The value and meaning of music within Freemasonry

From Bro Ange of Lord Carrington Lodge 111 & Lodge of Evolution 931 UGLV

As Freemasons we are advised to study and appreciate the seven liberal arts and sciences. These are known by us, one and all, as grammar, logic, rhetoric, astronomy, arithmetic, geometry & music.

Music has an important place within the workings of the Lodge, and is evident with the installation of the Lodge Organist (where they are present) and, within United Grand Lodge Victoria (UGLV) itself, the Grand Organist. The value we place upon Music is also evident in the Choirs both at some Lodges and at UGLV, as well as in the position of the Grand Herald (a trumpeter who plays fanfares).

Music’s history is found within Freemasonry long before the formal foundation of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria. It is found in the consecration of the UGLV, and in a vast number of ensuing concerts. In the founding of a Lodge specifically by choirists, in the name and in the honour of our very first Grand Master, Sir William Clarke.

In concerts written specifically for the UGLV, for Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, for HRH the Prince of Wales, and much more.

It is found intertwined with the fact that some ‘earlier’ Masons were exceptionally talented and well known musicians. People such as the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the amazing Gilbert and Sullivan. Haydn, Sibelius, Ludwig Beethoven, J S Bach, Puccini, Franz Liszt... as well as more recently John Phillip Souza, George M Cohan, de Saint Georges and Irving Berlin.

Some of our Masonic music is religious sounding while other is very distinctly Masonic or well known for other words. The Magic Flute is noted for being Masonic, but both Mozart and Haydn also wrote music for use in Lodges, and especially for Masonic funerals. Similarly, Amazing Grace and Abide With Me are the creations of Masonic talent.

Music is a measure by which we can create harmony and contentment within a Lodge, as well as sending a message related to a particular officer of the Lodge, a message sometimes with a degree of humour as when a Treasurer arises and the Organist plays the ABBA song, “Money, Money Money’’.

It adds dimensions to rituals and to a variety of ceremonies, to our varied degree work and in one sense to “filling otherwise empty space”, although its relevance and enjoyment go far further.

According to the well know web site Wikipedia The 'Organist' or 'Director of Music' provides musical accompaniment to lodge proceedings, although there is no set form. Many lodge rooms are equipped with a pipe organ or electronic organ, and in others, there is provision for a wider range of instruments. In other places the Director of Music operates recorded or digital music systems, such as at the Grand Lodge of Austria in Vienna.

In the example of Lord Carrington Lodge, our unofficial Director of Electronic Music is, of course WBro Lance Mc, Senior Warden. His amazing collection of Masonic Music has changed our Lodge in a positive way and significantly added to what we do within the Lodge. And that electronic format is the next generation after the Organ music that dominated our Lodges for well over a century.

Now while there are rules that correctly prevent unauthorized music being played or sung whilst rituals are actually in progress, those who visit other Lodges can attest to how a Lodge with music being played makes one feel far more invited and welcome. Of course, there is prescribed tunes and odes which are optional, but preferred, within Victorian Degree and other Ceremonies.

Certainly Lord Carrington Lodge meetings are all the more impressive since WBro. McG. brought his fine collection of recorded Masonic music to the lodge and we thank him for it, and similarly I have heard our incumbent Worshipful Master (Lodge Devotion’s Organist, Denis M.) play at several Lodges and wonderfully.

The Sweet Concord of Masonic Sounds CD can be purchased from the UGLV office for a mere $4 and it provides music for the words in the booklet of the same name that we have.

UGLV has, as we all well know, a Grand Herald whose trumpet plays a special role in events at UGLV, such as Quarterly Communications, but also at every installation of every Master of a Lodge. He heralds specific episodes within the Installation, and as such is an intricate component of every ceremony.

There is also the Grand Organist whose role is basically the same as that of every Lodge Organist and, of course, the Grand Choir who add spectacle and glamour to every major event at UGLV. (And there are always vacancies for those with an interest).

Within the Lodge, many have an organist, and our two esteemed brethren here can tell us much more. But quite a number of Lodges, such as the Doutta Galla Lodge in Essendon, also have wonderful choirs and if you have heard them you must be impressed.

The position of Organist within a Lodge is not compulsory but one which the Worshipful Master “may” appoint at his discretion.

Lord Carrington is blessed to have at least two organists in Grand Organist RWB Kevin McC. and Organist WB Dennis M. And our own WB Reg V. is learning how to play the trumpet for Masonic events and may one day become a Herald.

The installation of the Organist goes as follows, and I was pleased to hear this presented at the recent North Melbourne Installation.

Br……, I appoint you Organist of the Lodge, and I invest you with the Collar and Jewel of your Office. Your jewel, the Lyre is the emblem of Music; one of the seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, the study of which is inculcated in the Fellow-Crafts’ Degree. The records of Ancient History, both sacred and secular, testify that from the earliest times, Music has borne a more or less important part in the celebration of religious rites and ceremonies; that Pagans and Monotheists, the Ancient Hebrews, and the more comparatively modern Christians, have in all Ages made full and free use of music, as an aid to devotion, and in the expression of praise and thanks giving in the services of their several systems of religion. In like manner Freemasonry, from the earliest period of its history, has availed itself of the aid of music in the performance of its rites and ceremonies; and we must all feel how much of impressiveness and solemnity is derived from the judicious introduction of instrumental music into those ceremonies. Music has been defined as “the concord of sweet sounds.” In this respect it typifies the concord and harmony which has always been among the foremost characteristics of our Order. Your Jewel, therefore, the emblem of Concord, should stimulate us to promote and to maintain concord, goodwill and affection, not only among the members of our own Lodge, but amongst all Brethren of the Craft.

An identical charge comes with the installation of Choirmaster, should a Worshipful Master determine to appoint an appropriate volunteer within the Lodge. Let us not ignore the fact that – as stated in a second degree lecture – music teaches us the art of forming concords, so as to produce a delightful harmony, by a mathematical and proportionate arrangement of acute, grave and mixed sounds. ...[snip] and it is used in praise of the Grand Geometrician of the Universe.