Lowell Mason

8 January 1792–11 August 1872


Lowell Mason, ca. 1840, engraving by H. Wright Smith, Boston Public Library.

LOWELL MASON, Mus. Doc., born at Medfield, Massachusetts, Jan. 8, 1792, died at Orange, New Jersey, Aug. 11, 1872. He was self taught, and in his own words “spent twenty years of his life in doing nothing save playing on all manner of musical instruments that came within his reach.” At 16 he was leader of the choir in the village church, and a teacher of singing classes. At 20 he went to Savannah, Georgia, as clerk in a bank, and there continued to practise, lead, and teach.

In the course of these labours he formed, with the help of F.L. Abel, a collection of psalm tunes based on Gardiner’s Sacred Melodies, itself adapted to tunes extracted from the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. This collection was published by the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston in 1822 under the title of The Handel and Haydn Society’s Collection of Church Music, Mason’s name being almost entirely suppressed. The book sold well: it enabled the Society to tide over the period of its youth, and establish itself as one of the charateristic institutions of Boston, it initiated a purer and healthier taste for music in New England, and it led to Mason’s removal to Boston and to his taking “a general charge of music in the churches there,” in 1827.

He then became president of the Society; but as his object was not so much the cultivation of high class music as the introduction of music as an essential element of education in the common schools, he soon left it and established the Boston Academy of Music in 1832. He founded classes on the system of Pestalozzi, and at length in 1838 obtained power to teach in all the schools of Boston. At the same time he founded periodical conventions of music teachers, which have been found very useful, and are now established in many parts of the States. He also published a large number of manuals and collections which have sold enormously and produced him a handsome fortune.

He visited Europe first in 1837 with the view of examining the methods of teaching in Germany, and embodied the results in a volume entitled Musical Letters from Abroad (New York, 1853). He was for long closely connected with the Public Board of Education of Massachusetts, his kindness and generosity were notorious, and he was universally admired and esteemed. He degree of Doctor in Music, the first of the kind comferred by an American college, was granted by the New York University in 1835.

The last years of his life were spent at Orange in New Jersey, the residence of his two sons. He formed a very fine library which he collected far and wide, regardless of expense. Of his sons, William, born 1828, received a liberal education in music and was long recognized as a leading pianist in New York; while Lowell and Henry are respectively president and treasurer of the Mason and Hamlin Organ Company at Boston.

by Alexander W. Thayer
A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 2 (1879), ed. George Grove

Featured Tunes:


Collections of Hymn Tunes:

Note: This list only includes first editions, except where noted. For a more detailed list of editions, see Carol A. Pemberton, Lowell Mason: A Bio-Bibliography (1988). For an index of his tunes and their publications, see Henry L. Mason, Hymn-Tunes of Lowell Mason: A Bibliography (1944).

The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music (1822; 2nd ed., 1823: PDF)
Select Chants, Doxologies (1824 | WorldCat)
Choral Harmony (1830: PDF)
Church Psalmody (text-only, 1831: PDF)
Spiritual Songs for Social Worship

1831 (PDF): vol. 1 | vol. 2 | vol. 3 | vol. 4
1832 (PDF)
1833 (PDF)
1837 (PDF)

The Choir, or Union Collection (1832; 2nd ed., 1833: PDF)
Lyra Sacra (1832: PDF)
Sacred Melodies (1833 | WorldCat)
The Boston Collection of Anthems (1834 | WorldCat)
The Sacred Harp, or Eclectic Harmony (1834; rev. ed. 1835: PDF)
Sentences, or Short Anthems, Hymn Tunes, and Chants (1834 | WorldCat)
The Boston Academy's Collection of Church Music (1835; 3rd ed., 1835: PDF)
Occasional Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1836: PDF)
The Seraph: A Monthly Publication of Church Music (1838-1840: PDF)
The Boston Anthem Book (1839: PDF)
The Modern Psalmist (1839: PDF)
Carmina Sacra (1841: PDF)
The Harp (1841)
The Sacred Harp, or Beauties of Sacred Music

Volume 1 (1841: PDF)
Volume 2 (1841? | WorldCat)

