Blow, John

, an English musician of considerable fame, was born in 1648, at North Collingham in Nottinghamshire, and became one of the first set of children of the chapel royal after the restoration. In 1673, he was sworn one of the gentlemen of the chapel, and in 1674, appointed master of the children. In 1685, he was nominated one of the private music to king James II. and in 1687, was likewise appointed almoner and master of the choristers in the cathedral church of St. Paul but, in 1693, he resigned this last place in favour of his scholar Jeremiah Clerk. Blow had his degree of doctor in music conferred on him by the special grace of archbishop Sancroft, without performing an exercise for it at either of the universities. On the death of Purcell, in 1695, he was elected organist of St. Margaret’s, Westminster; and in 1699, appointed composer to the chapel of their majesties king AYilliam and queen Mary, at the salary of 40l. a year, which afterwards was augmented to 73l. A second composer, with the like appointment, was added in 1715, at which time it was required that each should produce a new anthem on the first Sunday of his month in waiting. Dr. Blow died in 17O8 and though he did not arrive at great longevity, yet by beginning his course, and mounting to | the summit of his profession so early, he enjoyed a prosperous and eventful life. His compositions for the church, and his scholars who arrived at eminence, have rendered his name venerable among the musicians of our country. In his person he was handsome, and remarkable for a gravity and decency in his deportment suited to his station, though he seems by some of his compositions to have been not altogether insensible to the delights of a convivial hour. He was a man of blameless morals, and of a benevolent temper; but was not so insensible to his own worth, as to be totally free from the imputation of pride. Sir John Hawkins furnishes us with an anecdote that shews likewise that he had a rough method of silencing criticism. In the reign of James II. an anthem of some Italian composer had been introduced into the chapel royal, which the king liked very much, and asked Blow if he could make one as good Blow answered in the affirmative, and engaged to do it by the next Sunday when he produced “I beheld and lo a great multitude.” When the service was over, the king sent father Petre to acquaint him that he was much pleased with it: “but,” added Petre, “I myself think it too long.” “That,” answered Blow, “is the opinion of but one fool, and I heed it not.” This provoked the Jesuit so much that he prevailed on the king to suspend Blow, and the consequences might perhaps have been more serious, had not the revolution immediately followed.

Though Dr. Blow’s church music was never collected in, a body, yet besides the three services and ten full and verse anthems printed by Boyce, nineteen of his choral productions have been preserved in Dr. Tudway’s ms collection and in Dr. Aldrich’s collection in Christ church, there are five more. He appears to have been a composer of anthems, even while a singing-boy in the chapel royal. His secular compositions were published in a folio volume in 1700, under the title of “Amphion Anglicus,” in imitation of Purcell’s collection, the “Orpheus Britannicus,” but are deemed considerably inferior. Some of his choral productions are in a very bold and grand style, yet he is unequal and frequently unhappy in his attempts at new harmony and composition. Dr. Burney has given a very elaborate criticism on all his works, accompanied by specimens on plates, by which it appears that he was either | defective in some of the qualifications of a great composer, or careless and inaccurate. 1

1

Burney’s Hist, of Music, vol. III. Sir John Hawkins’s Hist.