Boyce, William

, an eminent English musician, chapel-master and organist to George II. and III. was the son of William Boyce, a joiner and cabinet-maker, and housekeeper of Joiners’-hall, where our musician was born, B’eb. 7, 1710. He was at first a singing-boy at St. Paul’s, and afterwards apprenticed to the celebrated Dr. Greene, who bequeathed to him his manuscripts. In 1734 he was a candidate for the place of organist of St. Michael’s church, Cornhill, with Froud, Young, James Worgan, and Kelway; but though unsuccessful in this application, Kelway being elected, he was appointee! the same year to the place of organist of Oxford chapel and in 1736, upon the death | of Weltlon, when Kelway being elected organist of St. Martin' sin the Fields, resigned his place at St. Michael’s Cornhill, Boyce was not only elected organist of that church, but organist and composer in the chapel royal. The same year he set David’s “Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan,” which was performed at the Apollo Society. About the year 1743, he produced his serenata of “Solomon,” which was not only long and justly admired as a pleasing and elegant composition, but still affords great delight to the friends of English music whenever it is performed. His next publication was “Twelve Sonatas or Trios for two violins and a base,” which were longer and more generally purchased, performed, and admired, than any productions of the kind in this kingdom, except those of CorelH. They were not only in constant use, as chamber music, in private concerts, for which they were originally designed, but in our theatres, as act-tunes, and public gardens, as favourite pieces, during many years.

In 1749, he set the ode written by the rev. Mr. Mason, for the installation of the late duke of Newcastle, as chancellor of the university of Cambridge, at which time he was honoured with the degree of doctor in music by that university. Soon after this event, he set the “Chaplet,” a musical drama, written by the late Mr. Mendez, for Drury-lane theatre, which had a very favourable reception, and long run, and continued many years in use. Not long after the first performance of this drama, his friend Mr. Beard brought on the same stage the secular ode, written by Dryden, and originally set by Dr. Boyce for Hickford’s room, or the Castle concert, where it was first performed, in still life. This piece, though less successful than the Chaplet, by the animated performance and friendly zeal of Mr. Beard, was many times exhibited before it was wholly laid aside. These compositions, with occasional single songs for Vauxhall and Ranelagh, disseminated the fame of Dr. Boyce throughout the kingdom, as a dramatic and miscellaneous composer, while his choral compositions for the king’s chapel, for the feast of the sons of the clergy at St. Paul’s, and for the triennial meetings at the three cathedrals of Worcester, Hereford, and Gloucester, at the performances in all which places he constantly presided till the time of his death, established his’ reputation as an ecclesiastical composer, and able master of harmony. Dr. Boyce was one of the few of our church composers, who | neither pillaged or servilely imitated Handel. There is an original and sterling merit in his productions, founded as much on the study of our own old masters, as on the best models of other countries, that gives to all his works a peculiar stamp and character of his own, for strength, clearness, and facility, without any mixture of styles, or extraneous and heterogeneous ornaments. On the decease of Dr Greene, in 1757, he was appointed by the duke of Devonshire, master of the king’s band; and, in 1758, on the death of Travers, organist of the chapel-royal. He published, at a great expence to himself, three volumes of cathedral music, being a collection in score of the most valuable compositions for that service by the several English masters of the preceding two centuries, which was designed to have been published by Dr. Greene: and in this Dr. Boyce was assisted by the first Dr. Hayes, of Oxford, and by Dr. Howard. Dr. Boyce died, of repeated attacks of the gout, Feb. 7, 1779, and was interred in St. Paul’s cathedral. An anonymous biographer records a very singular circumstance in Dr. Boyce’s history, namely, that he was from his youth incurably deaf. 1

1 Barney’s Hist, of Music, vol. Hi. London Chronicle, Feb. 18, 1779.