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Observations and Remarks on Music in the Bahnson Manual of 1892

Stephen R. Barrell, MA

Co-Chair, Masonic Music Committee 2016

Grand Lodge of North Carolina


In the late 19th century, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina's efforts to ensure a uniform ritual throughout North Carolina Masonry resulted in the production of the Official Standard of the Work (hereafter "OSW") and in 1892, the North Carolina Lodge Manual (hereafter "Bahnson Manual"), authored by Assistant Grand Lecturer Charles F. Bahnson.  The OSW consists solely of encoded ritual, and is supplemented by the Bahnson Manual’s overt ritual text and music directions.   In his 1892 review of the Bahnson Manual, Grand Lecturer and Custodian B. W. Hatcher described it as ‘concise and convenient’.  125 years later, it is still an indispensable component of North Carolina Masonic ritual work.


The Bahnson Manual is the principle source and authority for vocal music during ritual.  It proffers minimal guidance about music by specifying one song (or ‘ode’) each for opening and for closing the lodge, one for the first degree, one for the second degree, and three for the two sections of the third degree, a total of just seven odes.


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