Book of Chants (1842: PDF)
Chapel Hymns (1842: PDF)
Musical Service of the Protestant Episcopal Church (1843 | WorldCat)
Songs of Asaph (1843: PDF)
The Psaltery (1845: PDF)
The Choralist (1847 | WorldCat)
The Congregational Tune Book (1848: PDF)
The National Psalmist (1848: PDF)
Fifty-Nine Select Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1849 | WorldCat)
The Hymnist (1849-1850 | WorldCat)
Cantica Laudis (1850: PDF)
The New Carmina Sacra (1850: PDF)
Mason's Hand-book of Psalmody (1852 | WorldCat)
Congregational Church Music (1853-1854 | I. WorldCat | II. WorldCat)
The Hallelujah (1854: PDF)
The Sabbath Hymn and Tune Book (1859: PDF)
The People's Tune Book (1860 | WorldCat)
The New Sabbath Hymn and Tune Book (1866: PDF)
The New Sabbath Hymn and Tune Book: Baptist Ed. (1867: PDF)
Carmina Sacra Enlarged: The American Tune Book (1869: PDF)
Congregational Church Music (1869 | WorldCat)

For children:

The Juvenile Psalmist (1829: PDF)
The Juvenile Lyre (1831: PDF (1832))
Sabbath School Songs (1833: PDF (1841))
The Sabbath School Harp (1836: PDF)
The Juvenile Songster (1837: PDF)
Juvenile Music (1839: PDF)
Little Songs for Little Singers (1840: PDF)
The Boston School Song Book (1841: PDF)
The American Sabbath School Singing Book (1843: PDF)
The Primary School Song Book (1846: PDF)
The Song-Book of the School Room (1847: PDF)
The Song Garden (1864-1866)

Volume 1: PDF
Volume 2: PDF
Volume 3: PDF


Find it on Amazon:


Life & Works:

Alexander W. Thayer, “Lowell Mason,” A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. George Grove, vol. 2 (London: Macmillan & Co., 1879), p. 225: Archive.org

Alexander W. Thayer, “Lowell Mason,” Dwight’s Journal of Music, vol. 39, no. 1007 (22 Nov. 1879), pp. 186-187 (HathiTrust).

William Mason, Memories of a Musical Life (NY: The Century Co., 1901: PDF).

J.H. Hall, “Dr. Lowell Mason,” Biographies of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers (NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914), pp. 17-22: Archive.org.

Henry L. Mason, A List of the Principal Published Works of Dr. Lowell Mason, Showing Which of These Are in the Collection of the Essex Institute (unpublished, 1936 | WorldCat).

Henry L. Mason, Lowell Mason: An Appreciation of His Life and Work (NY: Hymn Society, 1941 | WorldCat).

Henry L. Mason, Hymn-Tunes of Lowell Mason: A Bibliography (Cambridge, MA: University Press, 1944 | WorldCat).

Arthur Lowndes Rich, Lowell Mason: The Father of Singing Among the Children (University of North Carolina Press, 1946 | WorldCat).

Carol A. Pemberton, Lowell Mason: His Life and Work (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985 | WorldCat | Amazon).

Carol A. Pemberton, Lowell Mason: A Bio-Bibliography (NY: Greenwood Press, 1988 | WorldCat | Amazon).

Carol A. Pemberton, “Teaching the people their sacred songs: Lowell Mason and his work,” The Hymn, vol. 43, no. 1 (Jan. 1992), pp. 17-20 (HathiTrust).

George Brandon, “Mason in the long run,” The Hymn, vol. 43, no. 4 (Oct. 1992), pp. 19-23 (HathiTrust).

Carol A. Pemberton, “Praising God through Congregational Song: Lowell Mason’s Contributions to Church Music,” The Hymn, vol. 44, no. 2 (April 1993), pp. 22-30 (HathiTrust).

“Lowell Mason: A Realistic Portrayal” [Multiple articles on Lowell Mason], The Quarterly: Journal of Music Teaching and Learning, vol. 3, no. 3 (Fall 1992).

Paul Westermeyer, “Lowell Mason,” Let the People Sing: Hymn Tunes in Perspective (Chicago: GIA, 2005), pp. 297-303.

Michael Broyles, A Yankee Musician in Europe: The 1837 Journals of Lowell Mason (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2010 | WorldCat | Amazon).

Harry Eskew, et al. “Mason family(ii),” Grove Music Online (2001), https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.17984

Related Links:

Lowell Mason House:

Lowell Mason at Hymnary.org:

Karl Kroeger, “Lowell Mason,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology: