His full name was Edwin Arthur Jones and he was born on June 28, 1853. His family lived on 9 (later 17) Pearl Street, across the street from Stoughton Town Hall. Unfortunately, the house was completely destroyed by a fire in 2003.
As Edward Everett Hale said so well, Jones was a "modest man who knows the power of music." Yet today his music continues to be neglected.
Why? Let's look at the evolution of his life and music.
E.A. Jones was one of Stoughton's most prominent citizens in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His music was also heard frequently and appreciated by his fellow town citizens as well as elsewhere, including in Boston.
Yet, when I first discovered all his manuscript music in 1980 at the Stoughton Historical Society, it was in a large brown package and had been forgotten. Over the years, I've been editing and getting his music performed, in many cases for the very first time. It has been largely a thankless task. The Old Stoughton Musical Society, which Jones was very active in back in the 19th century, has more or less forgotten about him today.
Is he unknown because he is not a well known American composer like Stephen Foster or Charles Ives? Or, is it because his name is so ordinary, sounding like a stiff old New Englander?
It seems he is ignored by accademic scholars and music critics because he isn't well known today.
Yet a hundred years ago, Jones was one of Stoughton's best known citizens, mainly due to his town activities and his design of the Stoughton Town Seal, which features a harp designating the oldest musical society in the U.S.
His music career began with studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in violin, organ and harmony. Jones then entered Dartmouth College in 1872, where he was active in many activities. He was Captain of the baseball team, one of the editors of the college newspaper, and Director of the Dartmouth Glee Club. He graduated in 1876 as Class President. While attending Dartmouth College, Jones composed several exceptional glee club choruses for tenors and basses, including two from 1874: "Praise Ye the Lord" and "Blessing and Glory."
To hear the first chorus, click on the link in the box playable in Real Audio
In 1872, Jones was one of the violinists among the thousands of musicians who played in the famous World's Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival at Copley Square in Boston. The special invited guest at the Festival was Johann Strauss Jr. from Vienna, known as "The Waltz King." For this Festival, Strauss arranged a new waltz he titled simply, "Jubilee Waltz."
After graduation from Dartmouth, E.A. Jones went to Baltimore to work in his parents' store. Following the inspiration of Strauss, his first major instrumental composition was a charming series of piano pieces titled, The Farewell Waltzes (Op. 8), published in Baltimore in 1874. The modern day premiere of these piano waltzes was given in 1986 at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts. The Farewell Waltzes is one of the works included on the "How Beautiful Upon The Mountains" DVD.
Six years later, in 1880, his First String Quartet in F Major (Op. 13) was performed at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, where it was well received. A few years later he returned to Stoughton where he remained the rest of his life.
© 1984 - E.A. Jones: His Life and Music
In the 1880s, Jones formed his own orchestra [shown in the picture] in Stoughton and performed at many local plays and concerts.
The original Stoughton Public Library building is now the home of the the Stoughton Historical Society. The builiding was dedicated in 1904 when Jones was one of the Trustees of the Public Library and one of his choruses, "Hail, All Triumphant Lord!," was performed at the dedication ceremonies in 1904. It was played again from a performance of the Old Stoughton Musical Society at the Centennial observance in 2004. That chorus is included on the DVD, "How Beautiful Upon The Mountains."
Among his many accomplishments was arranging for the Stoughton Musical Society to perform at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. They were the only musical group to perform there representing early New England music. E.A. Jones led the orchestra in their two concerts at the Music Hall which were well received.
Besides all these accomplishments, Jones was also a fine composer who wrote some magnificent compositions, especially his cantata and oratorio, and his String Quartet No. 2, first performed by the Kneisel Quartet in Boston.
Jones was well respected in his time, not only in Stoughton but also by distinguished musicians in Boston like Benjamin J. Lang, who attended the premiere of the Jones oratorio in 1887 and spoke very highly about it.
Why should we be interested in the music of E.A. Jones today?
Because it is of such high quality and represents what a rural 19th century composer could accomplish outside of a large city, like Boston or New York.
Give his music a chance and you might be surprised how enjoyable it is to listen to.
-- Roger Lee Hall, author of E.A. Jones: His Life and Music
During his lifetime he did not compose a great deal of music,
but much of it is very rewarding to hear. He had a particular gift for writing memorable themes and melodies.
The following types of compositions by E.A. Jones
provide a summary of his total known works:
Chamber music = 10
Keyboard (Piano, Organ) = 4
Solo Songs = 4
Smaller Choral Works = 21
Large Choral Works =
String Quartet For Isabella Stewart Gardner
[The Gardner residence at 152 Beacon Street in Boston]
One of the proudest moments for Jones was when his Second String Quartet titled, Prelude and Fugue in G minor, was first performed on February 28, 1889 by the most respected chamber music ensemble of its day, the Kneisel Quartet.
It was part of a series sponsored by the Manuscript Club and performed in the music room of John Lowell Gardner 's five floor townhouse at 152 Beacon Street. The Jones string quartet is dedicated to Mrs. J. L. Gardner (Isabella Stewart Gardner).
Other composers also represented in that 1889 concert program at the Gardner home were: Clayton Johns, Margaret Ruthven Lang, Edward MacDowell [shown at left] and Horatio Parker. All of them autographed the concert program for Mrs. Gardner (a copy of the program is in the New England Music Archive).
The music titles for this concert are listed in Morris Carter's 1925 book, Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court.
