Lowell Mason

Lowell Mason

Medfield, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 11 Aug 1872 (aged 80)
West Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, USA
Burial Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, USA
Plot Old Cemetery, Lot 871
Memorial ID 3999 · View Source
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Religious Musical Composer. He was a leading figure and prolific writer of American church music, having composed the tunes to over 1,600 hymns, including the well-known hymns "Nearer My God to Thee," "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," "Joy to the World," "Blest Be the Tie That Binds," and "My Faith Looks Up to Thee." He was also credited with setting the music to the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb." He was born and raised in Medfield, Massachusetts, where both of his parents sang in the church choir. He learned to play several instruments at a young age and when he was 16, he became the music director of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Medfield and two years later he became the director of the Medfield town band. He moved to Savannah, Georgia at the age of 20, working in a dry goods store and then in a bank. As an amateur musician, he studied music composition with the German teacher Frederick Abel and soon began writing his own religious music. He became the music leader of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, serving as organist and choir director, and was responsible for creating the first Sunday school for black children in America. He wanted to produce a hymnal whose tunes reflected the work of European composers, such as Wolfgang Mozart and George Frederick Handel. He was finally successful in getting it published in 1822, which turned out to be a great success even though it was published anonymously because he did not want to jeopardize what he considered his main career to be at that time, which was a banker. In 1827, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts and continued his banking career. He served as the organist and choirmaster at the Park Street Church from 1829 to 1831, eventually becoming a music director for three churches in a six-month rotation, including the Hanover Street Church whose pastor was the famous Lyman Beecher. He served as president of the Handel and Haydn Society, taught music in public schools, and in 1833 was the co-founder of the Boston Academy of Music. In 1838, he was appointed music superintendent for the Boston school system, serving in that capacity until 1845. In 1851, he retired from Boston musical activity and moved to New York City, New York, where his sons, Daniel and Lowell, Jr. had a music business. In December 1851, he sailed to Europe where he developed a great interest and enthusiasm for congregational singing, especially in the German churches of Nicolaikirche in Leipzig and Kreuzkinche in Dresden. He returned to New York City and in 1853, he accepted a position as music director for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, where he disbanded the choir and installed an organ with his son, William, serving as the organist. During his tenure there, which lasted until 1860, he was instrumental in the development of congregational singing to the point where the church was known as having the finest congregational singing in the city. In 1855, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Yale University. In 1859, he, along with Edwards A. Parks and Austin Phelps, published the "Sabbath Hymn Tune Book." He retired in 1860 to his home in Orange, New Jersey, remaining active in the city's Congregational Church, and died there in 1872.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 14 Nov 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3999
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lowell Mason (8 Jan 1792–11 Aug 1872), Find a Grave Memorial no. 3999, citing Rosedale Cemetery, Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .