Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00

Freemasonry and World War II - John Hamill

Keep calm and carry on

Director of Special Projects John Hamill argues the case for a national scheme that would record how Freemasonry helped during World War II

 Such has been the media’s concentration on commemorating the centenary of the start of World War I that those events rather overshadowed the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day Landings – probably the last major commemoration of that event, as its survivors are now all in their late eighties and nineties.

World War II did not come as such a major shock as World War I. Indeed, to many of us, it was not a question of if, but of when war would break out. 

It was also to have a far more devastating effect on those who stayed at home, and had rather more impact on Freemasonry than its predecessor.

In 1939, Grand Lodge still met on the first Wednesdays of the usual months, so a meeting took place within four days of war having been declared. A circular sent to all lodges then suspended all masonic meetings until further notice. There was a determination to ‘carry on as normal’ and, by the end of September, it was agreed to resume meetings.

At the Quarterly Communications in September and December 1939, emergency resolutions were passed to cover the crisis – giving Masters the authority to alter the dates and meeting places of their lodges as circumstances required. As the war progressed, there were further changes, not least the suspension of paying subscriptions and dues by those who were on active service. 

Once aerial bombing began, it was suggested that lodges should meet during the day to avoid their members being exposed in the evenings. With the rationing of food and material, dress and regalia codes were relaxed, and it was proposed that post-meeting refreshments should be kept to a minimum.

With the scarcity of all sorts of raw materials, not least precious metals, in 1940, Grand Lodge suggested that brethren might like to sacrifice their personal masonic jewels to assist in the war effort. At that time, Stewards’ jewels for the Charity Festivals were solid silver, and founders’ and Past Masters’ jewels were usually gold. The brethren met the challenge, and in 1941, Grand Lodge was able to announce that £20,000 had been passed to the Treasury for the war effort.

Freemasons’ Hall in London had been built as a memorial to those brethren who fell in World War I and was initially known as the Masonic Peace Memorial. It survived the Blitz largely undamaged as other parts of Holborn and Covent Garden were destroyed. Until the post-war rebuilding of London, the tower of Freemasons’ Hall was one of the tallest structures in central London and it was apparently used by German pilots as a landmark to help guide them across the London sky.

Going underground

During the Blitz, the people of London sheltered in the Underground at night. The workers from Covent Garden Market and the occupants of the local Peabody Buildings preferred the basement of Freemasons’ Hall, which had been cleared of all the archives and other papers, to Holborn Underground station. Whether this was connected with the fact that each morning the then Grand Secretary Sydney White and his Secretary, Miss Haigh, provided tea and sandwiches for them, history does not record. 

A greenhouse was even built on the Grand Temple to grow soft fruits and vegetables.

Just as there has been a national scheme to record what people at home and in the services did during the war, should we not have a similar project for Freemasons? If so, we need to hurry; many of those who took part in World War II will not be with us for much longer, and their memories are irreplaceable.

‘World War II did not come as such a major shock as World War I. Indeed, to many of us it was not a question of if, but of when war would break out.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014

Keep calm and record

Sir,

In the autumn issue of Freemasonry Today, John Hamill suggests that there should be a project to record what Freemasons contributed during World War II both at home and abroad. He reminds us that time may be against us. However, I trust he is aware that Grand Lodge should already be in possession of a significant quantity of records of what brethren contributed during that period.

On 15 May 1946 the Board of General Purposes instructed each lodge to ‘collect detailed information and prepare a report to be incorporated in the minute book of the lodge, and a copy to be sent to the Grand Secretary for preservation in the records of Grand Lodge’. The Board asked for details of each brother’s service, including those who were disabled or made the supreme sacrifice. It also asked for information on the effect on meetings and attendances, plus any losses of records or property.

In the 1946 minute book of my mother lodge, Telephone Lodge, No. 3301, there is a copy of the report sent to the Grand Secretary and it makes fascinating reading. Noting that many of our members stayed in Britain as they worked in a reserved occupation, it nevertheless records that many brethren served with the Home Guard, in civil defence, as fire wardens or as business premises wardens. It records that brother HR Harbottle was appointed OBE for his contribution to the GPO War Group, while brother Shipton is recorded as having worked on ‘radar and secret devices’. It tells of the need to move meetings to the summer months during daylight and that all dining ceased. Finally, the lodge reported no loss of property except the lodge’s printing dies, which were at the printers when it was blitzed. This report formed a rich resource when I was updating our lodge history for our centenary in 2008.

