Lowell Mason

8 January 1792–11 August 1872


Lowell Mason, ca. 1840, engraved 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 characteristic 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. His 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): PDF [2nd ed.]
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

Related Links:

Lowell Mason House:

Lowell Mason, Hymnary.org:

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

Harry Eskew, et al. “Mason family(ii),” Grove Music Online (2001):