Singing Stoughton

including America's oldest surviving choral society


Stoughton Music Series NEW!

Earliest Singing Meetings in 1762 NEW!

The William Billings Singing School

America's Oldest - The Stoughton Musical Society

America's First Singing Contest

The Musical Society in Stoughton

The Centennial Celebration in 1886

The World's Columbian Exposition Concerts in 1893

The Town of Stoughton 200th in 1926

Two Music Festivals in 1978 and 1980

The 1981 Stoughton Town Hall Concert and "Peace" premiere

The Bicentennial Celebration in 1986

Musical Society Constitutuion Bicentennial in 1987

Two Centuries of Stoughton Composers

Father Kemp's Old Folks Concerts

Harmony Revered: Old Stoughton vs. Sacred Harp Singing

Most Performed Early New England Tunes

List of OSMS Officers (1929-1984)

CD: "The Heavenly Vision" - Choral Music in Stoughton NEW!

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A few notes of introduction...


For over 250 years the Town of Stoughton, Massachusetts has been filled with singing!

This page has been prepared to make people aware of this long and distinguished musical past.

Among Stoughton's many distinctions are two musical societies, one of them now the oldest in the United States and whose roots go back to the 1760s. Since it has remained an amateur singing society it may now be the oldest one of its kind in the entire world.

More recently, there have been many award-winning Stoughton High School musicians who have received gold and silver medals at competitions locally and elsewhere.

Plus, there is the popularity of Stoughton singer-songwriter, Lori McKenna.

Unfortunately, over the years there has been much misinformation about Stoughton's two historic musical societies which have similar names:

The Stoughton Musical Society (1786-

The Musical Society in Stoughton (1802-1982)

It has been written that the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, organized in 1815, was America's oldest musical society. Not true!

The Stoughton Musical Society (known later as: The Old Stoughton Musical Society or OSMS) was organized on November 7, 1786 and is now the oldest choral society in the United States of America.

Their first President was Elijah Dunbar, a graduate of Harvard College and a frequent singer in town. He lived in what is today the Town of Canton. His diaries from 1762-63 are the earliest known mentions of singing meetings in homes and taverns, and they are listed in this historical collection available on DVD:
OLD STOUGHTON - Singing Meetings and Concerts, 1762-1962.

After it was incorporated in 1908 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it was designated as The Old Stoughton Musical Socierty. This musical society was officially recognized by The Guinness Book of Records in 1994, thanks to proof provided by musicologist and composer, Roger Lee Hall.

The other music group was called The Musical Society in Stoughton (MSIS) and was organized in 1802. This society only accepted singers from the Town of Stoughton and not from other towns as OSMS did. The Musical Society in Stoughton claimed to have been founded in 1762 but there are no documents to prove that claim. After years of declining membership, MSIS was disbanded in 1982.

Some music historians have continued to repeat the same incorrect information.

For example, they have written that 18th choral music "disappeared" from New England during the 19th century and 20th century. But it did not disappear in Stoughton where the singers continued their efforts to preserve the earlier choral music especially by New England composers.

One way they illustrated their preservation efforts was when the Stoughton Musical Society performed two concerts before several thousand people at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Here is one example of the neglect by musicologists about this musical society:

There are 28 tunes by America's first major composer, William Billings, found in The Stoughton Musical Society's Centennial Collection of Sacred Music (1878), and yet this music collection --one of the largest to contain 18th century American choral music --is not even listed in Catalog of the Musical Works of William Billings, compiled by Karl Kroeger.

Also, there have been errors in various publications about Stoughton's musical societies.

In John E. Flynn's booklet, Beyond the Blew-Hills: A Brief History of the Town of Stoughton, Massachusetts, he wrote this entry:


"Beginning Old Stoughton Musical Society: Capt. Samuel Talbot, leader."

That is completely false. The Stoughton Musical Society was not organized until 1786 and its leader was Elijah Dunbar not Capt. Samuel Talbot. There was no organized musical society in 1762, only informal singing meetings.

Please pass the word along that this Massachusetts town deserves to be recognized for its distinguished musical heritage and thus be called:

"Singing Stoughton"

For comments or questions, write to:

Singing Stoughton


Stoughton Music Series

A series of DVDs and CDs
prepared by musicologist, Roger Lee Hall,
with documents, picture galleries, video programs,
and music performed by Stoughton singers.