So not only should Grand Lodge’s archives have all these reports, but lodges should find a copy of their own contribution in their minute book.

Peter Walker, Telephone Lodge, No. 3301, London

John Hamill replies

I am aware of the reports asked for by Grand Lodge. Sadly, less than a third of lodges supplied the requested information. Those who did gave the basic information but what I was suggesting was recording personal impressions to give a human face to the basic records. 

I know from talking to brethren over many years that there are fascinating stories that will be lost when those individuals are no longer with us.

Published in Features

Pipe dream

The restoration of the Grand Temple pipe organ at Freemasons’ Hall is helping to preserve a vital piece of this Art Deco building’s history. Charles Grace tells Sarah Holmes how the project came about

With a firm grip on the scaffolding in front of him, Charles Grace takes a moment to appreciate the elevated view over the Grand Temple. Behind him, a golden wall of freshly gilded organ pipes stand caged in a rigid rig of steel rods and orderly wooden planks. 

It’s been a particularly busy year for the senior Freemason, who has been overseeing the restoration of the Grand Temple’s pipe organ. Although the work has been progressing steadily since January 2014, few masons will have noticed anything different going on at Great Queen Street. For Charles, this is a good thing. Despite the size of the project, he has gone to great lengths to make sure that the renovation work doesn’t disrupt the normal running of Freemasons’ Hall.

As a long-serving member of the Committee of General Purposes, Charles played a central role in the decision to renovate, rather than replace, the Grand Temple’s eighty-one-year-old organ. ‘It’s part of the heritage of Freemasons’ Hall, so we have a duty to protect it,’ he says. ‘This building pays tribute to more than 3,000 Freemasons who lost their lives in World War I, so it’s apt that the organ is being restored during the centenary year of that terrible conflict.’ 

The idea for restoring the organ first came about in 2009 when an inspection by the organ consultant, Ian Bell, revealed the need for extensive repairs. With most organs requiring a professional overhaul every twenty-five years, the Grand Temple’s organ had survived three times longer than that thanks to the constant temperature and humidity levels as well as its dedicated maintenance. Nevertheless, eighty years of accumulated wear threatened to irreparably damage the tonal accuracy of its pipes. 

But now, thanks to funding from the Supreme Grand Chapter’s reserves, the organ will be restored to its former glory with roughly half of the money being spent on cleaning, repairing and re-voicing the existing mechanisms, which include an astounding 2,220 pipes and forty-three stops. The remainder of the funding will be spent on mounting a new case of some four hundred pipes on the east wall of the Grand Temple. 

Rousing quality

The result of all the renovation work will be a clearer, louder sound, and a focal point from which the organist can lead the Grand Temple’s 1,700-strong congregation in song. It’s a rousing quality that the present organ peculiarly lacks.

‘This is quite an unusual design,’ explains Charles. ‘Most organs have a focal point, but the present instrument comprises two cases of pipes that shout at each other across the dais. When the Grand Temple is full and everyone’s singing lustily, it’s difficult for those in the west to hear the organ, so the new case will make a huge difference, as well as giving the Grand Temple an extra visual wow factor.’

The craftsmen undertaking the restoration are from Durham-based organ builders Harrison & Harrison – a company responsible for rebuilding and maintaining some of the UK’s most famous organs, including those at the Royal Festival Hall and Westminster Abbey. Their experience of working with traditional organs is reassuring to Charles, who is eager that the new section remains consistent with the look and sound of the original. The new pipes will be made from a tin-and-lead alloy in keeping with the design of Brother Henry Willis, who built the organ in 1933. 

‘I’d love to get a series of subscription concerts going as we’re transforming a good organ into a magnificent one.’ Charles Grace

Musical chairs

It’s an extensive undertaking for Harrison & Harrison, who also face the added challenge of working around the Grand Temple’s busy schedule of events.

‘It’s been quite a juggling act to make sure we don’t interfere with the day-to-day running of the Grand Temple,’ explains Charles. ‘We’ve relied on the occasional spare periods of time to carry out some of the work. But from mid-December, when the Temple is quietest, we’ll be able to get the bulk of the work done.’

