Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bevin, Elway

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BEVIN, ELWAY (fl. 1605–1631), a composer of Welsh origin, concerning whom but little is known, was sworn a gentleman-extraordinary of the Chapel Royu on 3 June 1605, and is said to have been a pupil of Thomas Tallis. Dr. Rimbault, quoting Wood (Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 265), says that he was organist of Bristol from 1589 to 1637, when he was discovered to be a Rdman catholic and expelled from both his appointments. The chapter books of Bristol Cathedral prior to 1650, upon which Wood is said to have based his information, were destroyed in the riots of the present century; but the Chapel Royal cheque-book contains no mention of the composer's expulsion, and the source of Rimbault's information, which he gives as 'Ashmol. MS. 8568, 106' (an incorrect reference), cannot now be venfied. In 1631 Bevin published the work by which he is best known, 'A Briefe and Short Instruction of the Art of Musicke, to teach how to make Discaut, of all proportions that are in use: very necessary for all such as are desirous to attaine to knowledge in the Art; and may by practice, if they can sing, soone be able to compose three, foure, and five parts; And also to compose all sorts of Canons that are usuall, by these directions of two or three parts in one, upon the Plain-Song' (London, printed by R. Young, at the signe of the Starre on Bread Street Hill). This work is dedicated to the Bishop of Gloucester, 'unto whom,' Bevin states, he has 'beene much bound for many favours.' Prefixed to the book is a set of verses by one Thomas Palmer, of Bristol, in the course of which mention is made of 'old judicious Bevin;' and as the composer himself says that he has studied canons 'for these many years last past' — a statement borne out by a manuscript volume (partly in his autograph) in the Queen's Collection at Buckingham Palace, which contains some studies and canons dated 1 July 1611, and included in the printed work — it is safe to conclude that the 'Briefe Discourse' was not published until Bevin was advanced in years. The book itself is most curious, and is still the best authority extant for the solution of the extremely intricate canons in which certain composers of that period delighted. At the end of the work Bevin promises a larger volume if he is encouraged and shall live; but no other book was published in fulfilment of this promise. His other compositions are not numerous, nor very commonly met with. Benjamin Cosyn's 'Virginal Book' (in the Queen's Collection) has a service by him included amongst six entitled 'These are ye Six Services for the King's Royall Chappell.' Copies of this work are to be found in most large collections, and it has been printed in Barnard's 'Selected Church Musick' and Boyce's 'Cathedral Music' The Christ Church Collection (Oxford) contains (in a set of part-books almost wholly consisting of Latin motets) a 'Browninge, 3 parts,' by Bevin. One of the part-books is missing, and there is only left of this curiously named composition a superius and contra tenor. The Music School Collection (Oxford) also contains an 'In Nomine' by the same composer. A few compositions by him are to be found in the British Museum {Add, M88. 11587, 31403, 29289, 29430, 29996; Harl MS. 7339), the most remarkable of which is a part-song, 'Hark, Jolly Shepherds,' in twenty parts.

[Burney's Hist. of Music, iii.; Hawkins's Hist, of Music (ed. 1853). i. 297, ii. 606; Boyce's Cathedral Music (1849), vol. i. p. x; Old Cheque Book of Chapel Royal (Rimbault), 1872, pp. 42, 231; infomation from Mr. G. Riseley, the Rev. J. H. Mee, and Mr. F. Madan.]

W. B. S.