Oliver Holden

Oliver Holden, both composer and book compiler, also served as a soldier and worked as a carpenter, minister, and representative to the Massachusetts legislature.

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About

Born in Massachusetts, Oliver Holden served in the Revolutionary War and was a carpenter after the war, rebuilding the city of Charlestown, Massachusetts and becoming a prominent figure there. Not only did he found his own church and serve as minister in Charlestown, he also was a town official and Massachusetts representative in the state government.

In 1783, Holden had a few months of musical training and then began his own singing school later that year. As a composer, he was fairly conservative, contributing to the pro-European Massachusetts Compiler of Theoretical and Practical Elements of Sacred Vocal Music (1795). He is most famous for his “Coronation” hymn, deemed the oldest American hymn that is still popular today. Holden also composed A Dirge, or Sepulchral Service for the memorial service of George Washington in 1800.

–Christie Finn

Related Information

Recordings

Sweet Seraphic Fire

(William Billings, Oliver Holden and Abraham Wood)

2004

Early American Choral Music Vol. 2

(William Billings, Oliver Holden and Abraham Wood)

1994

Desire for Piety

(Oliver Holden)

1997

Make a Joyful Noise: American Psalmody

(William Billings and Oliver Holden)

1996

Books

Worcester Collection of Sacred Harmony

By Oliver Holden

Oliver Holden (1765-1844) : Selected Works (Music of the New American Nation: Sacred Music from 1780 to 1820, Volume 13)

By David W. Music

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