Fortunately, much of the early work has been completed in Durham, where the existing organ and console were moved for cleaning and repairing in January. ‘It’s a vitally important part of the renovation process,’ explains Andy Scott, head voicer at Harrison & Harrison. ‘As soon as the dirt starts to build up, it can dull the pitch and sound quality of the pipes, and adds to the deterioration of the worn mechanism, causing notes to stick on or not play at all.’

The length of the pipes, as well as the material they’re constructed from, both play a fundamental role in determining their pitch – so it’s important that the correct techniques are used to clean them. 

The longer, wooden pipes, which create the deeper notes, can reach up to sixteen feet in length, and have to be vacuumed and varnished. Meanwhile, the shorter metallic pipes, which create the higher notes, and can be as short as a few inches, have to be soaked and scrubbed in soapy water. 

The pipes will then be returned to the Grand Temple and divided between chambers hidden in the opposite walls of the eastern dais. The case containing all the new pipes will be mounted on the east wall above the console, facing directly down the Grand Temple.

Like the other two cases, the new case will be decorated with the same elaborately carved Art Deco motifs and poly-resin embellishments. A grille of eighteen pipes, all gilded in gold leaf, will be visible at the front. ‘It takes three different crafts alone to build its case,’ explains Charles. ‘That’s how complex a pipe organ is. It’s more than just an instrument – it’s an actual fixture of the building.’ 

Tone control

As well as the pipes, Harrison & Harrison must also refurbish the whole mechanical structure, including the enormous wind chests that sit underneath the pipes. By driving pressurised air through the pipes, the wind chests help to produce the organ’s distinctive, multi-tonal sound. Electric blowers located underneath the Grand Temple supply the wind chests with air.

‘It takes three different crafts to build the case. That’s how complex a pipe organ is. It’s more than an instrument – it’s an actual fixture of the building.’ Charles Grace

‘Each pipe produces a single note,’ explains Charles. ‘All pipes are arranged in ranks of common sound and pitch, and when the organist wants to play a particular rank, he selects the corresponding stop. This releases air from the wind chest to a particular rank of pipes. The keys on the main console then control which pipes the air passes through.’ 

It’s a thoroughly complicated system, and one that has taken Charles hours of surfing the web and scouring YouTube videos to understand. As part of the renovation, a new electronic feature will be fitted that allows the organ to store digital recordings of the music played on the keyboard. This means that a wide range of pre-recorded music will be able to be played on the organ at the touch of a button.

It’s something that will add impact to the public tours of the Grand Temple, and is a key example of the way in which the latest renovations not only safeguard the heritage of the Freemasons’ Hall, but also enhance it.   

With all things going to plan, the restoration work is due to be completed by March 2015 and Charles hopes that the new organ will become a symbol of celebration not just for United Grand Lodge’s approaching tercentenary, but for everyone who visits the Hall. 

‘I’d love to get a series of subscription concerts going, as we’re transforming a good organ into a magnificent one – so I’d hope a few great organists would play here,’ says Charles.

In keeping with this vision, Charles hopes to establish a partnership with the Royal College of Organists to give aspiring musicians an opportunity to rehearse and perform on the Grand Temple’s amazing instrument. 

‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to open ourselves up to the public, and to get this incredible organ being played more than ever,’ says Charles. ‘We need to make the most of it.’ 

The original surround sound

A pipe organ produces music through a vast array of real pipes placed in different locations around the room, effectively making it one of the first surround sound systems. In contrast, electronic organs only simulate the sound of the pipes from a central loudspeaker. The result is noticeably flatter and lacks the true fullness of many individual pitches blending together. 

Letters for the Editor - No. Summer 2016

Exchanging notes

Sir,  

The spring issue of Freemasonry Today contained letters from two brethren asking about the specification of the splendid refurbished Willis III organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, London. A downloadable colour leaflet containing this is available under ‘H&H specifications’ from the website of Harrison & Harrison (www.harrisonorgans.com), the firm that carried out the work, and more information can be found online in the National Pipe Organ Register.

Carl Jackson, Grand Organist from April 2016, St Cecilia Lodge, No. 6190, London

Sir,

In the spring issue there were two letters relating to the specification of the organ at Great Queen Street. 

May I suggest they go to the National Pipe Organ Register at www.npor.org.uk, which has the details your correspondents want – although it has not been updated to the new rebuild. The site has details of thousands of organs in the UK, which can be searched for by name or postcode or reference number (Great Queen Street is N16533).

