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Martin Cooke
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Would anyone who knows about closing odes at masonic funerals be able to advise me in a PM about something? It's about the right tune for a popular closing ode, Now the evening shadows closing. The family has suggested the Redhead tune, Laus Deo, as in Bright the vision, but online, I can only find it to Dykes' St Oswald. And there seem to be a number of ways of accommodating 'So mote it be' at the end. Any advice, copies, etc, most welcome. Many thanks. Martin.

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The only authority I know on Masonic music is John Morehen, formerly Professor at Nottingham. I was going to suggest that you contacted him via his website but I hear, from a friend in the UK, that Prof. Morehen died on March 25th.

FRCO (Chm) and FRCCO as well as MA and Ph.D from King's College, Cambridge, he was an important figure in music in Nottingham. May he rest in peace.

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I am not a Mason, but I have played the Masonic Closing Ode “Now the evening shadows closing”.   It is a short hymn in 8.7.8.7. metre, and I played it to J  B Dykes’ “St Oswald” which suits the words very well.  It is an evening hymn and not specifically a funeral ode, although it obviously lends itself to that.  I understood that it was sung at the closing of every Lodge meeting.  “So mote it be” translates simply as ‘Amen’.

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With All religions taking part in Masonry, the word "so Mote it be" is a simple non denominational phrase... I think

"So mote it be" is a ritual phrase used by the Freemasons, in Rosicrucianism, and more recently by Neopagans, meaning "so may it be", "so it is required", or "so must it be", and may be said at the end of a prayer in a similar way to "amen". The phrase appears in the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript, the earliest known document relating to a society of Masons in England, dating from the first half of the 15th century.[1] "Amen! amen! so mot hyt be! Say we so all per charyté".[2]

The phrase has been taken up by neopagans and they use it in a similar way in their ceremonies and rituals

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If anyone’s interested in the origins of the phrase ....

“Mote” is the present tense of the verb of which “must” is the past tense.

When “must” began to be used in a present sense it elbowed out the old present “mote”.

In Middle English ”so mote it be” is a purely conventional rendering of “Amen”, and that’s no doubt why the Halliwell MS uses it. It didn’t originally have the esoteric significance it has acquired, and indeed it continued to be used as a mere archaism (with no Masonic or other ritual implications) into the nineteenth century.

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4 hours ago, Peter Allison said:

"So mote it be" is a ritual phrase used by the Freemasons, in Rosicrucianism, and more recently by Neopagans, meaning "so may it be", "so it is required", or "so must it be", and may be said at the end of a prayer in a similar way to "amen". The phrase appears in the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript, the earliest known document relating to a society of Masons in England, dating from the first half of the 15th century.[1] "Amen! amen! so mot hyt be! Say we so all per charyté".[2]

The phrase has been taken up by neopagans and they use it in a similar way in their ceremonies and rituals

Direct quotation from 'Wikipedia'

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Thanks, everyone, for your contributions. I have heard a couple of melodies for 'so mote it be' and I think I am aiming for John Morris's version as quoted. But I am still waiting to hear what tune the local masons are familiar with for the hymn. In a youTube version of all of this, they sing the hymn /ode to St Oswald and then wrench themselves into a different key for the 'mote it be' which sounds most odd. I shan't be doing that. So, if we're going for St Oswald in D major, I shall be going for D, B, C sharp, D. and if 'Laus Deo'... G, E. F sharp, G... which shouldn't be too far from the mark! Not, of course, that anyone can sing this!

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My only experience of a Masonic funeral evidenced singing of a very high order!  I remember remarking to a colleague there that no one would know the first hymn (expecting the silence, apart from the organ, which happens in that kind of situation at weddings).  But I could not have been more wrong.  The brethren sang like a Welsh male voice choir, and very accurately it must be said.  

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2 hours ago, Peter Allison said:

A late friend of mine, Mr David Rogers played  the closing ode in the form of an improvisation, in Durham Cathedral in 2008, its on my soundcloud, along with another "Masonic" based one, (as my late father and I and David are/were Freemasons) https://soundcloud.com/peter-allison-571354835/masonic-improvisation

 

How wonderful to hear Dave again - thanks so much Peter, I’ll keep an eye on that Soundcloud site. I can remember the Fulda session from a Doncaster visit - Dave’s ‘mucking about’ was often way ahead of some more professional attempts I’ve had to endure. Always full of clever and oblique references and played with a huge twinkle in his eye when you got it. Thanks again Peter.

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4 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

Thanks, everyone, for your contributions. I have heard a couple of melodies for 'so mote it be' and I think I am aiming for John Morris's version as quoted. But I am still waiting to hear what tune the local masons are familiar with for the hymn. In a youTube version of all of this, they sing the hymn /ode to St Oswald and then wrench themselves into a different key for the 'mote it be' which sounds most odd. I shan't be doing that. So, if we're going for St Oswald in D major, I shall be going for D, B, C sharp, D. and if 'Laus Deo'... G, E. F sharp, G... which shouldn't be too far from the mark! Not, of course, that anyone can sing this!

While a few Lodges will have local variations, St Oswald is by far the most commonly used tune for the closing ode. It is true that the juxtaposition of 'So mote it be' in G major after the last verse of the closing ode in D major (St Oswald) jars the sensibilities of many masonic musicians, but it would be unwise to attempt to change something (i.e. leaving 'So mote...' in D major) to which many are accustomed. Moreover, it has become so ingrained that in the occasional situation where musically untrained masons sing the ode unaccompanied, they will jump the upward perfect 4th from the end of the ode to the 'So mote...' without any difficulty.

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I have the impression that this is an American recording.  The singing doesn’t remotely match what I heard at the Masonic funeral mentioned above.  It’s interesting that ‘St Oswald’ is (largely) used worldwide.  

When Martin first raised the subject, my memory went back more than 60 years with ‘St Oswald’ as the immediate answer.  But for some reason ‘St Bees’ (also by Dykes) rang a bell.  I now see from another video here that this is usually the tune for the Opening Ode.  

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3 hours ago, wolsey said:

While a few Lodges will have local variations, St Oswald is by far the most commonly used tune for the closing ode. It is true that the juxtaposition of 'So mote it be' in G major after the last verse of the closing ode in D major (St Oswald) jars the sensibilities of many masonic musicians, but it would be unwise to attempt to change something (i.e. leaving 'So mote...' in D major) to which many are accustomed. Moreover, it has become so ingrained that in the occasional situation where musically untrained masons sing the ode unaccompanied, they will jump the upward perfect 4th from the end of the ode to the 'So mote...' without any difficulty.

Thanks Wolsey - so, we're going for Laus Deo as that is the custom with the two local lodges affected. They can't sing, of course, but I will play the verses and then add 'So mote it be' at the end. So, Wolsey, ought I to play this in the same key or will they expect to hear me move to C major (from G) for that?

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On 08/04/2021 at 19:30, Martin Cooke said:

So, Wolsey, ought I to play this in the same key or will they expect to hear me move to C major (from G) for that?

'So mote it be' should be in the same key as Laus Deo/Redhead No 46. The problem with St Oswald being so widely used for the closing ode is that it's in D, and it ends (for men's voices) on tenor D; 'So mote it be' is sung in F or G. As far as tonality is concerned, St Oswald is a poor choice of tune, and that's why Laus Deo/Redhead No 46 is a better musical fit, and arguably a better tune.  

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