New England Music Archive (NEMA)
Resources and Recordings
This is one of the largest online sites with information about vocal music from New England's past.
The New England Music Archive (or NEMA) provides information online about research and recordings of music
composed and performed in New England
during the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Since the earliest music in the United State of America was primarily vocal, that is the focus of the New England Music Archive.
Instrumental music is also included but on a more limited basis.
There are two main collections available: New England Music Series and New England Song Series. The titles are listed below.
All the items listed below were researched and written
musicologist, Roger Lee Hall,
Director of the New England Music Archive and also Album Producer for the American Music Recordings Collection (AMRC).
Read more at these links:
Harmony Revered: Old Stoughton vs. Sacred Harp Singing
Patrick Gilmore and the Boston Peace Jubilees
New England Composers Born Before 1900
New England Music Series (NEMS)
New England Song Series (NESS)
New England Music in Concerts
New England Composers Series
New England Composers Born Before 1920
Shaker Music Preservation Series
Attention - Musicians, Researchers, Teachers and Students!
If you are involved with collecting research on New England music for a publication, a class, or a recording, it is recommended that you consider purchasing an item from the New England Music Series or Song Series.
You are encouraged to submit your work for free posting on this site of a short research paper or a music review -- with no footnotes but with a list of sources consulted.
If your proposal is
approved by the NEMA Director your item will be available online for up to one year from the date it is posted and announcements will be made
on appropriate online sites. With your paper or review please include a short biographical description of your past work.
Send your request for work you would like to be considered for publication to:
In the future, a conference or special concert featuring music from New England's past may be sponsored by NEMA and
presented at a convenient location.
If you are interested in assisting with the planning of a conference or are a performer who can present a concert focusing on music by New England composers from the past, write to:
NEMA conference or concert
Old Stoughton vs. Sacred Harp Singing
Two of the oldest amateur singing traditions of religious harmony music in the U.S.A. are worth remebering.
One of them is located in Stoughton, Massachusetts. The other tradition is Sacred Harp singing in the South, especially in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
Of these, Stoughton is the oldest, performing choral music for over 200 years and consisting of plain tunes, fuging tunes, set pieces and anthems. Also, that music was supplemented with performances of larger choral works, such as cantatas and oratorios -- both types composed by an unjustly forgotten 19th century Stoughton composer, who was much respected in his day: Edwin Arthur Jones (1853-1911).
There were two music collections published by the Stoughton Musical Society, the first in 1829 and the second one in 1878, which had tunes by Stoughton-born composers, such as Supply Belcher, Jacob French, and his brother, Edward French.
In 1980, The Stoughton Musical Society's Centennial Collection of Sacred Music (Ditson & Co., 1878), was reprinted with an Introduction and New Index by Roger Hall (New York: Da Capo Press, 304 pages). There are about 160 tunes in the collection, most of them by New England composers and some edited music by European composers (Haydn, Mozart, Naumann, Stephenson, Tans'ur). There are more New England tunes in this Stoughton collection than in other tune books of the 19th century, including The Sacred Harp.
Here are the number of tunes by William Billings in the two main tunebooks:
The Sacred Harp (1844/ numerous revisions) = 14 tunes
The Stoughton Centennial Collection (1878/
Da Capo reprint, 1980) = 28 tunes
There are approximately 48 early New England tunes in The Sacred Harp and 33 of these tunes are also found in The Stoughton Centennial Collection -- which is not a shape-note tunebook. Almost all the tunes in the Stoughton Centennial Collection are from early New England composers.
Thus, contrary to common belief, 18th century tunes did not disappear during the 19th century and early 20th centuries in the North, at least in Stoughton and surrounding towns.
Unfortunately, this fact is forgotten or not known by many music scholars and those who sing the New England tunes from The Sacred Harp, and other contemporary tune books, like The Northern Harmony (1998) and The Norumbega Harmony (2003).
They all fail to mention the important singing tradition in Stoughton that has been continuous since the 1760s.
The only event ever mentioned about Stoughton is the famous singing school taught there by William Billings in 1774. It is incorrect to say that Billings actually organized the Stoughton Musical Society, though he was greatly admired and five of the pupils in his singing school later joined the musical society when it was organized in 1786. Much more has happened in Stoughton since that time.
Also, these singing traditions in the North and South are not the same.
The Sacred Harp (or Shape-note) Tradition features a different singing style, with more emphasis placed on lung power and less on subtle singing. It is a much better known tradition than the one from Stoughton, and much appreciated, as it should be.
The Stoughton Tradition has been a more cultivated one. Like the Sacred Harp Tradition, the singers are not usually professional musicians. In the past, most of the chorus was made up of singers from many nearby towns in the Stoughton area. Their concerts have often included many of the same people who meet to enjoy the singing experience. It has remained the longest such tradition but unfortunately seems to have lost its way in the present day, with far fewer good singers and a change of repertoire away from the singing of early New England tunes.
For two centuries, 18th century choral music was continued by the Stoughton Musical Society, and deserves to be remembered for that achievement.
Learn more about America's oldest surviving choral society,
founded in 1786 --
The Boston Peace Jubilee Concerts
(1869, 1872, 1889)
Both these music festivals were held in Boston. They were organized by bandleader,
Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore [shown in picture]. The 1869 festival was organized
to commemorate the end of the Civil War, and
U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant attended the opening ceremonies.
At the 1872 festival, one of the special invited guests was Johann Strauss Jr.
(The Waltz King) from Vienna.
There were thousands of musicians in the orchestra and chorus who participated
in these two "monster" music festivals.
Read more at
The Boston Peace Jubilees
New England Composers Series
No. 1: William Billings
No. 2: Supply Belcher
No. 3: Edwin Arthur Jones
No. 4: George Whitefield Chadwick
New England Composers Born Before 1900
See the list of New England composers
New England Music Series
or multi-media DVD-ROMs