Peter Edwards, Sutton Coldfield Lodge, No. 8960, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

 


 

Letters for the Editor - No. Spring 2016

Sir,

I would like to congratulate all those involved in the refurbishment of the pipe organ in the Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall and the excellent write-up in Freemasonry Today. I am 86 years of age and partially disabled. I joined the John Compton Organ Company, London as an apprentice in 1944, and trained as a voicer and tuner under John Degens, a former Walkers employee. After two years’ national service I then spent the next few years as a voicer and tuner for Nicholson of Worcester. I would very much appreciate knowing the specifications of the magnificent organ.

Doug Litchfield, Zetland Lodge, No. 1005, Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Sir,

Recent articles in Freemasonry Today about the organ refurbishment are much appreciated. Lodge organists and organists in general would, I feel sure, appreciate even more to see the full specifications, old and new: that is, names of stops to each department, list of accessories, etc, so as to get a sense of the full tonal architecture and its possibilities, past and present.

Malcolm Dilley, Warton Lodge, No. 8411, Carnforth, West Lancashire


Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Grand music

Sir,

I read the articles by both Charles Grace and Ian Bell regarding the Grand Temple Willis pipe organ restoration with great interest. I am a masonic organist in the South Wales Province, where most masonic centres are furnished with electronic or digital organs.

Your articles reveal that there are two other Willis pipers in the Great Queen Street building but that they are not in working order. I visited Great Queen Street last November to play the organ for the installation ceremony of the American Lodge. The ceremony was allocated to Lodge Room No. 8 where I was horrified to find that the organ was little more than a squawk box. I looked into several of the other lodge rooms to discover similar disappointing instruments.

Whilst the Grand Temple organ restoration and necessary enhancement is to be applauded, I wish to have the Great Queen Street management reminded that if ceremony’s musical accompaniment and enhancement is really desirable, then it is absolutely necessary to encourage masonic brethren to aspire to be a lodge organist by furnishing the best tool for the purpose, and that a pillar of attainment as a lodge organist might be to eventually play the Grand Temple organ. 

Michael Hayes, Venables Llewelyn Lodge, No. 3756, Porthcawl, South Wales

Charles Grace, Project Manager for the Grand Temple organ restoration, responds:

We have recently evaluated two one-manual organs and decided on the Viscount Cadet, 10 of which are being delivered in mid May and 10 in September, funded by UGLE from the normal charges made to lodges and chapters for room hire and storage. 

The organs, which are versatile enough to be played by all masonic organists, will be installed in most of the lodge/chapter rooms. The choice of organ in No. 10, where a larger instrument is required, is under consideration.


Letters to the Editor – No. 29 Spring 2015

Direction in the Temple

Sir,

You published two letters in the last issue on the subject of the square and compasses being upside down on the organ cases in the Grand Temple. I too made enquiries of those who might know the answer, but regrettably it remains a masonic mystery. On the bright side, I can reveal that, in the same position on the new case being erected on the east wall above the organ console, there will be a Royal Arch triple tau – and I will ensure that it is the right way up!

Charles Grace, Project Coordinator, Grand Temple organ restoration

Sir,

‘The earth constantly revolving on its axis in its orbit round the sun, and Freemasonry being universally spread over its surface, it necessarily follows that the sun must always be at its meridian with respect to Freemasonry.’ 

Similarly, the square and compasses will always be the right way up with respect to Freemasonry. Given that the building was built as a memorial to those Freemasons who died in the First World War, and that some may have been from other parts of the Commonwealth, it is perhaps possible that the square and compasses was positioned accordingly.

Mark Northway, Suffield Lodge, No. 1808, Aylsham, Norfolk


Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014

Compass and square

Sir,

I am a young Master Mason. However, in your otherwise interesting and informative account of the restoration of the pipe organ in the Grand Temple of Freemasons’ Hall, the square and compasses adorning the organ case (while beautifully gilded) are clearly upside down. Does this pertain to some ancient and mysterious side order, of which I am neither a member nor even aware, or perhaps has it just been affixed the wrong way up?

Tim Myatt, Apollo University Lodge, No. 537, Oxfordshire

Sir,

In discussion with a number of brethren in my lodge, we are curious to know why the square and compasses visible behind the left shoulder of Charles Grace are upside down. The popular view among us all is that they are positioned to face in the direction of the Great Architect, in whose glory the beautiful music that emanates from this magnificent instrument is played. None of us considers it to be an error of any kind – knowing as we do that no such fundamental mistakes are likely to have been made by those who either commissioned or made the instrument. We look forward with great interest to any information you are able to provide.