For more information, click this link:

Stoughton Music Series


Selected Stoughton Music Highlights, 1762-1987

The listings below were compiled
by musicologist, Roger Lee Hall


Earliest Singing Meetings




The first known singing meetings were held in 1762 . There were 30 singing meetings listed at various locations in the diary of Elijah Dunbar (1740-1814), who eventually became the First President of the Stoughton Musical Society in 1786. A list of all the singing meetings in 1762 and 1763 from Dunbar's original diaries as well as many others are included in the book included on the multi-media DVD with music titled, "OLD STOUGHTON" - Singing Meetings and Concerts.


See the essay, "The Musical Elijah Dunbar," by Roger Lee Hall, compiled from the Dubar journals and published in -

This publication is available at this link:

Stoughton Historical Society




The William Billings Singing School

This photo from the early 1900s shows the site of Robert Capen's house at the corner of Park and Seaver Streets in Stoughton. It was later moved and remodeled on Seaver Street where it still stands.

The Capen house is where the famous Boston composer, William Billings, taught his singing school in 1774. Billings was the best known New England composer in 18th century America. His Stoughton singing school had 49 pupils, consisting of young males and females, and one of them later became a composer himself, Jacob French (1754-1817).


The (Old) Stoughton Musical Society, 1786 -

This plaque is located at the entrance of the Stoughton Historical Society building in Stoughton Square and reads:

"On November 7, 1786, America's oldest musical society was organized near this spot. This plaque placed on the occasion of its 200th anniversary in 1986."

This society was originally known as the Stoughton Musical Society (SMS) and had its first meeting at Robert Capen's house at the corner of Park and Seaver Streets.

Many of the first members were from what is now Canton, Massachusetts, including their first President and Song Leader, Elijah Dunbar, who served as President until 1808. He was a graduate of Harvard College and active in many duties, including naming his Town of Canton, when it was incorporated in 1797. SMS Vice-President was Capt. Samuel Talbot, who later served as as their second President from 1808 to 1818. The first Secretary was Lt. Samuel Capen, serving from 1786 to 1800. For the first few years there were two Treasurers: Joseph Smith, 4th and Andrew Capen.

At first it was exclusively a men's singing society. Then in 1844, "it was voted that ladies be invited to sing with the Society," after the serving of alcohol had been abolished.

This musical society added the prefix "Old" when they were officially incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1908. They accepted singers from all the surrounding towns, including Avon, Braintree, Bridgewater, Brockton, Canton, Randolph and other places.

Two hundred years later to the date, on November 7, 1986, the OSMS bicentennial concert was held at Stoughton High School. The same major choral work was performed as at the Centennial Concert in 1886 -- Franz Joseph Haydn's The Creation, for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Also performed in the concert was a tune titled "Stoughton" by William Billings, in a new edition with a popular 18th century text.

In 1994, thanks to the efforts of musicologist and composer Roger Hall, this choral society was listed in The Guinness Book of Records.

Mr. Hall also submitted the information to the Chase's Calendar of Events, a national directory, which had this entry:

"OLD STOUGHTON MUSICAL SOCIETY:  ANNIVERSARY.  Nov. 7, 1786.  Founded at Stoughton, MA, the Stoughton Musical Society is the oldest choral society in the United States."

Another distinction for the Stoughton Musical Society is the first Constitution written by a musical organization in 1787, just two weeks after the U.S. Constitution. For a one-act play about the writing of the Stoughton Musical Society's Constitution, see "Peace" - Music From Stoughton.


First Singing Contest

Read about the contest between two Massachusetts choruses, included selected male voices from the Stoughton Musical Society at

America's First Singing Contest


The Musical Society in Stoughton, 1802-1982

A second choral society was organized in Stoughton on January 1, 1802. It was sometimes called "Ye Olde Musical Society" but the official name was The Musical Society in Stoughton (or MSIS).

The only difference between the two societies was that only Stoughton residents could join this singing group. Many of them also belonged to the older Stoughton Musical Society. For example, the first President of this choral society was Capt. Samuel Talbot, who also served at the same time as Vice President of the Stoughton Musical Society.

Samuel Talbot served as President of the Musical Society in Stoughton from 1802 to 1808. The first Vice President was Robert Swan, who served from 1806 to 1808. First Secretary was Abram Capen (1802-1806), and first Treasurer was John Dickerman Jr. (1802-1806).

