The beginnings of musical composition and organization in this country were crude and hard to trace. The Pilgrims who came to Plymouth and the Puritans who settled around Boston were the victims of stern and forbidding conditions which afforded little time or opportunity for paeans of praise or musical composition. Theirs was an unrelenting struggle for existence "on a stern and rockbound coast". Their environment, their everyday experiences were far removed from a tendency to that gladsome spirit which stimulates to musical exaltation and composition which manifest results in grateful songs of lofty praise and expression. And yet, Mrs. Hemans, in her majestic poem., "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers,'' tells us that "Amid the storm they sang, and the stars heard,, and the sea, and the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang to the anthem of the free." Oh yes, our ancestors of New England sang. Their songs were those of faith, and hope, and thanksgiving to God for the great aims they had in view. Tracing their earliest compositions back, we find in their technique and their composition a virility and a rugged homeliness of expression which, read between the lines, wax strong with the flavor of heroic endeavor under adverse circumstances.
Musical historians now generally concede that the oldest Musical Society in the country is "The Stoughton Musical Society," which has had a continuous and uninterrupted existence dating back to the year 1786. The records and data of this ancient organization have heretofore never been collected or collated for publication or preservation. These priceless records have long been scattered in the hands and in the archives of old inhabitants .and Society records. It was for the purpose of gathering together and preserving these records and placing them in print in durable form for preservation for the future, that this publication was begun some four years ago under the inspiration and untiring efforts of Mr. William H. Capen of Stoughton, a member of the old Society. His has been a labor of love and service, without the hope or expectation of financial remuneration or enrollment. The within results of his labors, so generously seconded by others, give to us a well nigh complete and informative record of the meetings of the old Society, its officers and members, together with historical data, pictures and information which will continually grow more interesting and valuable as the years go by.
We who have enjoyed participation in singing the old songs of Billings and the other old composers, to whom their music has become ingrained into our inner consciousness, appreciate highly these old associations. Our hearts go out in love and veneration for experiences of the past. We are imbued with a lively interest and desire for the maintenance and the preservation of the old organization and all for which it has stood as it comes down to us from the days of our early ancestors.
Lemuel W. Standish, Editor.
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