Monday, April 23, 2012

'Re-enactment relocation'

The first announcement said Federal Hall. A follow-up notice said St. Paul's Chapel, although I think that was an accident. Now comes word that the Grand Lodge of New York's annual re-enactment of the first presidential inauguration of Bro. George Washington will take place at Masonic Hall.

Bronze likeness of George Washington
taking the presidential oath of office.
Same day: Monday, April 30.
Same time: High Twelve.
Location: Renaissance Room, Sixth Floor, Masonic Hall.

This change was decided due to the lawlessness in the streets (my words, not Grand Lodge's) on and around Wall Street. In the interests of safety and preserving the historic George Washington Inaugural Bible, this very enjoyable celebration will take place under a Masonic roof.

It's a shame decent people cannot use public spaces, but that is where we are today as a society. And no, I do not believe Washington and the other Founders waged the Revolution and founded our free society so that there can be anarchy and filth in the streets. They created a land governed by laws, not a mobocracy. The French Revolution was mob-friendly. The American Revolution was very different. End of lecture. Sorry.

There will be a collation after the ceremony. Details, like cost, menu, etc., are yet to be determined.

If you can get there, please do so. You'll enjoy a singular occurance in Masonic culture.

Masonic Hall is located at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

‘See who wants admission’

Two of my favorite people talking
to each other: Bro. Oscar Alleyne,
who helped organize this event,
and Bro. Jason Sheridan, soon
to be Grand Director of Ceremonies
for the Grand Lodge of New York.
It was time for the long awaited evening of Emulation exemplification yesterday, when Wallkill Lodge No. 627 hosted an all-star line-up of ritualists from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Essex under the United Grand Lodge of England, named the Teddies for Loving Care Masonic Demonstration Team, in the Grand Lodge Room of Masonic Hall in Manhattan.

Click here for a little background.

I think it is safe to say the use of ritual in English lodges is misunderstood by most Masons in the United States. Here, for some seventeen decades, we have been enforcing uniform ritual work in each of our individual jurisdictions, concentrating so intently on perfect memorization and recitation that we really have forgotten the principal point of it all. The brethren in England do that also, I am told, but the difference is diversity of rituals within the single jurisdiction. Although Emulation is thought to be the only ritual in England, the truth is there is no standard work for UGLE. There are many rituals employed.

Watching this was my first experience with Emulation, and it was fun. There are many interesting differences from what I know and have seen in my travels, but nothing so distracting or confusing as to be unrecognizable. And of course it helps to have read the ritual a number of times over the years.

The Teddies for Loving Care Masonic Demonstration Team travels and exemplifies ritual work to raise funds for its philanthropy, the goal of which is to provide teddy bears and other soft toys to children being treated by Accident and Emergency Units in order to calm the children and distract them from the distress of their injuries, making it easier for the medical staff to treat them. (We have a similar program here in New Jersey, where we hand Past Grand Masters highballs of single malt to soothe their anxieties caused by the surrender of authority, and I must say, it works like a charm.) Click here to read more about this clever program in England.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

'The Templar test'

The dates of the next International Conference on the History of Freemasonry have been announced. ICHF will return to Scotland for 2013. Next up will be a repeated call for papers this summer, followed by the release of a list of chosen presenters in the form of a tentative conference agenda early next year.

No one has any idea which scholars will be selected to present which researched subjects, but I hope you will consider this challenge if you have bought into the Templar myth of Masonic origins. I predict no research paper will seek to advance the notion that our Masonic fraternal order has its roots in the medieval military order commonly called the Knights Templar, and I ask you to understand why.

Scores of accomplished academics and other skilled scholars from around the world will present their findings on a dizzying variety of subjects during the three days of this conference, but I don't think anyone will attempt to advance the supposition, which was born in about the mid 18th century, that Freemasonry descended from the medieval Templars. My challenge to you is simply to ask yourselves why that might be. In the very land where the Templars allegedly appeared out of nowhere to vanquish the English and save Robert the Bruce's rear end at Bannockburn, a three-day conference on Masonic history will make no claim of paternity against these alleged forefathers of Freemasonry.

Remain calm, be open-minded and circumspect, ask yourselves why that is, and form an objective answer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

'Sotheby's to auction Mozart letter to Mason'

If your lodge has a spare $400,000 laying around, you might cause your trustees to cast their eyes to Sotheby's, which will auction a letter signed by Bro. W.A. Mozart in which he seeks financial assistance from a brother Freemason.

Described by Sotheby's:

Mozart, right, in lodge.
Autograph letter signed "W.A. Mozart" to Michael Puchberg, June 1788. A frank and revealing appeal by Mozart for financial assistance, in which he discusses his famous string quintets in C major and G minor and the piano trio in E major, K.542.

Estimate: 200,000-300,000 GBP

It is the auction institution's May Musical Manuscripts sale, 29 documents in all, including a Mozart fugue not listed in Köchel(!), and a corrected music exercise by pupil Thomas Attwood. These papers are among the highlights on exhibit in New York City through Friday. The gavel of the auction will sound in London May 29.

For more information, contact the auction house's specialists in London.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

‘Beethoven’s Tenth discovered in Masonic library’

Beethoven, by Andy Warhol, 1987.
WQXR host Naomi Lewin reports today on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday that a manuscript described as two movements of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 10 has been discovered in the archives of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, located in Masonic Hall, the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of New York.

Livingston Library Executive Director Tom Savini is quoted only briefly, but the report explains that the manuscript may have seen the light of day already, just more than a century ago, when Masonic archives were being transferred from the previous Masonic Hall to the current building, and may even have been seen by Gustav Mahler, then the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, who was known for rearranging certain Beethoven works.

It never has been established if the great composer was a Brother in the Craft, although the themes of some of his best known works show Masonic thinking, and some of his collaborators, like Schiller, who wrote the Ode to Joy libretto for Symphony No. 9, were Freemasons.

The 5:35 audio of this Sunday, April 1 story can be heard here.