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Holden, Oliver

Holden, Oliver

Holden, Oliver, American composer and tune-book compiler; b. Shirley, Mass., Sept. 18, 1765; d. Charlestown, Mass., Sept. 4, 1844. His formal education consisted of a brief period of study in Groton, Mass., after which he was apprenticed to a Grafton cabinetmaker. He was active as a farmer in Groton and Pepperell before serving in the Revolutionary War. He then settled in Charlestown, where he was a town official for over 50 years. In 1783 he attended a singing-school, and that same year he began his own singing-schools. He also founded a church and acted as its minister. From 1818 to 1833 he was a member of the Mass. House of Representatives. Holden composed some 235 works, including 25 anthems. His best known piece is the hymn tune Coronation (1793), which was set to the text All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. He wrote works for various special occasions, including the memorial service for George Washington on Feb. 22, 1800 (Sacred Dirges, Boston, 1800). He ed. over a dozen anthologies, among them the last three editions of The Worcester Collection (Worcester, Mass., 1797-1803), which were widely known. With H. Gram and S. Holyoke, he wrote the influential Massachusetts Compiler of Theoretical Principles (Boston, 1795).


D. McCormick, O. H, Composer and Anthologist (diss., Union Theological Seminary, 1963); R. Patterson, Three American “Primitives”: A Study of the Musical Styles of Samuel Holyoke, O. H, and Hans Gram (diss., Washington Univ., 1963).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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