Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MASON, Lowell, musician, born in Medfield, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, 8 January, 1792; died in Orange, New Jersey, 11 August, . 1872. His father was a mechanic in a small New England village, and his early opportunities for education were meagre; but he had from childhood a passion for music, and before he was twenty years of age had learned to play on every kind of musical instrument that had come within his reach. He was also so proficient in vocal music that at sixteen he was leader of t, he village choir, and a teacher of singing-classes. At twenty he went to Savannah, where he continued to practise, lead, and teach. While residing there he arranged, with some assistance, a collection of psalm tunes, that was based on Gardiner's "Sacred Melodies," which latter was compiled from the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, adding to them tunes of his own composition. This was published by the Handel and Haydn society in 1821 as the "Boston Handel and Haydn Society's Collection of Church Music," the compiler's name being almost entirely suppressed. The book was a decided success and led to Mason's removal to Boston in 1827, and his taking "general charge of music in the churches there." He now began the instruction of classes in vocal music, devoting special attention to the training of children to the performance of the alto part in chorals, and to the introduction of vocal music into the public schools In 1829, his attention being called to the Pestalozzian method of teaching music, and especially to the various improvements upon it, Mr. Mason adopted it after careful and protracted examination. Juvenile classes were established and taught gratuitously by him for many years, but he was soon compelled, by the extent of his labors, to take an assistant. Under his influence vocal music received a new and extraordinary impulse in Boston and throughout New England. Eminent teachers were introduced into private --- schools" the Boston academy of music was established by him in 1832; music was prescribed as a regular branch of instruction in the public schools of Boston and subsequently very generally throughout the entire country; permanent musical classes, lectures on music, concerts, schools for instrumental music, and teachers' institutes, were also widely established. In 1837 he visited Europe and made himself acquainted with all the improvements in music-teaching in the continental cities. On his return he published the results of his journey in "Musical Letters from Abroad" (New York, 1853). In 1855 Mr. Mason received from the University of the city of New York the degree of doctor of music, the first instance of the conferring of that degree by an American university. The growing taste for music that he had inspired incited him to prepare about this time numerous text-books for juvenile classes, glee-books, and collections of church music. During his later years he labored diligently to promote the introduction of strictly congregational singing into the churches, and to this end he devoted much time to the preparation, in connection with Edwards A. Park and Austin Phelps, of "The Sabbath Hymn and Tune-Book" (New York, 1859), which attained instant popularity. The last years of his life were passed with his sons at Orange, New Jersey, and his devotion to musical study and composition continued to the end. Here he had brought together one of the most extensive and valuable musical libraries in the United States, which, after his death, his family presented to Yale college. "Dr. Mason," says Reverend Octavius B. Frothingham, "did more to make the practice of vocal music popular than to raise the standard of musical culture, and long before his death the influence of his school had yielded to the power of more finished art. Still, his work was of great value in its time." His published works exceed fifty volumes, and many of them have had an immense sale. The aggregate circulation of the collections of church music somewhat exceeded two million copies, and several of the juvenile collections have sold very largely. The following are some of his principal books, in compiling which he had no assistance and which contain many of his own compositions: "Juvenile Psalmist" (Boston, 1829) ; "Juvenile Lyre," the first book of school songs published in the United States (1830); "The Choir, or Union Collection " (1832); "Manual of Instruction in Vocal Music" (1834) ; "The Boston Academy Collection" (1835) ; " Lyra Sacra" ; " Occasional Psalmody" (1837) ; "Songs of Asaph" ; " The Seraph" (1838); " The Modern Psalmist" (1839); "Carmina Sacra," of which and its two revisions, the "New Carmina Sacra "and the " American Tune-Book," more than six hundred thousand copies had been sold at the time of Dr. Mason's death (1841); "The Gentleman's Glee-Book" (1842); "American Sabbath-School Singing-Book" (Philadelphia, 1843) ; "Boston Academy Collection of Choruses" (Boston, 1844) ; "Song-Book of the School-Room" (1845) ; "Primary-School Song-Book" (1846) ; "The National Psalmist" (1848) ; " The HandBook of Psalmody" (London, 1852); " The Hallelujah" (New York, 1854); " The Normal Singer" (1856); and " Mammoth Musical Exercises" (1857).--His son, William, pianist, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 24 January, 1829, made his first public appearance as a pianist at a symphony concert in Boston, 7 March, 1846. He appeared frequently in concerts until the spring of 1849, when he went to Leipsie, Germany, and studied the piano-forte under Moscheles, harmony under Moritz Hauptmann, and instrumentation under E. F. Richter. Later he was instructed by Alexander Dreyschock in Prague, and finally by Liszt, at Weimar, in 1853-'4. He played in public in Prague, Frankfort, and Weimar, and in 1853 made a brief visit to London. He returned to this country in July, 1854, and shortly after his arrival made a concert tour, playing at each representation through a programme of eight or ten piano-forte pieces, illustrating different styles. It is believed that these were the first concerts of the kind consisting of piano-forte playing solely, without other attraction, that were given either in this country or abroad. On his return he settled in New York, where he has since mainly occupied himself in teaching, playing in public occasionally. In the winter of 1855-'6 he established, in connection with Carl Bergmann and Theodore Thomas, a series of classical soirees, at which the instrumental works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and others were performed. These concerts became known as the Mason and Thomas soirees of chamber music, and were continued without interruption until 1868. Mr. Mason, in connection with Eli S. Hoadly, is the author of two piano-forte methods (Boston, 1867-'71), and also of a system of "Piano-forte Technics" (1878), in which latter work William S. B. Mathews was connected with him as associate editor. He has also published about forty compositions for the piano-forte, a few of which are adapted for concert purposes, but consisting chiefly of smaller "pieces de salon," such as scherzos, ballades, romanzas, nocturnes, caprices, reveries, etc. Most of these have been republished in Europe. In 1872 Mr. Mason received from Yale the degree of doctor of music.
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