Singing Meetings and Concerts
Compiled and Edited by Roger Lee Hall
"may the artistic values of choral music, mass participation, and the
strengthening of friendship's ties throughout the Town and district,
through music, be not forgotten among us."
-- Frank W. Reynolds, 1962
(bicentennial year of the first singing meetings in Stoughton)
Stoughton Square in 1910
Stoughton, Massachusetts has the distinction of having the oldest continuing singing society in the United States of America.
In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the first documented singing meetings in Stoughton, a DVD has been prepared by musicologist, Roger Lee Hall, with historical information about singing meetings and concerts in Stoughton, Avon, Braintree, Brockton, Canton, Randolph, Sharon and other area towns.
This survey includes information about the two musical societies and does not include any of the music concerts or programs from the Stoughton public schools.
The first edition of the OLD STOUGHTON book covered the years 1762 to 1912. The second edition adds seventy more years up to 1982.
Included on the disc are detailed descriptions of singing meetings and concerts with listings of the music performed and other historical information. Also a list of the most performed American tunes in Stoughton concerts between 1882 and 1982.
Information is also provided for Stoughton-born composers, such as Supply Belcher (1751-1836)
Jacob French (1754-1817).
The DVD also contains picture galleries with local composers and sheet music, and a music album featuring local composers.
This DVD is useful for musicians, musicologists, historians, genealogists, researchers, teachers, students,
and anyone interested in American music or history.
Included in the book are meetings held during important times in American history such as when the U.S. Constitution was written and that same year of 1787 the Stoughton Musical Society had their own as well -- the first constitution of any music organization in the U.S.A.
The DVD title is named after a local tune, OLD STOUGHTON, by Stoughton composer and violinist, Edwin Arthur Jones (1853-1911), and his tune was published in 1886. A recording of OLD STOUGHTON is included on the DVD.
The book focuses on singing meetings and concerts by Stoughton's two musical societies. Here is the first page of original 1786 journal of the Stoughton Musical Society:
--The Stoughton Musical Society (now called Old Stoughton Musical Society or OSMS), was organized on November 7, 1786, and
it is now the oldest choral society in the U.S.A. Their members were from Stoughton and many surrounding towns in Massachusetts.
--The Musical Society in Stoughton (or MSIS), and differing from OSMS by only allowing town residents to join. Some members of MSIS claimed they were the oldest in town since they used the 1762 date as their beginning, but there is no evidence to prove that claim. Their first journal indicates they were organized on January 1, 1802. MSIS was disbanded in 1982.
Contents of the book:
Introduction: Remembrance of Tunes Past
PART ONE: List of Singing Meetings and Concerts
I. 1762-1770: First singing meetings
II. 1774-1779: William Billings singing school and other meetings
III. 1780-1789: First musical society organized
IV. 1790-1799: First singing contest and more meetings
V. 1802-1859: Second musical society organized
VI. 1860-1885: Centennial Collection published
VII. 1886: Centennial Concert of Stoughton Musical Society
VIII. 1887: Grand Spring Reunion and Concert
IX.1889-1899: Christmas Sings
X. 1900-1912: Early 20th Century Concerts
XI. 1913-1935: Special Concerts
PART TWO: Additional Information
“Another Offspring of Dorchester” (1910 article - excerpt)
Most Performed Early New England Tunes, 1882-1982
Meeting Places for Concerts
Bonus Features on the DVD:
Music album: Old Stoughton Music Sampler
Video program: "A Stoughton Musicfest: Local Composers and Musicians" (May 1990)
(one hour cable television program with historical commentary, a short play: "William Billings Teaches A Singing School," and music performances by local singers and Stoughton High School instrumentalists.