Free Mason's Health

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FREE MASON'S HEALTH. AKA and see "Free Masons (2)." English, Jig. C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The title is taken from a poem by Mason Matthew Birkhead written in 1722. The melody was an addition to the 1726 edition of Playford's Dancing Master, one of the last editions of the series (noted in 6/4 time). It also appears in John Watts' Musical Miscellany, vol. 3 (London, 1730), and Walsh's third book of the Compleat Country Dancing Master (1735). It was included in the music manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery's invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Quebec from British control. An important land-owner in the Hudson Valley, and a member of the powerful Livingston family, Henry was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. He was also a poet and musician, and presumably a dancer, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly's dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York. Words to the song (also republished under the title "The Entered Apprentice's Song") begin:

Come let us prepare, we brothers that are,
Joined on this merry occasion;
Let's drink, laugh, and sing;
Our wine has a Spring;
Here's health to an Accepted Mason.

The march was also entered (as "Free Masons March") into the c. 1776-1778 music copybook of fifer Thomas Nixon Jr. [1] (1762-1842), of Framingham, Connecticut. Nixon was a thirteen-year-old who accompanied his father to the battles of Lexington and Concord, and who served in the Continental army in engagements in and around New York until 1780, after which he returned home to build a house in Framingham. The copybook appears to have started by another musician, Joseph Long, and to have come into Nixon’s possession.

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