For many years the Musical Society in Stoughton officers claimed to have been founded in 1762, but there are no documents to support that claim. Their claim was that the first singing meetings in 1762 were the beginning of this musical society. There are no records to prove there was a musical society organized in 1762.


The Great Signboard Hoax

One of their last officers, Frank Reynolds, painted over the original sign board with the incorrect date of 1762 substituted for the date of 1802, bringing great dishonor to him for tampering with an artifact of history. But his dirty deed didn't go unpunished.
After years of incorrectly claiming they were the "oldest choral society in America," the Musical Society in Stoughton continued to lose members until they finally dwindled down to only a few members and the MSIS was disbanded in 1982. Their remaining assets was given to the Old Stoughton Musical Society, which WAS the oldest one in town.

There are still traces of the wrong date for the Musical Society in Stoughton, such as in the Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown, Massachusetts, which may be "set in stone" but is still incorrect when it has the date of 1762 instead of 1802. The 1786 date is correct for the Old Stoughton Musical Society. Actually both musical societies had singers who were attending informal singing meetings in the 1760s in Stoughton.




The Centennial Celebration in 1886

The Centennial observance of The Stoughton Musical Society took place with Gov. George D. Robinson and Lt. Gov. Oliver Ames in attendance.

The Centennial Celebration of the Stoughton Musical Society was held on June 9, 1886 with an evening concert at Stoughton Town Hall:

The complete program for the Centennial on June 9:

Morning Exercises (10:00 a.m.)

1. Overture: The Magic Flute - Mozart
2. Hymn to the tune of "Old Hundred"
3. Prayer by Rev. E.H. Capen, D.D., President Tufts College.
4. Words of welcome by the SMS President, Winslow Battles.
5. Historical address by Hon. Samuel B. Noyes.
6. Centennial Hymn - written by Dexter Smith, Esq.

Evening Exercises (7:30 p.m.)

Oratorio: The Creation - F.J. Haydn

Miss Elene Buffington Kehew, soprano;
Mr. George J. Parker, tenor;
Mr. Clarence E. Hay, bass.
Orchestra of the Society, Mr. E.A. Jones, leader,
Mr. H.L. West, accompanist.
Conductor: Mr. Hiram Wilde,
Assistant Conductor: Mr. George N. Spear.

Tickets to Concert, 50 and 75 cents.
Admission to the morning exercises alone -- 25 cents

Also in 1886, E.A. Jones composed a special commemorative piece for the Musical Society in Stoughton and he titled it, "OLD STOUGHTON." This tune was composed in the 18th century New England style. A copy of the sheet music is included in the pamphlet, E.A. Jones: His Life and Music.

A recording of "OLD STOUGHTON" is on the music album accompanying the multi-media DVD: OLD STOUGHTON - Singing Meetings and Concerts 1762-1962.

The World's Exposition Concerts in 1893

In August of 1893, the Stoughton Musical Society was the only invited chorus to perform early New England music at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The man mostly responsible for arranging these concerts was Stoughton composer and violinist, Edwin Arthur Jones.  Two concerts were given on August 14 and 15, with several thousand people in the audience, more than attended the classical symphony concerts.

For a complete list of the music performed by the Stoughton Musical Society click this link:

1893 World's Columbian Exposition Concerts


The Town of Stoughton 200th in 1926

One of the greatest events in the history of our two oldest existing musical societies in America occurred August 22, 1926, when the 200th Anniversary Celebration of the Town of Stoughton was opened by a Sacred Concert on the Pageant Grounds at three o'clock in the afternoon, in which the Old Stoughton Musical Society and the Musical Society in Stoughton joined. A beautiful day made it possible to give the concert in the open. There were over 150 in the chorus, including singers from the surrounding towns, and 35 in the orchestra.

from The Old Stoughton Musical Society (1929), page 111.

Music by Stoughton composers: Edward French,
Laura S. Gebhardt ("Flag of All Our Country" - First Performance), and Edwin A. Jones.

Other New England composers: E.L. White, A. Maxim, T. Swan, W. Billings, D. Read, L. Mason.


Two Fall Music Festivals

"Musick in Old New England"

Old Stoughton Musical Society's First Fall Music Festival was held in Bridgewater, Massachusetts on October 14-15, 1978.

Featuring choral music by William Billings, Bartholomew Brown, Samuel Capen, Lewis Edson, Jeremiah Ingalls, Edwin Arthur Jones, Nahum Mitchell, and organ music by James Hewitt, Oliver Shaw and others. The Old Stoughton Musical Society Chorus, William J. Childs, director. Richard Hill, organist.

