1792–1872
portrait
portrait

January 8, 1792, Med­field, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

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

Rosedale Cemetery, Orange, New Jer­sey.

portrait

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

He 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 congregation. 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.

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 biographical sketch appeared 10 years after Ma­son’s death, in The Song Friend, vol­ume III, 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.

Mason’s works include:

  1. Admah
  2. Adwell
  3. Ahaz
  4. Ain
  5. Ae
  6. Alvan
  7. Amboy
  8. Anah
  9. Antioch
  10. Anvern
  11. Apheka
  12. Arfau
  13. Ariel
  14. Arnville
  15. Ashwell
  16. Ayrton
  17. Azmon
  18. Baim
  19. Ballington
  20. Bealoth
  21. Beer-Shean
  22. Beethoven
  23. Belville
  24. Bethany
  25. Boylston
  26. Bradnor
  27. Brattle Street
  28. Brentford
  29. Brest
  30. Calaveras
  31. Capello
  32. Carmi
  33. Carnes
  34. Chimes
  35. Claremont
  36. Corydon
  37. Coventry
  38. Cowper
  39. Cyprus
  40. Dallas
  41. Danvers
  42. Darien
  43. Das Lieb­en Bringt Groß Freud
  44. Dennis
  45. Dort
  46. Downs
  47. Eden
  48. El Pa­ran
  49. Eltham
  50. Ernan
  51. Evan
  52. Farnham
  53. Ford
  54. Frenor
  55. Gadara
  56. Gerar
  57. Gregorian
  58. Haddam
  59. Hamburg
  60. Hamul
  61. Hanwell
  62. Hartel (similar to Mer­i­bah)
  63. Harwell
  64. Harwich
  65. Hebron
  66. Hendon
  67. Henley
  68. Hermon
  69. Highton
  70. Hilkiah
  71. Hirah
  72. Illa
  73. Ingham
  74. Iscah
  75. Israel
  76. Inverness
  77. Kane
  78. Kimball
  79. Laban
  80. Langdon
  81. Leni
  82. Litchfield
  83. Lowell
  84. Little Pilgrim, The
  85. Luz
  86. Malvern
  87. Mendebras
  88. Merdin
  89. Meribah
  90. Migdol
  91. Missionary Hymn
  92. Mond
  93. Moriah
  94. Mount Ver­non
  95. Mount Zi­on
  96. Murphy
  97. Murray
  98. Nain
  99. Naomi
  100. Nashville
  101. Nayton
  102. Norwich
  103. Oak
  104. Oliphant
  105. Olivet
  106. Olmutz
  107. Olney
  108. Orrington
  109. Orwell
  110. Ostend
  111. Ottawa
  112. Ovio
  113. Parbar
  114. Peal
  115. Penfield
  116. Punon
  117. Putney
  118. Reo
  119. Ripley
  120. Rockingham
  121. Rodman
  122. Rowley
  123. Sabbath
  124. Sale
  125. Selvin
  126. Serug
  127. Shalem
  128. Shawmut
  129. Shinar
  130. Snowfield
  131. Star of Peace
  132. Timna
  133. Trell
  134. Upton
  135. Ur
  136. Uxbridge
  137. Ward
  138. Watchman
  139. Wesley
  140. Whiteland
  141. Wilbraham
  142. Wilmot
  143. Work Song
  144. Wye
  145. Zebulon
  146. Zerah