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Music in Worship is Selah's occasional newsletter for church musicians, with interviews and helpful articles for choir directors, organists, and leaders of congregational song

Learning from the Past
Lowell Mason

The April '93 issue of The Hymn carried an article by Carol A. Pemberton titled "Praising God Through Congregational Song: Lowell Mason's Contributions to Church Music." All of us probably know Mason's hymn tunes MISSIONARY HYMN to the text "From Greenland's icy mountains," OLIVET to "My faith looks up to thee," and HAMBURG to "When I survey the wondrous cross." This article gives us a better look at Lowell Mason the church musician and composer and gives an in-depth history of an influential nineteenth-century figure.

Pemberton took the following points from a lecture Mason gave in October 1826 at the Hanover Street Church in Boston, Mass., noting that they sum up his thinking on church music throughout his career.

· Church music must be simple, chaste, correct, and free of ostentation.
· The text must be handled with as much care as the music; each must enhance the other.
· Congregational singing must be promoted.
· Capable choirs and judiciously used instruments, particularly the organ, are indispensable aids to services.
· A solid music education for all children is the only means of genuine reform in church music.
· Musicianship per se is subordinate to facilitating worship.

His points are worth repeating and can give us cause for reflection on the work we are all involved in.


For further information on the good work of The Hymn Society and their journal, The Hymn, call them toll-free at (800) 843-4966, or e-mail them at


You will want at Hal Hopson's arrangement of one of Lowell Mason's compositions ("Sing Praise to God," using Psalm 117 as the text).


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