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Music Used in English Lodges

Crest of the United Grand Lodge of England

Correspondance with Brother Hugh Derekson

My curiosity was aroused when I saw that you had the words but not the music [for the Festive Boards].

I belong to two Craft Lodges and one Royal Arch Chapter here in Liverpool and they, in turn, are in the Province of West Lancashire. (The original masonic Province of Lancashire, which was based on the County of Lancashire, grew too big and was divided in two in 1826). With about 530 Lodges we like to boast that we are the biggest Province in the world under the United Grand Lodge of England! However, should we make too much noise, our neighbours, the Province of Cheshire, remind us that they are the oldest Province. Lodges generally meet 6, 7, 8 or 9 times a year and it is usual to have a Festive Board at every meeting (I understand that this is not necessarily the case in North America).

Within a semicircle of about 15 miles radius from my home there are about 220 Lodges, meeting in 9 Masonic Halls and one or two other buildings. Extend that radius by 5 miles and there are many more. Pianists/organists are a dying breed so I'm kept very busy. In my capacity as Provincial Grand Organist I travel much further afield for special occasions and there is wide variation in the use of music.

First of all, divide the music under two headings; in the Lodge and at the Festive Board.

Many Lodges open with an Opening Ode and the most common is 'Hail Eternal! by whose aid' and the most common tune is St. Bees. Other tunes are Vienna, Innocents, University College and I have come across Dix. The use of choral music during the ceremonies has died out although I believe it is still used in North Wales (naturally!). In the Third Degree some Lodges sing one verse only of 'Days and Moments' to the tune St. Sylvester. The most common Closing Ode is 'Now the evening shadows closing' to the tune St. Oswald. Other tunes for the Closing Ode are St Sylvester, Stuttgart, Ringe Recht (Batty) and Sharon.

At an Installation Meeting some Lodges sing 'Prosper the Art' after the Entered Apprentices have been re-admitted.

At the Festive Board, after Grace at the conclusion of the meal, various Toasts are proposed. The National Anthem is sung when the First Toast is proposed (The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster - proposed in this form in the County of Lancashire and nowhere else). For the Toast to Absent and Seafaring Brethren, 'Eternal Father, strong to save' is sung to the tune Melita. In some areas, where the Toast might be to Absent Brethren, they sing 'When in sorrow, when in danger' to the tune Cairnbrook, or 'Architect of love and mercy' to the tune Stephanos, or 'Architect for thy protection' to the tune Stephanos, or 'Great Architect, our Guide, our stay' to the tune Arizona.

For the Toast to the newly-initiated Entered Apprentice, the Entered Apprentice's Song is sung, but not necessarily all seven verses and not always the same way with regard to the chorus repeats of the solo line. The evening may finish with one of the variations on 'Harmony'.

At an Installation, for the Toast to the newly-installed Master, the 'Master's Song' (or properly titled 'Here's To His Health In A Song') is sung by a soloist, usually engaged specially for the occasion. This song is a topic for discussion all on its own.

Fraternal best wishes.
Derek Hughson.


And more light from Brother Derek:

Please bear with me. There's a lot of material to go through. And don't forget my curiosity, too. Are you interested because you're a singer or an instrumentalist? [Me? A singer, Ed.]

Do I have the music for .......? The answer is yes and with regard to the music for the Master's Song, see below. By the way, all the tunes referred to by names are hymn tunes. If your hymn book doesn't have them, let me know. I have music and words for everything I have mentioned so far. Where do I send it?

I have a lot of it on computer files for use with 'Personal Composer' (Personal Composer, Inc., P.O.Box 33016, Tulsa, OK 74153-1016) so if you have access to that software I only need to send a disk.

The Song of Welcome (Brethren from the East and West) I haven't encountered. What you have listed as 'Personal Toast' ('Let us have harmony' or a variation of it) is usually referred to as 'Harmony' and is usually sung at the conclusion of the evening. The Visitor's Toast looks like a variation on 'Worthy Mason He'.

THE MASTER'S SONG Words and music for a Master's Song appear in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions, 1723. 28 verses! It doesn't appeal to our 20/21st century ears. An arrangement of it is printed in 'Six Masonic Songs Of the Eighteenth Century', published by Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ.

'The Master's Song' is the commonly-used reference for the song entitled 'Here's To His Health in A Song', words by R.R.Bealey and music by J.M.Bentley, date of publication unknown but probably late 1800s. The words (This world is so hard and so stony) are somewhat dated and the music (in 3/4) is uninspiring. The song is sung only at an Installation, which is a happy occasion but there is a tendency to perform the song as a dirge. It looks as though it was originally published in E flat with a later version in C, the latter having a slight variation in the melody line in the verse and the piano part is a little easier. I have copies of these originals. The song is in common use here on Merseyside and I have re-arranged it to provide more movement in the harmonies, to simplify the piano part and to reflect the manner in which it is performed. The compass of the melody is one octave, tonic to tonic, and to suit the various singers I have my arrangement in B flat, C, D flat, D and E flat.

The song was also published with music by J.Randle Fletcher in the key of G. The compass of the melody is a ninth, from D to E, with an interesting tenor line in the chorus above the melody thus making it a duet. It is a much more appealing piece of music and being in 6/8 there is a suggestion of a livelier performance. I have a copy of this. A mere 25 miles away, around the Preston area, this is the tune that is used.

