Above: St. Paul’s Cathedral and Blackfriars Bridge, London, England, United Kingdom, 1880s
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-06814
Image Source = Library of Congress
WILLIAM BOYCE (1711-FEBRUARY 7, 1779)
Anglican Composer and Conductor
JOHN ALCOCK (APRIL 11, 1718-FEBRUARY 23, 1806)
Anglican Composer, Organist, and Musical Scholar
Today I add two contemporaries to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days. William Boyce and John Alcock devoted their lives to God and music. Much of the contents of their legacies is largely forgotten in 2012, unfortunately. Perhaps this post will bring them to the attention of some people, rending Boyce and Alcock slightly less forgotten.
William Boyce (1711-1779), son of a cabinet maker in London, England, became a chorister of St. Paul’s Cathedral. He lost much of his hearing when young yet functioned as a parish organist and choir director and a Composer to the Chapel Royal and as Master of the King’s Band. Boyce’s increasingly bad hearing forced him to cease teaching, conducting, and playing at about age sixty. Then he dedicated himself full-time to another extant pursuit, the study of music history. His three volume Cathedral Music, Being a Collection in Score of the Most Valuable and Useful Compositions for That Service by the Several Masters of the Last Two Hundred Years (1760-1778) was the last main part of his legacy. Other works included the following:
- forty-six anthems,
- five services,
- eight symphonies,
- twelve sonatas,
- Psalms of David, According to the Version of Christopher Smart, A.M. (1765), and
- various works of incidental music.
James Moffatt, in his 1927 companion volume to the Scottish Presbyterian Hymnary, described Boyce as
An amiable man, of blameless life, and an excellent musician
…the last of the old English school of church composers.
Perhaps the most poetic obituary for Boyce came from the pen of his good friend, Charles Wesley:
Father of harmony, farewell!
Farewell for a few fleeting years!
Translated from the mournful vale,
Jehovah’s flaming ministers
Have borne thee to thy place above,
Where all is harmony and love.
Boyce’s Cathedral Music (1760-1778) depended greatly on the research of John Alcock (1718-1806). Alcock became a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, at age seven. He studied under John Stanley, a famed and respected blind organist, before becoming a parish organist and choir director. His time (1749-1761) at Lichfield Cathedral proved less than satisfactory for him. Alcock found a dearth of of music books he considered suitable, he disliked many of the services, and the cathedral was too damp. His final assignments as an organist were at Sutton Coldfield parish church (1761-1766) and at St. Editha’s Church, Tamworth (1766-1790).
Alcock composed and published the following:
- Six Lessons for the Harpsichord;
- Twelve Songs;
- A Collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Anthems;
- Six and Twenty Select Anthems;
- Divine Harmony, a Collection of Fifty-Five Double and Single Chants;
- The Harmony of Sion (a collection of Psalms); and
- Harmonia Festi (a volume of canons, et cetera).
Those who have contributed to the beauty of worship deserve our gratitude and respect.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
DECEMBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS
THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER
THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC
Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:
You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servants
William Boyce and John Alcock.
Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder,
that our eyes may behold your glory,
and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness
of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21
Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61
Revised on November 27 2016