The Tabernacle Choir Blog

The Person Who Gave Us “Mary Had A Little Lamb” & “Nearer, My God, to Thee”

Lowell Mason contributed to the creation of over 1,600 songs. In the 1830s he set the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to the music that we know today. Mason arranged and adapted the music for the Christmas carol “Joy to the World” and composed the music for Sarah Flower Adams’s “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

Mason is also known as “the founder of American school music education.” He taught music in public schools, led various musical organizations, and even became the superintendent for the Boston School System. He’s also credited for his role in transforming American church music from the practice of having professional choirs and accompaniment to congregational singing accompanied by organ music.

Mason’s son would go on to start Mason and Hamlin, a piano and organ manufacturing company. Later, the brand was acquired by what would become the Aeolian-Skinner Company of Boston, which built the majestic Tabernacle organ.

“Nearer, My God to Thee” was played at the funerals of Warren G. Harding and Gerald Ford. It is frequently referenced in media and appears in books, movies, and TV shows. The hymn is also included in the LDS hymnbook. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs the song in the video above. For more information on the history behind this hymn, listen to Episode 7 of the History of Hymns series on The Mormon Channel.