Artist Birtday : 12/03/1826 (Age 73)
Born In : Philadelphia, United States
Occupation(s) : Baptist Minister, Hymn Writer
Genres : Gospel

Robert Lowry was born in Philadelphia, PA on March 12, 1826. He was the son of Crozier Lowry, who had emigrated from Northern Ireland in the early part of the 19th century. In 1843, when he was 17, Robert underwent an experience of religious conversion. As a result, he left the Associate Presbyterian Church of North America, his parents’ church, and joined the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, where he worked enthusiastically as a Sunday School teacher and chorister.

In 1848 Lowry was encouraged by his pastor, The Rev. Geo. B. Ide, D.D., to prepare for a life’s work in the Christian ministry. With this end in view, Lowry began studies at the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell University). The university was then newly-chartered, and its lack of premises meant that classes were held in the basement of the Baptist church. By this time Lowry was building a reputation both as a preacher and hymn-writer, and he displayed his talents by organizing the college choir and teaching music to his fellow-students. In 1854 he graduated with the highest honours, and in the same year was ordained into the Baptist ministry. Also in that year, he married Anna Rhees Loxley.

Lowry is credited with the writing of more than 500 hymn tunes, often supplying the text as well as the music – one of the earliest hymn-writers to do so. His first hymn, “When the Morning Light”, was written in 1847 when he was 21 years old. His love of music dated from his childhood, when he would play any musical instrument that came to hand, and his melodies were strongly influenced by the popular music of the time. Thus, Lowry characterized “Shall We Gather” as brass band music, but he would adopt a more conventional hymn tone for reflective pieces such as “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “Savior, Thy Dying Love”. In a number of cases when setting the words of others he would add a chorus or refrain. He had an ear for dramatic effect, exemplified in the contrast, in “Low In The Grave He Lay”, between the solemn verses and the exultant chorus proclaiming the Resurrection. In later life, while remaining self-taught, Lowry adopted a more formal approach towards his music. Lowry is chiefly remembered and ranking with such as W.H. Doane and Ira D. Sankey as one of the originators of a musical tradition that has lasted until the modern era of revival.