About 30 years ago, a Liverpool Mason and former Provinical Grand Organist, Ernest Watkinson, wrote 'The Master's Song'. The words are much more appropriate and the tune, in D, is a good one. The compass of the melody is one octave, D to D. I have a copy of this in the maestro's own hadnwriting. I have re-arranged this one as well and I also have it in B flat for the bass voice. The words are so popular that they are frequently heard sung to the Bentley tune. Every now and again I persuade the singer to sing the Watkinson version, words and tune, to the pleased amazement of the Brethren who have "never heard that one before"!

There was published a song entitled 'Here's A Health To Our Worshipful Master'. Words by J. Fawcett Skelton and music by J. Batchelder in the key of F and in 4/4 time, but I have only a few bars of it. I'd like to see the whole thing.

There was also a song 'The Worshipful Master's Toast', words by H.J.Nicholls and music by Henry Round. That's as much as I know about that.

THE LADIES' SONG Once a year a Lodge will have a Ladies' Evening, which usually takes the form of a formal dinner and dance, during which there will be a Toast to the Ladies immediately followed by the Ladies' Song. This is the same tune as the Master's Song, done the same way, but with the words changed to suit the occasion. I have six sets of words for this and there are two others that I don't have!

To learn something of Freemasonry in West Lancashire have a look at www.btinternet.com/~wl

Fraternally, Derek Hughson


And still more light:

It looks as though you and I are working towards similar ends. As an organist I am asked to many Lodges, particularly at Installations. When I arrive I ask "Do you sing Opening and Closing Odes?". If the answer is yes then I ask "Which Opening Ode do you sing?". To which I get the reply "The usual one.". My response is "I have six usual ones. Which one's yours?". And so it goes on. The Lodge will have no copy of the music and no record of the name of the tune.

Because of this I started to put together a collection of the music and words that I encounter. The real question is: where does all this information get stored? I suspect that you face the same difficulty.

There is an outfit that makes CDs which might be of interest to you:-

Masonic Media, 1 Mendip Cottages, Smithams Hill, East Harptree, Bristol BS40 6BZ, England
e-mail: info@masonicmedia.co.uk www.masonicmedia.co.uk

CDs are $29.60, p&p $7.40. They have a brochure but be warned. The music they play and the way they play it is not necessarily what is heard everywhere. Every Lodge has its own way of doing things and that goes for the music as well. Of course, every organist has his own way of doing things!

I have seen the term Lodge Musician. Is that an office in a US Lodge?

In English Lodges, the Organist is an Officer of the Lodge, appointed by the WM. Many Lodges do not have a Brother who can play so they employ one. As he is not a member of the Lodge he may not hold office in the Lodge so he can not be called Organist (with an upper-case O) and he may not wear the Organist's collar of office. The common practice is to call him Musical Director or Guest Organist. Incidentally, I don't play the organ in either of my Lodges as I maintain that I go to my Lodge to relax and enjoy the evening, the same as everybody else.

From your remarks I deduce that US masonry is having the same problem as UK masonry, i.e. nobody learns the piano/organ any more. It's a great shame because music can enhance the proceedings. There is in the library at Liverpool Masonic Hall a book of 'Masonic Music for Lodges and Chapters' which clearly shows how much music we no longer use in Lodge. The three Degree ceremonies are liberally interspersed with choral items but Lodges don't have an organist, let alone a choir! On the other hand, ceremonies must have taken a lot longer and nowadays the emphasis is on keeping it not too long. There is even talk of not having a Festive Board, or having a reduced version, so that Lodges can open later. We in the retired brigade don't have a problem but the younger brethren can find it difficult to get to Lodge, such is the pressure in today's workplace.

To combine music and history ..... there is also in the library a book of Masonic music full of songs, rounds and glees which I borrowed just out of curiosity. The music is very old with songs devoted to the praises of Masonry, the pleasures of drink, humour and one very rude. The material is obviously of a great age and there is no date in the book. There is, however, a list of subscribers which fascinated me more than the music. They are all shown by name with a brief mention of their occupation such as 'Apothecary, London', 'Keeper of the Salt Duties, Liverpool'. There are even ladies' names but some gentlemen were described as 'Antigallican' and I had to look for that in the dictionary. One subscriber is shown as the Mayor of Chester and that clue puts the book at about 250 years old!

The Personal Composer software that I have is capable of producing midi files and I use the facility to listen to what I have written because I can hear a wrong note quicker than I can see one on the screen. I should be able to produce something for you. They still sound artificial, though, and it's difficult to produce the variations in tempo and dynamics of a 'live' performance. 'The Master's Song' as performed can not be fully appreciated from a midi file. You need the 'operating instructions' as well! If you like, I'll send it by snail-mail and you can, perhaps, 'enlighten the minds of your Brethren' by singing it in your Lodge.

It's a funny old world. A piece of music was given to me last night. Copyrighted in 1935 it is entitled 'God Bless Such A Man And A Brother' and it begins 'This world is so hard and so stony'. Yes, its another version of the Master's Song!

Your Latin has baffled me. Caesar's Invasion of Britain I could just about cope with but Virgil defeated me. Translation, please.

[Pars cantandi pars saltandi
Et in bracas pars bullarum
(Sung to the tune of the Westminster Chimes)
Translation: A little song, a little dance,
a little seltzer down your pants! Ed.]

Fraternally, Derek Hughson

[You can hear some of these tunes at MasonicMEDIA http://www.masonicmedia.co.uk , Ed.]


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