A one-manual chamber organ, circa
1793, which is being refurbished
at Freemasons’ Hall, London
Music has always been integral to English
Freemasonry from the early years of the
18th 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 singing either unaccompanied or
with portable instruments, as the Lodges
were meeting in the private rooms of inns
and taverns which had to be cleared at the
end of a meeting.
During the 19th century dedicated
Masonic halls were built and a pipe organ
was often installed – mainly a reflection
of the Victorian vogue for pipe organs,
which by then were installed across England
in every ambitious church, chapel and
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 unimpeachable sources of church
and chapel 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
editions of Lodge music from the middle
of the 19th century until the zenith of such
publications in the early decades of the 20th.
The latest exhibition at the Library and
Museum of Freemasonry in London called
The Freemason’s Liber Musicus explores
this development of Masonic music
drawing on its unique collection of music
which is currently being catalogued. The
Freemason’s Liber Musicus is the work of
Dr William Spark, a Leeds organist whose
own musical and Masonic career illustrates
many aspects of this development.
In the 19th century many provincial
English cities established music festivals
whose profits were used to provide finance
for hospitals and other community facilities.
The festivals also enhanced a city’s status.
As leading citizens were involved with these
festivals, it is not surprising that we can find
a number of musical Freemasons playing
their part. One such case is Dr William
Spark at Leeds.
The growth of banking and trading
services to support the wool trade had led
to tremendous growth in the population
of Leeds in the early 19th century: the
population increased by a factor of three
between 1800 and 1841.