Robert Lowry (hymn writer)
Life and career
Born in Philadelphia, Lowry studied theology at the University at Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) and on graduating, in 1854, became ordained as a Baptist minister. He had charge of churches in a number of places including the Bloomingdale Baptist Church in New York; the Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn; and others in West Chester, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Among the churches he pastored in New Jersey was the Park Avenue Baptist Church. When the Park Avenue Church agreed to merge with the First Baptist church, Pastor Lowry agreed to resign in order to ensure the success of the merger. The merged church still exists as the First-Park Baptist Church in Plainfield, NJ. A bronze plaque in the church still commemorates Robert Lowery's dedication and service. Original papers and hymns can be found at the church and also at the Plainfield Public Library.
In 1869 he returned to Lewisburg as a faculty member (having previously served as a professor of literature) and later went on to become its chancellor.
From 1880 until 1886 he was president of the New Jersey Baptist Sunday School Union.
He is most remembered as a composer of gospel music and a hymn writer, and also worked as a music editor at the Biglow & Main Publishing Company. He was responsible for around 500 compositions, including "Nothing But the Blood," "Christ Arose" ("Low in the Grave He Lay") (words and music)," "Follow On (with William O. Cushing)," "Shall We Gather At The River?," and "How Can I Keep From Singing?" He also wrote the music and refrain for "Marching to Zion" (words by Isaac Watts).
Despite his success as a hymn writer, it was as a preacher that Lowry would have preferred to be recognised. He once stated: "Music, with me has been a side issue... I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative audience than write a hymn. I have always looked upon myself as a preacher and felt a sort of depreciation when I began to be known more as a composer." However, it is as a hymn writer that he remains renowned.
Volumes he edited include:
- Happy Voices (1865)
- Gospel Melodies (1868)
- Bright Jewels (1869)
- Pure Gold (1871)
- Royal Diadem (1873)
- Temple Anthems (1873)
- Tidal Wave (1874)
- Good as Gold (1880)
- Our Glad Hosannas (1882)
- Joyful Lays (1884)
- Glad Refrain (1886)
- Butterworth, Hezekiah. The Story of the Tunes. New york: American Tract Society (1890).
- Burrage, Henry S. Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns. Portland, Maine: Brown, Thurston & Co., 1888, pp. 428–434.
- Robert Lowry: 1826-1899, by Henry S. Burrage. Christian Biography Resources
- Butterworth, The Story of the Tunes, p. 165.
- Grand Catalogue of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity: February 1, 1910, page 368
- The Mutopia Project has compositions by Robert Lowry (hymn writer)
- Christian Biography Resources biography of Robert Lowry
- Texts, MIDI, and piano scores for Robert Lowry hymns Up From the Grave He Arose, Nothing but the Blood, Shall We Gather at the River, and refrain to We're Marching to Zion at HymnSite.com