A CD is available from the radio program narrated by Festival Chairman, Roger Hall. Read more at:

Stoughton Music Series

"Musick in Old Boston"

Second Fall Music Festival:
Boston, November 22-23, 1980

Stoughton Town Hall Centennial Concert in 1981

This concert honoring the centennial of Stoughton Town Hall was performed by the Old Stoughton Musical Society, conducted by Roger Hall on November 22, 1981.  

A special banner with the Stoughton Town Seal was designed for the occasion by artist Mildred Wilson.

All the music was by American composers, including William Billings, Supply Belcher, Samuel Barber and Randall Thompson.

Some of the pieces in the concert were by local composers, including several choruses by Edwin Arthur Jones.

Also the premiere performance of an song titled, "Peace," set to a poem written in 1814 by a Stoughton girl, Esther Talbot (1803-1892).

The poem was set to music by Roger Hall and received its First Performance in the 1981 concert.

Read more about this song at Peace Poem of 1814.

Read about the 1981 concert and the CD with highlights
from this Stoughton Town Hall Concert

To see the 100th anniversary Town Hall program,
click here

OSMS Bicentennial Anniversary in 1986

November 7, 1986 was declared as "Old Stoughton Musical Society Day" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by order of Governor Michael S. Dukakis. Shown here behind Gov. Dukakis are (left to right):
State Senator William R. Keating;
O.S.M.S. President David M. Benjamin;
State Representative Marjorie A. Clapprood;
O.S.M.S. Treasurer Joseph M. Klements;
O.S.M.S. Vice President and Bicentennial Chairman, Roger L. Hall

The Old Stoughton Musical Society Bicentennial Season included special exhibits at Harvard University, the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington and in Stoughton, all produced by Bicentennial Chairman, Roger Hall.

There were four concerts given during 1986:

The first one was given on April 20 in North Easton, Massachusetts, under the direction of Earl Eyrich. It featured the World Premiere performance of the hymn tune, STOUGHTON, by William Billings [1770 copy shown above]. This tune originally had music only without any words. The Billings tune was edited by Roger Hall, who added a hymn text by Dr. Isaac Watts which was popular in 18th century New England.

Also, there were two concerts given in 1986 at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts:

The first concert in Lexington was presented in October and titled: "Two Centuries of Piano Music in New England," featuring pianist David Hagan performing works by Charles Ives, Edwin Arthur Jones, and Roger Hall.

The following month a second concert was presented: "Two Centuries of Choral Music in New England," with the Old Stoughton Musical Society Chorus, directed by Earl Eyrich, performing music by William Billings, Jacob French, Oliver Shaw, Edwin A. Jones, George W. Chadwick, and Roger Hall, who composed an 18th century style fuging tune for the OSMS bicentennial titled, DEDICATION, based on words printed in the 1794 tune book of William Billings.

The fourth concert that year was the official Bicentennial Concert held at Stoughton High School exactly two hundred years later on November 7, 1986.  The Billings hymn STOUGHTON was again performed and the featured work was Franz Joseph Haydn's oratorio, The Creation, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, conducted by Earl Eyrich.  This was the same work that had been performed in the 1886 concert of the Old Stoughton Musical Society. The Bicentennial Commemorative program booklet contains congratulatory letters from President Ronald Reagan, an entry in The Congressional Record by Hon. Joseph Moakley,  and concert notes by Earl Eyrich and Roger Hall.

Also on November 7, Roger Hall was a guest along with William Billings biographer, David McKay, on the popular classical radio program, "Morning Pro Musica," on WGBH-FM hosted by Robert J. Lurtsema. There were several Billings tunes played on the program. A portion of this radio interview is available on this CD, The Best of William Billings.

In honor of this 200th anniversary, Roger Hall wrote a special Bicentennial Hymn based on the familiar psalm tune, "Old Hundred." This hymn text was included in the Bicentennial Concert Commemorative Program Booklet.

The 60 member chorus of The Old Stoughton Musical Society on stage at Stoughton High School for the Bicentennial Concert
on November 7, 1986


The Stoughton Musical Society
Constitution Bicentennial in 1987

The bicentennial of the oldest constitution of any musical society in the United States took place in October of 1987.

