Coward, James (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

COWARD, JAMES (1824–1880), organist, born in London 25 Jan. 1824, was admitted at an early age into the Westminster Abbey choir. Both in the abbey and in concerts solos were frequently entrusted to him, and on more than one occasion he had the honour of singing with Madame Malibran. His first appointment as organist was to the parish church of Lambeth, and on the opening of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham he was given the post of organist there. This situation he filled with credit to himself and advantage to the institution until his death, which took place at his house in Lupus Street, Pimlico, 22 Jan. 1880. For some time before his death he had been conductor of the Abbey and City glee clubs. In October 1864 he succeeded Turle as conductor of the Western Madrigal Society, an office which he retained until March 1872. Besides these various appointments he held the post of organist to St. George's Church, Bloomsbury (1866–9), the Sacred Harmonic Society, and the grand lodge of freemasons. His last church appointment was to St. Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge, which he held till his death. His compositions are not numerous, but they show considerable refinement and musical knowledge, as well as an earnestness of aim for which he was scarcely given credit by those who were accustomed to hear his operatic selections or transcriptions for the organ. Considering the musical taste of the time, it is not to be wondered at that these performances formed part of his ordinary duties at the Crystal Palace, but it is to be regretted that so great a power of improvisation as he possessed should so often have been turned to account to provide musical accompaniment for acrobatic displays. The most important of his published works are: ‘O Lord, correct me,’ anthem; ‘Sing unto God,’ a canon (4 in 2); ‘Ten Glees and a Madrigal’ (published 1857), ‘Take thy Banner,’ ‘Airy Fairy Lilian’ (five-part song), ‘I strike the Lyre,’ part-songs; ‘The Skylark,’ prize glee; marches, &c., for the organ, and several pianoforte pieces.

[Musical Standard, 14 Feb. 1880; Mr. T. L. Southgate's Letter to Norwood News, February 1880; information from C. T. Budd, esq.]

J. A. F. M.