Music has historically played a major role in human culture. We use it to help set the mood for all sorts of occasions, be they happy, sad, solemn, or joyous. Music has also played a major role in the history of Odd Fellowship to the point where we even have provisions for a Musician as one of our lodge officers. In previous eras when lodges were larger, just about every lodge wanted to have one, as evidenced by the pianos sitting unused in many of our lodge halls. Musical skill was also more common in an age when many of our modern forms of entertainment were not yet available, with many individuals learning to play an instrument or to sing proficiently for the entertainment of their families and friend.
Within the lodge, music was used for a variety of purposes. It was played whenever there was floorwork to be done, such as conducting members or visiting officers around the room, or during degree work. It was also used in the form of odes that were sung for opening and closing lodges, during initiations, and in installations. Our ritual books contain several different odes for these respective purposes and even suggested tunes to be used with them. Rather than writing new tunes unique to Odd Fellowship, our predecessors typically used existing and well-known tunes such as “Aud Lange Syne” and “God Save the Queen.”
Today we still have some lodges which possess members with significant musical talent, such as Sycamore Lodge in Hayward, CA. Though most of us are not so fortunate to have extensive in-house talent, modern technology has made it possible for us to enhance our meetings and degree work with musical accompaniment. In Cupertino Lodge, for example, we have built-in speakers in our lodge room. We simply plug in a laptop computer and are able to supplement our degree work with a selection of musical pieces that set the mood for the different phases of the degree work provide a pleasant interlude instead of merely walking around in silence.
The odes are perhaps the most important type of lodge music. Our ritual recommends we open and close our meetings by joining together in song. The words we sing not only communicates something about our shared values and sets the tone for the meeting, but the mere act of singing together brings us closer and melds the individuals from their separate walks of life into one body for the work of Odd Fellowship. It is no accident that singing together is a part of many religious observances, social gatherings, and even sporting events, because it unites us. If we can learn to join together in the harmony of song then we can also strive to achieve harmony in our rituals, our degree work, and the mundane business of our lodges.
Chances are that your lodge probably hasn’t sung one of the odes in many years. Perhaps you’ve never even heard an Odd Fellows ode actually sung. Many of us aren’t so great at carrying a tune. If you look up the music prescribed for the odes, though, you will find that it can all be found online and that many instrumental recordings are available which can enhance your lodge experience. I recommend getting your hands on some music and giving it a shot to see if it can improve your meetings. Maybe you will find that you even want to appoint a lodge musician to handle playing music during your meetings either on an instrument or via electronic recordings. The possibilities for improving your shared experience together in your lodge are endless.