Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Knyvett, Charles

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KNYVETT, CHARLES (1752–1822), musician, descended from the family of Knyvet or Knyvett of Fundenhall, Norfolk, was born in 1752. He possessed a fine alto voice, and was one of the chief singers at the Handel commemoration of 1784. On 6 Nov. 1786 he was appointed gentleman of the Chapel Royal. In 1789, in partnership with Samuel Harrison, he directed a series of oratorio performances at Covent Garden. In 1791, again in partnership with Harrison, and with the additional assistance of his brother William, he established at Willis's Rooms the Vocal Concerts, which were successfully carried on for three years. On 25 July 1796 he was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal, vice Thomas Sanders Dupuis, deceased. In 1801, with the co-operation of his brother William, his son Charles, and Messrs. Greatorex and Bartleman, he revived the Vocal Concerts at the Hanover Square Rooms, but in the following year he withdrew from the management. In 1808 he resigned his post of gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and was succeeded by his son Charles. Knyvett was a member of the Royal Society of Musicians from 4 Jan. 1778. He was for many years secretary to the Noblemen's and Gentlemen's Catch Club, whose meetings were held at the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's Street, and he was a frequent visitor at the meetings of the Madrigal Society. For one season he replaced Joah Bates [q. v.] as conductor at the Concerts of Antient Music. He died in Blandford Street, Pall Mall, on 19 Jan. 1822, and was succeeded as organist of the Chapel Royal by Sir G. T. Smart. He had purchased an estate at Sonning in Berkshire.

Parke (Musical Memoirs, ii. 77, 236) states that he considered Knyvett ‘one of the best singers of glees,’ and ‘perhaps the best catch singer in England.’ Knyvett married in his twenty-first year, and had three sons, Charles (see below), William [q. v.], and one who entered the army.

His eldest son, Charles Knyvett (1773–1852), born in 1773, was a chorister of Westminster Abbey under Sir William Parsons. He was educated at Westminster School, where he formed a close friendship with Lord Dudley and Ward which lasted until his death. He studied the organ and pianoforte under S. Webbe, and in 1802 was appointed organist of St. George's, Hanover Square. In 1801 he assisted his father in the revival of the Vocal Concerts. He died, after many years of retirement, on 2 Nov. 1852.

He published in 1815 ‘Six Airs harmonised for three and four voices;’ and also edited, in 1800, a ‘Collection of favourite Glees, Catches, and Rounds presented by the Candidates for the Premiums given by the Prince of Wales in the year 1800.’

[Grove's Dict. of Music, ii. 67, iv. 319; Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Bemrose's Choir Chant Book, App. p. xxiii; Gent. Mag. 1822 pt. i. 94; Georgian Era, iv. 536; Records of Royal Soc. of Musicians; Records of Madrigal Soc.; Chapel Royal Cheque Book; Cat. of Music in British Museum.]

R. F. S.