Guy R Purser, Pagham Lodge, No. 8280, Sussex

Note from the Editor

Having received several queries about the compass and square visible in the picture of the Grand Temple organ in the autumn issue of Freemasonry Today (page 29), we enquired of our best in-house historians. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know of any reason why, on the Grand Lodge organ, the square and compasses should be orientated in the opposite way to how they are normally depicted.

There was in the past a tradition among some craftsmen to incorporate a deliberate mistake as an act of humility so as not to vainly compete with the perfection of God’s creations, but we have no idea whether this was the intention in this case. We do know from an original photograph, however, that it has been that way since the organ was installed. We will be pleased to hear from readers of any theories on this mystery.

Published in Features

250 Years of union

Union Lodge No. 129, which meets at the Masonic Hall, Station Road in Kendal, was 250 years old on the 31st July 2014

Records can trace their history back to when the lodge was formed and constituted on 31st July 1764. Last Thursday the lodge's current members and guests held a day of celebration to mark their 250 birthday. Union Lodge is the oldest surviving lodge in the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland which has approximately 3000 members across 80 lodges who meet in every town within the pre-1974 county boundaries. 

To mark this special occasion, today’s Union lodge members organised a special meeting at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, followed by a banquet at the Castle Green Hotel. To start the celebrations, 40 lodge members and guests including the Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Norman James Thompson DL, gathered at the Black Swan public house, Allhallows Lane in Kendal, the original building where the Lodge was formed and first met. The W. Master of Union Lodge presented the current landlady of the Black Swan with a manuscript to mark their 250 year association. 

The lodge holds records which show that in 1762 eight 'worthy gentlemen' met at the Black Swan at the top of Allhallows Lane in Kendal and discussed the possibility of forming a Masonic lodge, their professions are not recorded but their names were: Thomas Swainson, his brother Gerrard Swainson, James Bellingham, Edmund Ridley, James Fell, Mathew Holme, John Tattersall and Thomas Foster, they originally named their lodge 'Swan Lodge', to be able to form a lodge they needed to communicate with the United Grand Lodge of Freemasons in London, which in those days during the Reign of George III was by either by stagecoach or pack horse.

They eventually received a reply from London which informed them that a Richard Webster of lodge No. 243 in Barnard Castle was to officiate at the forming of 'Swan Lodge' on 31st July 1764. At that meeting Thomas Swainson was appointed Master of the lodge, he in turn appointed his officers and the lodge by-laws were formulated, a joining fee of One Pound One Shilling was set, fines were also set 'for swearing, sixpence', 'tuppence' for being late for a meeting and for not attending 3 meetings the penalty was exclusion.

During 250 years, the lodge has met at 12 different public houses in the town and also at number 12 Kent Street, Albert Buildings, and 111 years at Blackhall Croft, adjacent to Saint Georges Hall, 5 years at Windermere and since 1996 at its current home at the Masonic Hall, Station Road in Kendal.

Union Lodge has over the years been responsible for sponsoring 10 new lodges, Underley Lodge in Kirkby Lonsdale was formed in 1865, Whitwell Lodge in Millom in 1872, Windermere Lodge in 1887, Ambleside Lodge in 1888, Eversley Lodge, Kendal in 1921, Trinity Lodge in 1948, Westmorland Lodge of Installed Masters in 1951 Brigantes Lodge, Kendal and Lakeland Lodge who meet in London both in 2001 and Kendalian Lodge in 2002; a very busy and successful lodge who’s survival for 250 years in the town of Kendal is a huge achievement and shows the commitment and dedication of the lodge’s members in Kendal over the years. 

The meeting at the Brewery Arts Centre was attended by roughly 200 brethren from across this and other Provinces, special guest of honour was RW Bro George Pipon Francis, Past Senior Grand Warden, The RW Provincial Grand Master Bro Norman James Thompson, the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Warwickshire, RW Bro David Macey and other distinguished brethren. 

The brethren of Union Lodge entered the Brewery Theatre in procession and proceeded to open the lodge, The Provincial Grand Master and the officers of Provincial Grand Lodge then entered in procession, the gavel of the lodge was offered by the Worshipful Master to RW Bro Thompson who returned the gavel but hoped he would be offered it later as he had some business to carry out. The representative of United Grand Lodge RW Bro Francis then entered the lodge with an escort of Grand Officers.

