Bates, Joah (DNB00)

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BATES, JOAH (1741–1799), musician, born at Halifax 19 March 1740–1, received his early education at Dr. Ogden's school, and learned music from Hartley, organist of Rochdale. He went afterwards to Manchester to Dr. Parnell's school, and while there he was much struck by the organ-playing of Robert Wainwright, organist of the collegiate church. He was subsequently sent to Eton, where, on 2 Aug. 1756, he obtained a scholarship. While he was at Eton he was deprived of music altogether, but he kept up his practice by playing on imaginary keys on the table. One of the masters, Mr. G. Graham, discovered his passion for music, and, being himself an enthusiastic amateur, gave him much encouragement. On 31 July 1758 he was nominated for a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge. But he was not admitted to the college till 4 May 1760. About this time he obtained a university scholarship. He took the degree of B.A. in 1764, and of M.A. in 1767. During his term of residence in Cambridge he got up and himself conducted a performance of the ‘Messiah’ in his native town, that occasion being the first on which an oratorio had been performed north of the Trent. In his orchestra Herschel, the astronomer, played first violin. Shortly afterwards he succeeded to a fellowship at King's and was appointed college tutor. The attention of Lord Sandwich, the first lord of the admiralty, whose second son was a pupil of Bates, was at this time attracted to his wonderful musical and general talents, and he made him his private secretary, and procured for him a small post in the post-office worth 100l. a year. He was a commissioner of the sixpenny office 1772–6, and of Greenwich Hospital from 1775 till his death. In March 1776 he obtained the more lucrative post of commissioner of the victualling office through the same interest, and in the same year became conductor to the Concerts of Ancient Music, which had just been started. By this time he had written a ‘Treatise on Harmony,’ which was translated into German. On 21 Dec. 1780 he married his pupil, Miss Sarah Harrop [see Bates, Sarah]. In 1783, in conjunction with Lord Fitzwilliam and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, he set on foot the commemoration of Handel, which took place in Westminster Abbey in May and June 1784. At these performances he held the post of conductor. In 1785 the king appointed him a commissioner of the customs, and about the same time his name appears as vice-president of Westminster Hospital. He subsequently invested all his own and his wife's fortune in the unfortunate project of the Albion Mills, and when these were burnt in 1791, he was nearly ruined. The vexation and trouble resulting from this mischance brought on (says Burney) a complaint in his chest which finally proved fatal. In 1793 he resigned the conductorship of the Ancient Concerts, and on 8 June 1799 he died. A portrait of Joah Bates and his wife, by F. Coates, R.A., is in the possession of H. Littleton, Esq.

[Burney's History of Music; Rees's Cyclopædia (1819); Burney's Account of the Commemoration of Handel (1785); Harmonicon for 1831; Busby's Concert-room Anecdotes; Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians; Documents and Registers of King's and Christ's Colleges, Cambridge; Gent. Mag. vol. lxix. pt. i. p. 532; Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 5863 and 6402; information from Mr. W. H. Husk.]

J. A. F. M.