1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Reeves, John Sims

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REEVES, JOHN SIMS (1818-1900), English vocalist, was born at Woolwich on the 26th of September 1818, and received his musical education from his father, a musician in the Royal Artillery. At the age of fourteen he had progressed so far as to be appointed organist of North Cray church, and could play the oboe, bassoon, violin, and violoncello. He seems to have studied medicine for a year, but changed his mind when he gained his adult voice: it was at first a baritone, and he made his earliest appearance at Newcastle in 1839 in various baritone parts. He studied with Hobbs and T. Cooke, and, his voice having become a tenor, he appeared under Macready's management at Drury Lane (1841-43) in subordinate tenor parts in Purcell's King Arthur, Der Freischütz, and Acis and Galatea, when Handel's pastoral was mounted on the stage with Stanfield's scenery. Four years were spent in study on the Continent, under Bordogni in Paris and Mazzucato in Milan, and his debút in Italian opera was made at the Scala as Edgardo in Lucia. He reappeared in London in May 1847 at a benefit concert for Vincent Wallace, and at one of the Ancient Concerts in the following month, his career on theEnglish operatic stage beginning at Drury Lane in December 1847 in Lucia, under the conductorship of Hector Berlioz. In Balfe's Maid of Honour he created the part of Lyonnel in the same season.

In 1848 he went to Her Majesty's Theatre, singing in Linda di Chamounix; and in the autumn of that year, at the Norwich Festival, made a great sensation in "The enemy said," from Israel in Egypt, a song in which the finest qualities of his ringing voice could be appreciated. From his first appearance at the Sacred Harmonic Society in the following November he was recognized as the leading English tenor; and in Costa's Eli and Naaman the tenor parts were written for him. His first Handel Festival was that of 1857, and the effect of his wonderful declamation in the Crystal Palace was a main attraction of this and of many subsequent festivals. His retirement from public life, at first announced as to take place in 1882, did not actually occur till 1891, when a farewell concert for his benefit was given at the Albert Hall. His savings were invested in an unfortunate speculation, and he was compelled to reappear in public for a number of years. He died at Worthing on the 25th of October 1900.