The WM Bro C.P. Newhouse asked that the minutes of the consecration meeting held on the 31st July 1764 be read by the Provincial Secretary, W Bro W Douthwaite, who also read in great detail the lodge Warrant and all present stood in respect while the names of the Founders of Union Lodge were read.

W Bro Richard Parker PJGD gave a lecture on the history of Union Lodge 129 which included details of the preparations to consecrate the lodge, its by-laws including the fines for various breaches of those by-laws by the brethren and the contribution Union Lodge has made to local Freemasonry by the sponsorship of 10 daughter lodges. 

The lodge is also the proud custodians of a set of 1772 tracing cloths which have been authenticated by Grand Lodge Library and museum as being the oldest in existence.

Bro Newhouse then invited the RW Provincial Grand Master to take the lodge gavel, which he was pleased to accept, he spoke of the dedication of Union Lodge brethren over the years and his own experience as a young mason making his first ever visit to a lodge, Union Lodge in fact and the pleasure he had felt in his frequent visits over many subsequent years.

Before retiring from the chair, the Provincial Grand Master instructed the Deputy Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies to present W Bro David Poole OBE and W Bro Bill Kerr to him, The Provincial Grand Master thanked W Bros Poole and Kerr for all their hard work in planning and executing today’s celebratory meeting and to the applause of the assembled brethren appointed them both to the rank of Past Provincial Senior Grand Warden with immediate effect.

The WM was invited to return to his rightful place and the meeting was closed just after 3 pm, the Union Lodge brethren and their guests were then bussed to the Castle Green Hotel for the celebration banquet.

All present enjoyed an excellent meal at The Castle Green Hotel, RW Bro George Pipon Francis congratulated Union Lodge for achieving their 250th year in existence and the Worshipful Master and brethren for the way they had conducted the day’s celebrations, and he presented the lodge with a gift from The United Grand Lodge of England to mark the occasion.

VW Bro Keith Young PGSwdB, Deputy Provincial Grand Master proposed the toast to Union Lodge No. 129, his mother lodge, he thanked W Bros Poole and Kerr who had been the driving force behind today’s celebrations for their dedication in bringing the day to fruition. VW Bro Young also informed the brethren that today had been subsidised by a legacy left to the lodge by W Bro Raymond Poole, he had left the lodge a sum of money to be used for the benefit of the lodge, and he felt sure that benefit had been achieved in an excellent day of celebration for Union Lodge. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014 16:57

Cobalt charity MRI scanner appeal success

New scanners hit the road in Herefordshire

Local medical charity Cobalt is celebrating 50 years of providing state-of-the-art medical diagnostic imaging for people living in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, working closely with commissioners and NHS England. Cobalt has provided scans for more than 24,000 patients in the past year, both at its imaging centre in Cheltenham and through a fleet of six mobile MRI units, and has worked in partnership with local hospitals to fundraise for equipment that would not usually be available within the NHS.

Herefordshire Freemasons have maintained their support for the charity with a further £500 donation. Samantha Watson, head of fundraising at Cobalt, expressed the charity’s gratitude.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 01:00

Pro Grand Master's address - June 2014

Quarterly Communication 

11 June 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes 

Brethren, over the last year or two there has been a certain amount of correspondence in the various masonic magazines regarding the pros and cons of reading rather than reciting our ritual.

One correspondent suggested that as ritual was read throughout European Grand Lodges, we should follow. I am not sure all our politicians would agree with that! Certainly it is true that reading ritual is prevalent in many European Grand Lodges, however it is not universally so, and, in any event, there surely is no good reason for us to follow their example. Indeed, I have many friends in European Lodges who envy the way we deliver our ritual.

You will note, brethren, that I said that they are envious of the way we 'deliver' our ritual and, in my experience, ritual that is recited has much greater meaning to the candidate than ritual that is read, although I am pleased to say I have not been present on many occasions that it has been read.

I entirely accept that learning ritual is time consuming and time is at a premium in today’s hectic schedule of life. But how often is it true that the busiest people are those who find the time to learn it. I am not going to pretend that I have ever found ritual learning easy, and, as time goes by, dare I say, I find learning new ritual more difficult, but, nonetheless, I shall never forget the satisfaction of carrying out a second degree ceremony at the first meeting that I was in the chair of my mother lodge. To be told by an extremely demanding DC that it had been adequate was as good as it gets! I should add that this was a great deal more complimentary than anything he ever said to me during the year that he taught me classics.

