Born: 18 September 1765, Shirley, Massachusetts Died: 4 September 1844, Charlestown, Massachusetts
Oliver Holden was one of the best-known and prolific American composers of psalmody of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. As a young man, he was a U. S. Marine aboard the frigate Dean, participating in the capture of five British ships. He lived most of his later life in Charlestown, Massachusetts, near Boston. Unlike many composers of his era, Holden was a well known citizen, with dealings in government, religious, and charitable affairs. Though a carpenter and real estate dealer in his professional life, he also organized many music schools, and served as legislator and pastor. When George Washington visited Boston in 1789, Holden wrote the lyrics and score and trained the choir which sang the music that greeted Washington at the Old State House.
"Holden was an early proponent of 'reform psalmody' and sought to accommodate his style to European ideals of church music, without, however, completely abandoning the forms and techniques of American psalmody. Thus, his music is an interesting amalgamation of styles and musical detail" (Music 1998).
"After 1796, Holden quit signing his name to tunebooks, except for editions of the Worcester Collection. Nevertheless, several anonymous volumes of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries have been positively identified as Holden's works … These include Sacred Dirges (1800), The Modern Collection (1800), Plain Psalmody (1800), the third edition of The Union Harmony, The Charlestown Collection (1803), and Occasional Pieces (1807)" (Music 1998).
Holden, Oliver, Compiler. 1797. Laus Deo! The Worcester Collection of Sacred Harmony. Edition 6, 1797. Edition 7, 1800. Edition 8, 1803. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews.
Holden, Oliver. 1800. Sacred Dirges, Hymns, and Anthems, commemorative of the death of General George Washington. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews.
Holden, Oliver. 1800. Plain Psalmody, or Supplementary Music. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews. November 1800.
Holden, Oliver, Compiler. 1800. The Modern Collection of Sacred Music. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews. 254 pp. ("Positively identified as Holden's work" by David Music 1998). December 1800.
Holden, Oliver, Compiler. 1803. The Charlestown Collection of Sacred Songs, Adapted to Public and Private Devotion. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews. 80 pp.
Holden, Oliver. 1806. The Young Convert's Companion. Boston: E. Lincoln.
Holden, Oliver. 1807. The Suffolk Selection of Church Musick. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews.
Kroeger, Karl. 1977. Isaiah Thomas as a music publisher. Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 86:321-341.
Music, David W., Editor. 1998. Oliver Holden (1765-1844): Selected Works. New York, New York: Routledge. 258 pp.