The Stoughton Musical Society was written in October of 1787, just a few weeks after the U.S. Constitution was written. Here is a portion of the opening statement or Preamble to this 1787 Constitution :

And as the powers of harmonious music are most admirably calculated to humanize the ferocious passions, to increase the various emotions of the mind, the different degrees of sensibility and all the feelings of the heart, that not only the sense of hearing receives the highest gratification from sounds the most congenial to the organs of man, but we are made partakers at one and the same time of instruction and delight in viewing the noblest work of the Almighty, put in motion to answer the noblest ends... We, therefore, esteem it our duty to study to promote that harmony which is pleasing to our Maker and so delightful to ourselves. Stimulated with these salutary and laudable motives, we, whose names are underwritten, form ourselves in a society by the name of the Stoughton Musical Society, for the implied purpose of practicing vocal music....

The bicentennial program including an original play about the writing of the Stoughton Musical Society's Constitution. The play is titled: "Old Stoughton and The Grand Constitution." A video of the 1987 program and play is included on this DVD release:

"Peace" - Music From Stoughton






Two Centuries of Stoughton Composers

Portrait and signature of Supply Belcher from
A History of Farmington, Franklin County, Maine

A research article written by Roger Lee Hall titled,

"The Handel of Maine:
The Musical Life of Supply Belcher"

included as a document on the multimedia DVD,
"OLD STOUGHTON" - Singing Meetings and Concerts

18th century Stoughton composers

There were at least four composers born in 18th century Stoughton, and two of them Supply Belcher and Jacob French, became better known when they moved to other New England states.

Belcher became a prominent judge in Maine and French taught singing in Connecticut. Both produced music collections (or "tunebooks").

Belcher published only one tunebook, The Harmony of Maine (Boston, 1794), which may have tunes he composed while living in Canton, Massachusetts.

Jacob French published three tunebooks:
The New American Melody
The Psalmodist's Companion (1793)
The Harmony of Harmony (1802).

The four Stoughton-born composers from the 18th century are:

  • Supply Belcher (born: Stoughton, 1751/ died: Farmington, Maine, 1836)
  • Samuel Capen (born: Stoughton, 1745 / died: Canton, Massachusetts, 1809)
  • Edward French (born: Stoughton, 1761 /died: Sharon, Massachusetts, 1845)
  • Jacob French (born: Stoughton, 1754 / died: Simsbury, Connecticut, 1817)


19th century Stoughton composers

  • Alanson Belcher (born: 1810/died: Stoughton, 1900)
  • Edwin Arthur Jones (born: 1853/died: Stoughton, 1911)



20th century composers

  • Laura Shafer Gebhardt (born: 1885/died Stoughton, 1959)
  • F. William Kempf (born: 1901/ died: Stoughton, 1950)
  • Frank W. Reynolds (born: 1887/died: Stoughton, 1975)
  • Roger Lee Hall (born: 1942)



For many years in Old Stoughton Musical Society concerts
this tunebook was used...

Father Kemp's Old Folks Concert Tunes



Harmony Revered:
Old Stoughton vs. Sacred Harp Singing

by Roger Lee Hall

Two of the oldest amateur singing traditions of religious or harmony music in the U.S. are the two musical societies in Stoughton, and the Sacred Harp singing in the South, especially in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.

Of these, Stoughton is the oldest, performing choral music consisting of plain tunes, fuging tunes, set pieces and anthems. Also, this music has been supplemented with performances of larger choral works, such as cantatas and oratorios -- both types composed by an unjustly forgotten 19th century Stoughton composer, Edwin Arthur Jones.

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.

Just to give an example, here are the number of tunes by William Billings in these collections:

The Sacred Harp (1844/ revision, 1991) = 14 tunes

The Stoughton Centennial Collection (1878/ 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.

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 scholars and those who sing the New England music 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 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.


Most Performed Early New England Tunes

As compiled by musicologist, Roger Hall, these are the top ten most performed tunes in Stoughton Musical Society concerts between 1882 and 1982:

No. 1: NEW JERUSALEM - Jeremiah Ingalls, 1764-1838
No. 2: CHESTER - William Billings, 1746-1800
No. 3: MAJESTY - William Billings
No. 4: VICTORY - Daniel Read, 1757-1836
No. 5: TURNER - Abraham Maxim, 1773-1829
No. 6: INVITATION - Jacob Kimball, 1761-1826
No. 7: ANTHEM FOR EASTER - William Billings
No. 8: CONFIDENCE - Oliver Holden, 1765-1844
No. 9: ODE ON SCIENCE - Jezaniah Sumner, 1754-1836
No. 10: NEW BETHLEHEM - Edward French, 1761-1845