Two Choral Masterpieces
Completed in 1881, his dramatic cantata, Song of Our Saviour (Op. 14), was his crowning achievement and a work that deserves to be heard again. It
was revised from an earlier choral work, The Nativity Hymn, one of only four works to receive honorable mention in 1879 in the Cincinnati College of Music competition, judged by Theodore Thomas, the most distinguished conductor in America at that time. The Trio from this cantata for Soprano, Alto and Tenor Soloists seems to sum up the spiritual power of this magnificent work:
"Look unto Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22)
Song of Our Saviour is for SATB soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra. It received its World Premiere performance over one hundred years later in 1992, conducted by Raymond E. Fahrner. Click the link in the box to hear the magnificent Trio from this cantata for Soprano, Alto, Tenor soloists, organ and orchestra.
There was an article about this World Premiere performance of the Jones cantata in The Boston Globe newspaper, "Giving life to E.A. Jones' lost masterpiece," on May 4, 1992.
The complete cantata from the World Premiere performance is now available on this CD:
"E.A. Jones - A Centennial Collection."
The second major choral work by Jones was his oratorio,
Easter Concert (Op. 28), published in 1890 in a piano-vocal score by White-Smith Music in Boston.
Jones was a friend of one of Boston's most respected musicians, B.J. Lang, who attended the first performance of the oratorio, then titled Easter Anthem (Op. 23), in Stoughton on April 11, 1887. Lang spoke briefly at the intermission and called the oratorio "a beautiful and grand affair." He went on to say that he wished he could transport the whole chorus and orchestra of 150 members to his city twenty miles away, "to give the people of Boston an idea of what Stoughton could do."
Easter Concert was modeled on Handel's Messiah and is in three sections, ending with a majestic fugal movement for solo quartet and chorus.
The first modern day performance of this Jones oratorio, edited and conducted by Roger Hall, was performed in 1981 by the Old Stoughton Musical Society. The work was performed again three years later. Both performances were from the piano-vocal score. Unfortunately, the orchestral parts are now lost.
Two Musical Societies
Jones was a member of the two choral societies in town:
The Stoughton Musical Society -- founded in 1786 and now the oldest choral society in the United States. Jones joined this society in 1871. In 1908 it was officially incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as The Old Stoughton Musical Society (or OSMS).
The Musical Society in Stoughton --founded in 1802 and Jones joined in 1881. This musical society was disbanded in 1982.
For the Stoughton Musical Society Centennial in 1886, Jones was the lead violinist and director of the orchestra. Also that year, he composed a special commemorative chorus for The Musical Society in Stoughton, a fuging tune in the style of 18th century New England music, and he titled it: "OLD STOUGHTON."
Leadership and Legacy
Jones held a weekly "musicale" of chamber music with his musician friends at his Stoughton home, performing chamber music by Mozart, Mendelssohn and other composers.
Besides his musical activities, he was also remembered for his civic leadership as School Committee member for fifteen years, Trustee of the Stoughton Public Library, President of the Fortnightly Club, and Secretary of the Chicataubut Club.
He was also President of the Stoughton Musical Society (1902-1904) and its Secretary (1894-1901/1906-1910).
In 1892, Jones designed the Stoughton Town Seal -- possibly the only one in the United States with a historical music symbol -- a harp honoring the oldest choral society in the U.S.A.
Because of his considerable dedication on the School Committee, a school in Stoughton was named after him, located across the street from where he lived at the corner of Pierce and Walnut Streets.
Edwin Arthur Jones died suddenly of a heart attack on January 9, 1911, at the age of 57.
Praise From A Famous Boston Author
The distinguished writer and clergyman, Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) , wrote the following description of a Sunday concert:
For two hours an orchestra, such as he had seldom heard, rendered with dignity and feeling some of the best music of the noblest composers...more than fifty years ago the musical society of this village was gathered and incorporated. That has probably helped in building up the taste of this town. But in our generation one modest man who knows the power of music has organized this grand orchestra.
Nobody pays them, nobody pays him, except the good God. ..This man was the leader, whom you saw. If he had not been too modest, you would have heard one of his own compositions. I dare say you have heard them in New York or in Cincinnati. I wanted you to see this, so soon as you asked what was possible in a community of five hundred people.
He then explained what his fictional description was based on:
I have here attempted to describe the interesting musical service which is carried on in the town of Stoughton, in Norfolk County, in Massachusetts ...I have but described in this chapter, as well as I can, the service which the people of this town render regularly under the leadership of Mr. Edward [Edwin A.] Jones.
-- Edward E. Hale, Mr. Tangier's Vacations (Boston, 1888), pages 45-46.
2011 Program Tributes
Jones biographer, Roger Hall spoke about the Jones String Quartet No. 2 in G minor, dedicated to Isabella Stewart Gardner and first performed on February 28, 1889 in the music room [shown at right] of her home at 152 Beacon Street in Boston.
This string quartet, performed by The Cremona Quartet in 1985, was played as part of the Stoughton Reads Together series on the Gardner Museum Art Heist, and presented in the Wales French Room of the Stoughton Public Library,Thursday,
After the program, Roger Hall presented his new DVD collection titled, NEW ENGLAND MUSIC SAMPLER, which includes the Jones string quartet and other music by E.A. Jones, to Stoughton Library Director, Pat Basler.
On Sunday, March 13, at the Stoughton Historical Society, musicologist and Jones biographer, Roger Hall, presented several DVDs of his music research to Dwight MacKerron, Historical Society President. Roger also gave a slide show about the music
of E.A. Jones for those attending the monthly Stoughton Historical Society meeting. His lecture was titled, "E.A. Jones: Stoughton's Past Music Man."