New Arrangements of the Odes
by Toby Hanson, Sovereign Grand Musician
and Host of The Three Links Odd Cast
My rise in Odd Fellowship has been intertwined with my career in music. I received my first appointed office the night I joined. As soon as the white collar of an initiate was placed around my neck, I was led over to the piano by a senior brother in the lodge who said, “I heard you can play piano. We have a job for you.” Thus began my time as an Odd Fellow and my time as lodge musician.
That night in July 2000 began my on-the-job training. I learned that the closing ode was sung to the tune of “My Country ‘Tis Of The” (or “God Save The Queen” for some of you). Not knowing anything about the vocal ranges of those in the lodge, I just plunked it out in the key of C. It worked and I finished my first performance as a lodge musician the very same night I took the sacred oath of an Odd Fellow. After the meeting the brother who had escorted me to the piano also explained that there was an opening ode, sung to the tune of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” He cautioned me not to play it in too high of a key because “we’ve got a lot of frog-voices in here.”
After a few more years I had become a Past Grand and was ready to take the Grand Lodge Degree. On a visit to our lodge, the Deputy Grand Master heard me play piano and after the meeting asked if I would like to be his Grand Musician. Thrilled at the opportunity, I readily agreed. In June of that year I joined the Grand Lodge of Washington and served the first of what would become many terms as Grand Musician, stopping only when I was elected Grand Warden in 2016.
My first visit to the Sovereign Grand Lodge came in 2018 while serving as Grand Master of my jurisdiction. Word had gotten around that I was a musician. Sure enough, just like at every previous level in my journey, someone took me by the arm and said, “I heard you can play piano.” The following year I was installed as Sovereign Grand Musician. Serving in that job has been a thrill beyond imagination and the greatest honor I have yet achieved in Odd Fellowship. It is primarily because of my talents as a musician that I have been able to achieve what I have in our Order.
Having been given the opportunity to serve our beloved order as Sovereign Grand Musician, I feel a deep and abiding obligation to do everything I can to aid and enrich our lodges. Given my unique skillset, I have chosen to fulfill that obligation by writing new arrangements of our odes. It’s my belief that singing the odes creates the very harmony we seek to foster in our lodges and also adds immeasurably to the lodge experience.
During my travels as an Odd Fellow, I have observed that there are very few skilled musicians in our lodges. Sometimes, even Grand Lodges have been without a musician. Our Rebekah sisters tend to fare better with musicians. Even in those seemingly rare occasions when a lodge does have a musician, the music available to play is often woefully inadequate. The arrangements in the 1896 Ode Book were written for SATB choir, a curious choice since women were not members of Odd Fellows lodges prior to 2001, and they are almost always the sopranos and altos in a choir. There have been subsequent attempts at producing more contemporary collections of music for the Odd Fellows but none have resulted in a clear, easy-to-read collection for piano and voice.
I have prepared fresh arrangements of the opening and closing odes for the Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, and Encampment. They are written in a clear, accessible style that will be easy for pianists to read and singers to follow. There are introductions to each ode so that singers can find the key and know when to begin singing. Knowing that there is a greater diversity of musicians in Odd Fellowship than just pianists, I have also included a melody line with chords so that guitarists and players of other chordal instruments can easily read along and accompany singing. (The link to view and download the arrangements is as the top of the article.)
It is my hope that these new arrangements of our odes will make the music accessible to many more lodge musicians across the world of Odd Fellowship. To that end, I am offering this new collection of our odes freely to all members. Feel free to share these arrangements with whomever needs them. My greatest wish is that this music will find its way across our wonderful world of Odd Fellowship and inspire everyone to raise their voices together.
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