Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beale, William (1784-1854)

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BEALE, WILLIAM (1784–1854), musician, was born at Landrake, in Cornwall, 1 Jan. 1784. He was a chorister at Westminster Abbey under Dr. Arnold until his voice broke, when he served as a midshipman on board the Révolutionnaire, a 44-gun frigate which had been taken from the French. During this period he was nearly drowned by falling overboard in Cork harbour. On his voice settling into a pure baritone he left the sea, and devoted himself to the musical profession. He became a member of the Royal Society of Musicians on 1 Dec. 1811. On 12 Jan. 1813 he won the prize cup of the Madrigal Society for his beautiful madrigal, 'Awake, sweet Muse,' and on 30 Jan. 1816 he obtained an appointment as one of the gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, in the place of Robert Hudson, deceased. At this period he was living at 13 North Street, Westminster. On 1 Nov. 1820 Beale signed articles of appointment as organist to Trinity College, Cambridge, and on 13 Dec. following he resigned his place at the Chapel Royal. In December 1821 he threw up his appointment at Cambridge, and returned to London, where, through the good offices of Dr. Attwood, he became successively organist of Wandsworth parish church and St. John's, Clapham Rise. He continued occasionally to sing in public until a late period of his life, and in 1840 he won a prize at the Adelphi Glee Club for his glee for four voices, 'Harmony.' He died at Paradise Row, Stockwell, 3 May 1854. Beale was twice married: (1) to Miss Charlotte Elkins, a daughter of the groom of the stole to George IV, and (2) to Miss Georgiana Grove, of Clapham. His voice was a light baritone, and he is said to have imitated Bartleman in his vocalisation. He was an extremely finished singer, though somewhat wanting in power. His compositions, which principally consist of glees and madrigals, though few in number, are of a very high degree of excellence, and often rival, in their purity of melody and form, the best compositions of the Elizabethan madrigalists.

[Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal; Records of the Royal Society of Musicians; London Magazine for 1822, p. 474; Records of Trinity College, Cambridge; information from Mr. W. Beale.]

W. B. S.