

Lowell showed an in­tense in­ter­est in mu­sic from child­hood. He lived in Sa­van­nah, Geor­gia, for 15 years, work­ing as a bank clerk, but pur­su­ing his true love—mu­sic—on the side.

He stu­died with Fried­rich Le­o­pold Abel, im­prov­ing his skills to the point where he be­gan com­pos­ing his own mu­sic.

Numerous pub­lish­ers in Phil­a­del­phia and Bos­ton re­ject­ed his ear­ly work, un­til it was fin­al­ly ac­cept­ed in 1822 by the Han­del and Hay­dn So­ci­e­ty of Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts, his na­tive state.

How­ev­er, the col­lect­ion did not ev­en car­ry Ma­son’s name:

I was then a bank of­fic­er in Sa­van­nah, and did not wish to be known as a mu­sic­al man, as I had not the least thought of ev­er mak­ing mu­sic a pro­fes­sion.

Little did he know that re­ject­ed col­lection would even­tu­al­ly go through 17 ed­i­tions (some sourc­es say 21) and sell 50,000 co­pies. It was adopt­ed by sing­ing schools in New Eng­land, and ev­en­tu­al­ly church choirs.

After see­ing the suc­cess of his work, Ma­son re­turned to Bos­ton in 1826. He al­so be­came the di­rect­or of mu­sic at the Han­o­ver, Green, and Park Street church­es, al­ter­nat­ing six months with each one.

Fin­al­ly, he made a per­ma­nent ar­range­ment with the Bow­doin Street Church, though he still held his job as tel­ler at the Am­er­i­can Bank.

Music con­tin­ued to pull on him, though: He be­came pre­si­dent of the Han­del and Hay­dn So­ci­e­ty in 1827. And it was in Bos­ton that Ma­son be­came the first mu­sic teach­er in an Am­er­i­can pub­lic school.

In 1833, he co-found­ed the Bos­ton Acad­e­my of Mu­sic. In 1838, he be­came mus­ic su­per­in­tend­ent for the Bos­ton schools. Ma­son wrote ov­er 1,600 re­li­gious works, and is oft­en called the fa­ther of Am­er­i­can church mu­sic.

The fol­low­ing sketch ap­peared 10 years af­ter Ma­son’s death, in The Song Friend, Vol­ume 3, num­ber 5 (Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois: Sol­o­mon W. Straub, 5 March 1882), page 1.

Dr. Lo­well Ma­son, the fa­ther of Hen­ry Ma­son and Lo­well Ma­son, of the Ma­son & Ham­lin Or­gan Co., and Dr. Wm. Ma­son, the em­in­ent com­pos­er, was born in Med­ford [sic], Mass., Jan. 8, 1792. At 21 years of age he re­moved to Sa­van­nah, Ga., where he re­mained for four­teen years; de­vot­ed hims­elf to teach­ing vo­cal and in­stru­ment­al mu­sic; was or­gan­ist and choir-lead­er in one of the larg­est church­es, and was al­so en­gaged in the ser­vice of one the bank­ing hous­es.

At the age of 35 he re­turned to Bos­ton, where for ma­ny years he was con­duc­tor of the Han­del and Hay­dn So­ci­e­ty. He al­so, in con­nec­tion with Mr. George James Webb, es­tab­lished the Bos­ton Acad­e­my of Mu­sic, the first reg­u­lar­ly char­tered music-school in the coun­try, and in­tro­duced sing­ing as a branch of in­struc­tion in the pub­lic schools.

Shortly af­ter his re­turn from the South he is­sued his first church mu­sic book, The Han­del and Hay­dn So­ci­e­ty’s Col­lect­ion, fol­lowed by the Car­mi­na Sac­ra and oth­ers which have been in­stru­ment­al in pop­u­lar­iz­ing the stu­dy of church mu­sic, and which com­plete­ly re­vo­lu­tion­ized the char­ac­ter of the mu­sic in use in our church­es.

He was for a long time in­tim­ate­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with Dr. Wood­bridge, Hor­ace Mann and oth­er cel­e­brat­ed re­form­ers in po­pu­lar ed­u­ca­tion, and de­vot­ed much time and la­bor to the in­struc­tion and train­ing of teach­ers of sing­ing in Nor­mal schools es­tab­lished for that pur­pose.

The lat­er years of his life were spent for the most part at his home, Sil­ver Spring, in Or­ange, New Je­rsey, where he died Au­gust 11, 1872, at the age of eigh­ty years.

Many peo­ple not per­sonal­ly ac­quaint­ed with Dr. Ma­son fall in­to the mis­take of at­trib­ut­ing his suc­cess to a hap­py com­bin­a­tion of cir­cum­stanc­es, as the pro­fes­sion of mu­sic of­fered a com­par­a­tive­ly new and un­oc­cu­pied field of en­ter­prise at the time he en­tered it.

The truth is, Dr. Ma­son would have been equal­ly dis­ting­uished in any pro­fes­sion; he would have made a great law­yer, judge, or phy­si­cian, had he chos­en the pro­fess­ion of law or me­di­cine.

He was not a great mu­si­cian, per­haps in the tech­ni­cal sense. He was not a great sing­er or play­er or com­pos­er. But he was a great man; he had that keen, lo­gic­al and an­a­ly­tic­al qual­i­ty of mind which en­a­bled him to go to the root of things. He saw that all gen­u­ine re­form must be­gin at the foun­da­tion.

At the time he is­sued his first book for use in sing­ing-schools the text books of mu­sic­al no­ta­tion con­tained on­ly a con­fused jum­ble of ob­scure and con­tra­dic­to­ry state­ments, with a few ex­er­cis­es for prac­tice, thrown to­ge­th­er with­out much re­gard be­ing paid to an­y­thing like or­der­ly ar­range­ment or me­thod. Dr. Ma­son changed all this, and gave us a sys­tem of no­ta­tion which for clear­ness of state­ment, and or­der­ly, pro­gres­sive ar­range­ment, is un­sur­passed.

No pe­rson could be brought in­to con­tact with Dr. Ma­son with­out feel­ing the in­flu­ence of this strong per­son­al­i­ty, and we can safe­ly say that this in­flu­ence was al­ways in the right di­rec­tion. He had that sim­ple dig­ni­ty and no­bil­i­ty of char­ac­ter which seemed to stim­u­late and pur­i­fy the pur­pos­es and aims of those who came un­der his in­flu­ence. No man hat­ed fals­ehood and shams more heart­i­ly than he, or de­tect­ed and ex­posed them with great­er keen­ness and cer­tain­ty.

Publications

Sources

Music