Source: SINGING STOUGHTON: Selected Highlights from America's Oldest Choral Society(1984)


List of Officers (1929-1984)


For the officers previous to 1929,
see The Old Stoughton Musical Society: An Historical and Informative Record
of the Oldest Choral Society in America

The following list of officers is from
Singing Stoughton: Selected Highlights from America's Oldest Choral Society
by Roger L. Hall, Historian, Old Stoughton Musical Society (1985) --
the last named officers continued to serve after 1984:

(number, town of residence, years served)

Joseph Belcher (28th) Randolph, MA 1929-1935
Edwin B. Arnold (29th) Braintree, MA 1936-1837
Merrit A. Godwin (30th) Brockton, MA 1938-1946
G. Lester Gay (31st) Stoughton, MA 1947-1960
David M. Benjamin (32nd) Stoughton, MA 1961-1984


Roscoe C. Adams Braintree 1948-1949
Mrs. James Buckley Brockton 1950-1955
Archie T. Morrison South Braintree 1956-1958
Charles P. Buckley Brockton 1959
David M. Benjamin Stoughton 1960
William J. Childs Stoughton 1961-1966
G. Carl Anderson Stoughton 1967-1977
Roger L. Hall Stoughton 1978-1984



Merrit A. Godwin (Secretary-Treasurer) Brockton 1929-1937
G. Lester Gay (Sec-Treas) Stoughton 1938-1947
Ernest S. Weaver (Sec-Treas) Stoughton 1948-1951
Harold R. Paul (Sec-Treas) Stoughton 1952-1955
Herman A. Barber (Clerk) Avon 1956-1959
Charles P. Buckley (Clerk) Brockton 1960-1982
Mildred K. Wilson (Clerk) Stoughton 1983-1984
Joseph M. Klements (Treasurer) Stoughton, 1983-1984


William H. Capen Stoughton 1930-1939
Carl L. Smith Stoughton 1940-1967
Roger L. Hall Stoughton 1979-1984


George Sawyer Dunham (18th) Brockton 1929-1949
Carl L. Smith (19th) Stoughton 1950-1966
William J. Childs (20th) Stoughton 1967-1979
Roger L. Hall (21st) Stoughton 1980-1981
Earl Eyrich (22nd) Sudbury 1982-1984


Mrs. Laura Shafer Gebhardt (27th) Stoughton 1929-1938
Mrs. Cora G. Brooks (28th) Braintree 1938-1949
Carl L. Smith (29th) Stoughton 1939-1949
Mrs. James Wesson (30th) Stoughton 1950-1952
Frank W. Reynolds (31st) Stoughton 1950-1974
Blanche D. Pickering (32nd) Brockton 1953-1963
Reuben L. Willis (33rd) Stoughton 1962-1968
[office deleted after 1968]


Mace Gay Brockton 1929-1932
Elmer B. Wright Brockton 1929-1932 (Asst.)
Walter E. Loud Braintree 1937-1944
William R. Park Taunton 1945-1949
Meriel Blanchard Brockton 1950-1963
[office deleted after 1963]

In memory of past Old Stoughton Musical Society music director

Earl Eyrich, 1944-2001

In memory of two past Old Stoughton officers

Sally (MacKerron) Washburn Worthen, 1947-2011 (OSMS Bicentennial Committee)

David M. Benjamin, 1921-2008 (former OSMS President)





Books and Articles

Billings, Edward Adams

Roger Billings I of Sharon, Massachusetts: A Family Tree.
Barre, Vermont: L. Brown & Sons, 2001.
Includes brief information about composer William Billings who is incorrectly identified as a "musicologist." It is stated that William was not from the Roger Billings family line in Sharon. Also included is the tune STOUGHTON, edited by Roger Hall, incorrectly listed as from Canton.

Flynn, John E.

Beyond the Blew-Hills: A Short History of the Town of Stoughton, Massachusetts. Stoughton: Stoughton Historical Society, 1976. Originally published in 1956.

Hall, Roger L.

Huntoon, Daniel T.V.

History of Canton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts
, Cambridge, MA: John Wilson and Son, 1893. Includes a chapter on music in Canton and Stoughton.

Jones, Mary (Swan) and Frank W. Reynolds

History of the Musical Society in Stoughton, no date.
Note: The sub-heading on the cover --"Formed in 1762"--is incorrect. This society was formed on January 1, 1802.