By definition reading means looking at the book and, if the deliverer is looking at the book, he is not looking at the candidate or the brethren to whom he is speaking. To read a text well is in itself a skill that not everyone has. Good reading needs preparation and unless our ritual is understood by the deliverer, what chance is there that it will be understood by the recipient. For the reader to have a good understanding of what he is saying he will have had to have read through the text on several occasions and it is most certainly not a case of turning up, opening a book and reading.

Our ritual is to be treasured and there are few better experiences than seeing and hearing a really well conducted masonic ceremony. 

One of the prime reasons that lodges are being encouraged to share the workload is so that members should spend time really learning and understanding what they are delivering and not just reciting ritual parrot fashion. It is inevitable that some members will find ritual easier than others and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that as much help as possible is given to those who need it, thus giving everyone the opportunity to take pride in their delivery, however short a piece it may be.

I don’t expect what I have said today to be universally accepted, but I would be surprised if the majority do not agree with at least part of it.

Letters to the Editor - No. 28 Winter 2014

All in the delivery

Sir,

With regard to the June address by our Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, there is no doubt that the candidate deserves to experience the ritual without the deliverer needing to read the text from a book. I was greatly impressed by the sincerity and meaning thus offered. At one time I could comfortably deliver the Second Degree Tracing Board as well as preside over a lodge or chapter with similar confidence, but now, with the years advancing and being into my seventies, such standards of delivery are now virtually impossible. The reluctant answer, where appropriate, is to delegate, but sometimes reading the ritual is just unavoidable. I do try to impart appropriate emotion with my delivery.

Barry Mitchell, Zetland Lodge, No. 511, London

Published in Speeches

Brass standards

What do you get if you cross two trombones, a baritone horn and a tuba? For four Freemasons, playing in a Salvation Army brass band is the perfect complement to being a member of Standard Lodge

Standing in The Salvation Army’s Reading premises on a fresh spring morning, Colin Crosby, David Mortlock, Alex Mitchell and Russell Crosby are chuckling as they try and come up with different ways of posing with their musical instruments. The four players belong to the Reading Central band of The Salvation Army and can be found performing in the town’s main thoroughfare most Fridays. They are also members of Standard Lodge, No. 6820, London, which believes that Freemasonry and The Salvation Army share core fraternal and charitable values.

Founded in 1949, Standard Lodge’s invitation letter stated that it was desired that the founders and future initiates should be members of The Salvation Army or associates. It was to be a strictly temperance lodge and is one of three such lodges originally founded by Salvationists, the other two being Lodge of Constant Trust, No. 7347, and Jubilate Lodge, No. 8561.

The strong musical tradition of The Salvation Army means that many members of Standard Lodge have also played, or currently play, in a Salvation Army brass band. Colin Crosby joined Standard Lodge in the sixties and says that of the three lodges founded by the Salvationists, Standard is the only one that has kept to the strict Salvationist ethos of no alcohol, no smoking and no gambling. ‘That means that we can’t have raffles to raise money so we have to think of other ways of fundraising.’

‘The great thing about a brass band is that it can be very rousing and uplifting but it can also be very subtle and moving.’ Colin Crosby

Colin’s son Russell, an engineer by profession, feels strongly that The Salvation Army and the Freemasons have much in common. ‘There is a great deal of misunderstanding about Freemasonry. I see it as my personal mission to put things right and point out that there is a strong morality within Freemasonry,’ he says. ‘Like The Salvation Army, there is a great tradition of charitable giving and consideration for the well-being of others. I have talked about this with many of my fellow Salvationists – I think it really helps with the understanding of Freemasonry if all aspects of it are discussed openly.’

Colin plays the tuba and switches between the E-flat and the B-flat, while David plays baritone horn and Alex plays the trombone. Explaining his choice of instrument, Colin says: ‘I like to be in the engine room of the band, which is what I consider the tuba to be.’ Russell used to play tenor horn but switched to the trombone: ‘The opportunity came up because the band was short of trombone players and although I had to learn from scratch, I saw it as a challenge and managed to pick it up. I think I have a fairly decent tone now.’ 

