Volume LIXNovember 2012Number 4

"A Pennsylvania Masonic Handbook: the Personal 'Ahiman Rezon' "
by Bro. Robert E. Burtt • Reviewed by Cathy Giaimo, Assistant Librarian, The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

The times are changing in the method of becoming a Mason. Lodges are encouraged to host open house events to help de-mythologize the fraternity. Men are freer to invite their friends and family members to join them in membership activities. One day classes to receive all three degrees are now acceptable. All these new members will hopefully breathe some fresh air into their respective lodges.

As an aid to these new members, Robert E. Burtt, a Pennsylvania Mason himself, has written "A Pennsylvania Masonic Handbook" as a guide to lodge membership and Freemasonry. Bro. Burt's book is written in a friendly tone, as if sharing his insight and knowledge with a good friend.

Bro. Burtt covers quite a bit of ground in a small book (fewer than 150 pages). In Part One, he gives a brief overview of the history of Freemasonry, then goes on to explain the lodge room and some of the symbols found there, the lodge officers and their duties and some of the particulars of the meeting. The mid-section of the book, Part Two, is given over to explanations of the three degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, as they are done in Pennsylvania. While he never gives away the inner workings of the degrees, Bro. Burtt does a masterful job of explaining what is going on during the rituals. Part Three closes with a bit more history of Freemasonry in the United States up through the 21st century and bravely discusses some of the criticisms that non-Masons have made on our beloved fraternity. Bro. Burtt ends by briefly describing the appendant bodies that also vie for your membership.

Though "A Pennsylvania Masonic Handbook" is aimed at the newly-made Mason, any member would benefit from reading it as a reminder of why he joined the fraternity in the first place. If you care to borrow this book, just visit The Masonic Library and Museum online catalog at www.pagrandlodge.org or call the library at 800-462-0430, ext. 1933. You may also purchase this book from The Museum Shop at 800-336-7317 or from its website, www.masonicmuseumgifts.com.


Music Exhibit in Tune for Visitors to Museum

The sheet music collection is now catalogued, joining the anthologies of, and books about, music. A small exhibit has been mounted in the Museum at the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia to celebrate the news. These are some items of interest:

The 1855 Chestnut Street Hall is represented only by its "Grand Dedication March" by G.G. Boettger, but the Library likely has all of the music from the dedication of the present Masonic Temple in 1873. The Grand Lodge dedicated the current Masonic Temple on Sept. 23; the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter dedicated Renaissance Hall on Sept. 29; and the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar dedicated Gothic Hall as their Asylum on Sept. 30. The words of all the vocal music are printed. In the "Dedication Memorial," whose printing plates are also on exhibit.

Music publishers were often instrumentalists, music arrangers and teachers - and vice versa.

Bro. Richard Kern (1891-1982, Grand Master 1946-1947) was a renowned physician and a professor of internal medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia (now Jefferson University). He served in both World Wars and held, among many other posts, that of Chief of the General Medical Division, Department of Medicine and Surgery for the Veterans Administration (retiring as a Rear Admiral in the Naval Reserves). Grand Master Kern loved to sing; much of the four-part men's chorus music in the collection was his.

Composers and Brothers John Edgar Gould, Harry James Lincoln, Willy Richter and Frank Waters were Pennsylvania Masons. Lyricist Richard Vaux was Grand Master 1868-1869. Much of their music is not Masonic. There are more famous Freemasons who wrote important Masonic music. In addition to the Masonic opera, "The Magic Flute" (libretto by Bro. Emanuel Schikaneder), Bro. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote several smaller works for the lodge, including "A Little Freemasons' Cantata" and "Masonic Funeral Music." Bro. John Philip Sousa composed the march, "Nobles of the Mystic Shrine," and Bro. Jan Sibelius is remembered fondly for his "Masonic Ritual Music."

Note: Not all of the compositions mentioned in this article are on exhibit. Many of the popular songs in the collection may be considered politically incorrect today.


Table of Contents | Index of Issues | Home