2017 - a year with special significance to all Freemasons. 300 years ago, four lodges convened at the Goose and Gridiron to form what would eventually evolve into the United Grand Lodge of England as we know it today.
To mark the occasion, invitations were sent out to about 4,000 members, both at home and abroad, for a theatrical and musical celebration of the tercentenary at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 October 2017. Two members of St. Augustine Lodge were honoured to have been invited to attend this historic celebration.
The production started off with a fitting homage to how Masonic ritual usually goes - with a few (planned?) stumbles, which drew understanding chuckles among those present. A brief introduction to the background that led to the genesis of organised Freemasonry was given by Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar, who served as observers throughout the production.
The story followed the journey to enlightenment of an initiate to Freemasonry, Mr Aveney (later revealed to be an anagram for ‘Every Man’). The initiate was first introduced to the three key moral virtues, each one representing a key step on Jacob’s ladder: Faith, Hope and Charity, as well as one of the pillars supporting a Freemason’s lodge: Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. On his journey, Mr Aveney was taught many important lessons by a variety of historically notable Freemasons, bearing in mind the first admonition by his guide Hiram - that the only requirement of each mason was that each person “be the best that (he) can be”.
Interspersed throughout the production were a number of musical numbers, including a homage to Gilbert and Sullivan in the form of a comedic patter song by a character reminiscent of the Major General in The Pirates of Penzance commenting on the various characters to be found in a lodge.
No musical celebration of masonry, however, could be complete without a homage to Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte - and the performance did not disappoint. The Queen of the Night, in all her rage and anger (Der Hölle Rache), provided a dark counterpoint to Sarastro’s stirring proclamation that hate and vengeance had no place in his domain (In diesen heil’gen Hallen).
After the entertainment concluded, the MW The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent paraded into the arena, accompanied by his officers. After a prayer, those assembled joined in several hymns, followed by the dedication of a reconstructed Soane Ark, in which the Great Lights and the Wren Maul were placed.
The MW The Grand Master then addressed those assembled, and joined them in singing a final hymn, followed by the first and last verses of the national anthem. This concluded the tercentenary celebrations at Royal Albert Hall.