Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Corfe, Joseph

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CORFE, JOSEPH (1740–1820), born at Salisbury in 1740, was in all probability a relation of the two musicians of that name who were lay vicars of Winchester Cathedral near the end of the seventeenth century, and of a James Corfe who published some songs under initials about 1730–50. Joseph Corfe received his early musical education from Dr. Stephens, the organist of the cathedral, and was for some time one of the choristers. On 21 Feb. 1783 he was appointed one of the gentlemen of the Chapel Royal. He had previously been made a lay vicar of Salisbury, and in 1792 was given the post of cathedral organist there. He had appointed his son, John Corfe, as his deputy in the Chapel Royal, on 2 April 1791. In 1804 he resigned the post of organist in favour of his son, Arthur Thomas Corfe [q. v.], and died in 1820, shortly before 1 Oct., on which date his successor was appointed to the Chapel Royal. His chief original production is a volume of church music, containing a well-known service in B flat, and eleven anthems. He wrote also thirty-six glees, mainly arranged from familiar melodies, selections of sacred musical compositions, a ‘Treatise on Singing,’ and ‘Thorough-bass simplified, or the whole Theory and Practice of Thorough-bass laid open to the meanest capacity.’ In estimating his works, it must be remembered that he was a contemporary of Jackson of Exeter, and that the influences which formed that most insipid composer were not unfelt by him. Though some of the verses and other portions of the anthems in his volume show the weaknesses which were prevalent at the time, they are more than made up for by the strength and interest of many of the grander numbers, in which a sound fugal style is frequently apparent.

[Grove's Dict. of Music; Cheque Books of the Chapel Royal; Quarterly Musical Mag. i. 156; Bemrose's Chant Book; compositions in British Museum.]

J. A. F. M.