38. William Boyce [365 Composers for 2013]


7th February – William Boyce


Boyce (September 1711 – 7th February 1779) is our composer for 7th February, to mark the day of his death.
Nationality: English
Lifespan: 67 years
Genre: Classical
Education: with Maurice Green
Fame Ranking: 5

Born in London in 1711, Boyce began his musical education as a chorister at Saint Paul’s Cathedral. When his voice broke he continued his musical studies with Maurice Green, who was the organist at the Cathedral. Boyce started his professional musical career as an organist, but in his mid-twenties he unfortunately began to suffer from hearing difficulties. Nevertheless, he continued to prosper as a musician and gained his first position as a composer at the Chapel Royal in 1736.

It was while working at the Chapel Royal that Boyce composed a great deal of church music, including religious anthems and an oratorio. (An oratorio is something like a religious-themed opera). In later years, Boyce went on to compose opera, chamber music and theatre music too, but it is for his religious works that he gained fame in his own lifetime.

By the 1760s Boyce’s deafness had worsened to the extent that he had to retire from composing and conducting. He continued to work with music however, spending his time editing a collection of “Cathedral Music”, a task which his former teacher Maurice Green had begun years earlier.

Boyce died in 1779 and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. His funeral service music was provided by a massive combined choir from St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal. Despite being pretty much unknown today, he was once regarded as one of the most influential English early classical composers.

Here is Boyce’s “Concerto Grosso in B minor”. The concerto grosso was a form of music popular from the Baroque era. Rather than have one instrumentalist as a soloist, there are several soloists who share the privilege.



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