The latest exhibition in the Library and Museum explores the development of Masonic music over three centuries. Music has always been integral to English freemasonry from the early years of the eighteenth century and the inclusion of songs set to music in James Anderson’s first Book of Constitutions (1723) is clear evidence for this.
Early lodge music generally took the form of unaccompanied singing to popular tunes. During the nineteenth century dedicated Masonic halls were built and, often as a reflection of the Victorian vogue, a pipe organ was often installed. The previous century’s tradition of lodge music, with its echoes of tavern culture, was ill-suited to the new lodge environment, and so the process of appropriating a new musical repertoire from the church, chapel and the classical repertoire began. Christian hymns and psalms, and new music inspired by them, expressing sentiments thought to validate freemasonry’s fraternal tenets, began to dominate. A profusion of such material appeared in inexpensive, commercially produced editions of lodge music from the middle of the nineteenth century until the zenith of such publications in the early decades of the twentieth. The Freemason’s Liber Musicus (illustrated here) was a much reprinted compendium of music for all lodge occasions, compiled by Dr William Spark, member of the Lodge of Fidelity No 289, Borough Organist at Leeds and a prolific composer of both sacred and secular music. The exhibition runs from February to May 2007.