Standish, Lemuel, editor

The Old Stoughton Musical Society: An Historical and Informative Record of the Oldest Choral Society in America
. Stoughton, Massachusetts, 1929.




Music Collections



PART ONE: William Billings - His Life and Music
1. Family Tree
2. Parents
3. Wife and Children
4. Occupations
5. Revolutionary Patriot
6. Singing Master and Composer

PART TWO: William Billings and Old Stoughton
7. The Singing School
8. The Stoughton Musical Society
9. First Tunebook
10. Second Tunebook
11. Chicago World's Exposition Concerts
12. Billings Tunes in Stoughton Concerts (1876-1986)



THE PLEASURES OF VARIETY (Text: William Billings/
Music: Roger Hall)

COME LET US SING (Text: William Billings/ Music: Roger Hall)

MAJESTY (music by William Billings, 1778)

STOUGHTON (music by William Billings, 1770, edited by Roger Hall)

Music Activities in Stoughton (1980-1999)

This monograph is in very limited supply and single copies may be ordered if still available by writing to:





Special Offer!

Learn about one of the oldest singing traditions
in the United States.



Music in Stoughton: A Brief Survey

This pamphlet, written by Roger L. Hall, covers the years from the first recorded singing meetings in 1762 to the Bicentennial of the Old Stoughton Musical Society's Constitution in 1987. It also includes other major music events such as: Oldest choral society in America organized (1786); Second musical society organized (1802); First oratorio by a local composer (1887); Only musical group representing early New England music at World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893); George Washington Bicentennial Concert (1932), Old Stoughton Musical Society Bicentennial (1986).

At the back of the pamphlet are lists of Most Performed American Tunes (1879-1979) and Most Performed American Composers (1976-1986).

Also included is the song titled, "Peace," specially composed by Roger Hall in 1981 for the Centennial of Stoughton Town Hall. This song is based on an anti-war poem written by a Stoughton teenage girl in 1814 about the War of 1812.


The Stoughton Songster

A collection compiled and edited by Roger L. Hall which includes the lyrics for 12 songs performed in Stoughton concerts between 1980 and 1990.

Included are songs by Stoughton composers:

Edwin A. Jones, Frank W. Reynolds, F.William Kempf, and Roger Hall.

Also there are original lyrics to "Yankee Doodle" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

All the songs are available on the accompanying CD, along with a radio special about the 200th anniversary of the Old Stoughton Musical Society in 1986.

The 12 song and hymn lyrics included in
The Stoughton Songster

I. Pilgrim Poet:

1. "O Boston!" (poem: William Bradford/ tune: OLD HUNDRED) -- edited and arranged by Roger Hall for the 350th anniversary of the City of Boston in 1980.

II. George Washington's Time:

2. "Stoughton" (music by William Billings, 1770/ edited by Roger Hall) -- for the Bicentennial of the Old Stoughton Musical Society in 1986.

3. "Father and I Went Down to Camp" (tune: YANKEE DOODLE, ca. 1775)

4. "The 'Vention did in Boston meet" (tune: YANKEE DOODLE, 1788)

5. "Ode to George Washington" (text: Samuel Low/ tune: GOD SAVE THE KING, edited by Roger Hall,1982) -- sung at the Inauguration of the First U.S. President in 1789.

III. Abraham Lincoln's Time:

6. "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (text: Samuel Francis Smith, 1831/ tune: GOD SAVE THE KING)

7. "John Brown's body lies a-mould'ring in the grave " (text printed by C.S. Hall, 1861/ tune: GLORY, HALLELUJAH,1861)

8. "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (text: Julia Ward Howe, 1862/ tune: GLORY, HALLELUJAH)

IV. Stoughton Songs:

9. "Old Stoughton" (music by Edwin Arthur Jones, 1886)

10. "Lullaby" (words and music by Frank W. Reynolds, 1922)

11. "Barbara Allen" (folk song arranged by F. William Kempf, 1942)

12. "Peace"(poem by Esther Talbot, 1814 / music by Roger Hall, 1981)

Both Music in Stoughton and The Stoughton Songster,
are available together for a donation to help support
American Music

For a donation of $20 you will receive both booklets
plus a bonus CD with music performed by a local chorus,
with Free Shipping included.