Crowd pleasers

The Reading Central Salvation Army band has played on many auspicious occasions, including at the Royal Military Academy. The band has performed in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace to celebrate its one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary and has also played at the annual carol service in Grand Lodge for a number of years, as well as many other engagements up and down the country. In 1994 they toured, playing in the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong, while 2007 took them to Ontario, Canada.

The band plays a wide range of music, from hymn tune arrangements (many of which were composed specifically for The Salvation Army) through to popular film scores. ‘We mix up classical music with well-known tunes from films like The Great Escape or The Wizard of Oz,’ explains Colin. ‘Just as the audience are relaxing into it, we hit them with a nice old-fashioned hymn or classical song. That’s the great g thing about a brass band; it can be very rousing and uplifting but it can also be very subtle and moving.’

David Mortlock joined Standard Lodge in 1987. Also an engineer, he lived in the United States and India for many years. Although he used to be a bandmaster, David now plays the baritone horn. He misses conducting and echoes Colin’s pride in the range of music played by the Salvation Army band: ‘Music is such a powerful tool and can be used for inspiration, praise and worship, as well as meditative prayer.’ 

Many of the most well-known brass players in the country have come out of The Salvation Army band tradition. ‘Philip Cobb is the principal trumpet player with the London Symphony Orchestra,’ explains David. ‘Dudley Bright, who is principal trombonist for the London Symphony Orchestra, has also composed a number of pieces of music for The Salvation Army. His most recent composition, “The Cost of Freedom”, was given its first performance by The International Staff Band of The Salvation Army at the Sage Gateshead in May 2008.’

Alex Mitchell is a highly qualified musician outside of the brass band world, too. And as a retired school music teacher, he uses his teaching skills with the young people of the junior band and as a pianoforte and brass teacher.

All four men describe the feeling of fraternal companionship both in the band and in the Freemasons. ‘In both situations there is a feeling of solid friendship and moral support if you need it,’ says Alex. ‘In that way, Standard Lodge members are very lucky because they have both.’

Notes in a Brass Band

Trombone

Invented in the 1500s, it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that the trombone became popular in England. Composers such as Beethoven described the trombone as the ‘voice of God’ because it has the ability to achieve perfect intonation at all times. 

Baritone Horn

The marching band perennial was first invented in the 1700s, when it was played by stroking the instrument’s glass rods. Not to be confused with the euphonium, the baritone has three valves and less tubing in the horn. 

Tuba 

Since its introduction into symphony orchestras in the mid-nineteenth century, the tuba is considered the anchor of the orchestra’s brass section. It comes in a range of pitches, from the deep bass of the subcontrabass to the much higher pitch of the tenor tuba. 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 28 WINTER 2014

Uplifting memories

Sir,

How absolutely refreshing it was to turn the pages of our journal to see the uniformed Salvationists and to read the article on brass and Freemasonry.

It brought back so many memories for me, not least being the fact that thirty-eight years ago I was introduced into Freemasonry by the Senior Past Master of Standard Lodge, No. 6820, Oly Allen, a retired Salvation Army divisional bandmaster. I am not a Salvationist but he took me into a meeting at his Reading lodge, namely Charles Nicholl, No. 7318, at the Berkshire Masonic Centre at Sindlesham where he was Secretary.

For several years I assisted him in arranging for the Central Band and Songster Brigade to render a programme performed in the Grand Temple at Sindlesham, which we entitled ‘Prelude to Christmas’. This now forms the annual Reading Borough Council double bill presentation held at the Hexagon.

I was able to pass many hundreds of pounds to our masonic charities for their efforts and, indeed, a small group of the bandsmen, including the four in the photos, regularly play for us at the Ladies’ Meetings and Christmas. As our church brethren often quote in this journal: ‘Freemasonry is a good handmaiden to Christianity’. Long may it continue, so thanks for the memory; it was so uplifting.

Ken Holloway, Lodge of Benevolence, No. 489, Bideford, Devonshire


 

Letters to the Editor - No. 27 Autumn 2014

Thank you for the music

Sir, 

I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your recent ‘Brass Standards’ article. Being a brother for the past twenty-seven years, as well as a professional musician, it was nice to see that the members put their time and talents to good use, and everyone in the group being brothers was just the icing on the cake. I congratulate them on their accomplishments and their desire to share their time and talents with the community.

Philip Chapnick, Goldenrule Clermont McKinley Lodge, No. 486, Grand Lodge F&AM State of New York, USA

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