1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Boyce, William

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BOYCE, WILLIAM (1710 – 1779), English musical composer, the son of a cabinet-maker, was born in London on the 7th of February 1710. As a chorister in St Paul's he received his early musical education from Charles King and Dr Maurice Greene, and he afterwards studied the theory of music under Dr Pepusch. In 1734, having become organist of Oxford chapel, Vere Street, Cavendish Square, he set Lord Lansdowne's masque of Peleus and Thetis to music. In 1736 he left Oxford chapel and was appointed organist of St Michael's church, Cornhill, and in the same year he became composer to the chapel royal, and wrote the music for John Lockman's oratorio David's Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan. In 1737 he was appointed to conduct the meetings of the three choirs of Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford. In 1743 was written the serenata Solomon, in which occurs the favourite song “Softly rise, O southern breeze.” In 1749 he received the degree of doctor of music from the university of Cambridge, as an acknowledgment of the merit of his setting of the ode performed at the installation of Henry Pelham, duke of Newcastle, as chancellor; and in this year he became organist of All-hallows the Great and Less, Thames Street. A musical setting to The Chaplet, an entertainment by Moses Mendez, was Boyce's most successful achievement in this year. In 1750 he wrote songs for Dryden's Secular Masque and in 1751 set another piece (The Shepherd's Lottery) by Mendez. He became master of the king's band in succession to Greene in 1757, and in 1758 he was appointed principal organist to the chapel royal. As an ecclesiastical composer Boyce ranks among the best representatives of the English school. His two church services and his anthems, of which the best specimens are By the Waters of Babylon and O, Where shall Wisdom be found, are frequently performed. It should also be remembered that he wrote additional accompaniments and choruses for Purcell's Te Deum and Jubilate, which the earlier musician had composed for the St Cecilia's day of 1694. Boyce did this in his capacity of conductor at the annual festivals of the Sons of the Clergy at St Paul's cathedral, an office which he had taken in succession to Greene. His twelve trios for two violins and a bass were long popular. One of his most valuable services to musical art was his publication in three volumes quarto of a work on Cathedral Music. The collection had been begun by Greene, but it was mainly the work of Boyce. The first volume appeared in 1760 and the last in 1778. On the 7th of February 1779 Boyce died from an attack of gout. He was buried under the dome of St Paul's cathedral.