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Two Stoughton Music Booklets and CD




CD: "The Heavenly Vision" - Choral Music in Stoughton
(AMRC 0014)

I. Music by William Billings, 1746-1800:

1. STOUGHTON (1770, ed. Roger Lee Hall)
2. BOSTON (1778)
3. MAJESTY (1778)
4. CHESTER (1778)
5. CHESTER (1786 version with different text)
7. CLAREMONT (1781)
10. MODERN MUSIC (1781)

II. Four New England Tunes:

12. INVITATION (1793) - Jacob Kimball
13. VICTORY (1793) - Daniel Read
14. NEW JERUSALEM (1796) - Jeremiah Ingalls
15. NEW BETHLEHEM (1799) - Edward French

III. 18th-19th Century Stoughton Composers:

16. THE HEAVENLY VISION (1786) - Jacob French
17. 195th concert announcement on WGBH-FM, 1981
18. ANTHEM OF PRAISE (1794) - Supply Belcher
20. THE LORD IS KING (1890) - E.A. Jones

IV. 20th Century Composers and Concerts:

21. PEACE (1981) - Roger Lee Hall [First performance]
22. Commentary on DEDICATION - Lexington, Massachusetts, 1986
23. DEDICATION - Roger Lee Hall, 23 November 1986 [First performance]
24. Monitor Radio - 200th anniversary of Old Stoughton Musical Society,1986
25. THE FAREWELL WALTZES (1874) - Edwin Arthur Jones (1986 concert)

Note: The CD features music from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and was recorded at different live concerts so sound levels will vary.

Other CDs also available:

A Dedication Concert (Centennial of Stoughton Town Hall)

Music in Old New England, 1778-1878

Old Stoughton Music Sampler

The Stoughton Harmony, 1770-1986

To order any of these CDs, also available as downloads, write to:

Stoughton Music CDs




Musicologist Makes Music









Thanks to the efforts of musicologist and composer Roger Hall, the Old Stoughton Musical Society (OSMS) was listed as America's oldest choral society in The Guinness Book of Records and also in Chase's Calendar of Events.

For many years Roger has been involved with music preservation. He served as the first Chairman of the Stoughton Arts Council from 1980 to 1984, and also was a member of the Massachusetts Arts Advisory Committee during the 1980s.

Between 1979 and 1987, he was the Historian and Vice-President of the Old Stoughton Musical Society and organized several music festivals: "Music in Old New England" (1978) and "Musick in Old Boston" (1980).

Also, Roger was the Chairman of the Old Stoughton Musical Society (OSMS) Bicentennial Committee in 1986.

In the 1980s he discovered the manuscript music of E.A. Jones and especially his major work, the 1881 cantata for soloists, chorus and orchestra titled, Song of Our Saviour, which received its World Premiere performance in Stoughton in 1992 and was written about in the Boston Globe.

Roger composed two commemorative works for OSMS:

"Peace" (premiered in 1981)

"Dedication" (premiered in 1986)

To read about his preservation efforts, click on this link:

Saving Local Music

Roger is an authority on music from earlier America and is currently Director of the American Music Recordings Archive [AMRA] and New England Music Archive [NEMA].

A few of his many programs, all presented at the Stoughton Public Library:

"The Lore and Legends of Christmas Carols" (1982)

"E.A. Jones: His Life and Music" (1984)

"Old Stoughton and The Grand Constitution" (1987)

"A Stoughton Musicfest: A Celebration of Local Composers and Musicians" (1990)

"Lincoln and Liberty" (2009)

"Runnin' Wild: Molasses and Music Merriment" (2009)

He is available to present his entertaining and educational programs for colleges, schools, libraries, historical societies or other organizations.

Roger Hall's music programs at this link:

Lectures and Workshops





American Music Preservation Website

American Music Recordings Collection (AMRC)

American Music Timeline

"Glory, Hallelujah" - Songs and Hymns of the Civil War Era

"Lincoln and Liberty" - Music of Abraham Lincoln's Era

Multimedia Americana Music Series [MAMS]

New England Christmas Music

New England Music Archive [NEMA] 

New England Composer Series No. 1: Edwin A. Jones

New England Composer Series No. 2: George W. Chadwick

New England Harmony: Six Early New England Composers

Old Stoughton Musical Society

Old Stoughton Musical Society (Official Site)

Old Stoughton Musical Society (1929 History)

Stoughton Choral Society turns 225 (article by Roger Hall)

Stoughton Musical Society (Wikipedia)

For questions or comments, write to:

Singing Stoughton



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