Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lampe, John Frederick

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LAMPE, JOHN FREDERICK (1703?–1751), musical composer, was a native of Saxony, and, according to the epitaph on his tombstone, was born in or about 1703. The place of his birth is stated to have been Helmstadt, but a search of the baptismal records there has not revealed the name of Lampe (Love). Hawkins says 'he affected to style himself sometime a student of music at Helmstadt,' and this may have led to the belief that be was born there. Nothing is known of his career before he arrived in London about 1725, when he became a bassoon- player in the opera band. He is reported to have been one of the finest bassoonists of his time. About 1730 he was engaged by Rich, manager of Covent Garden, to compose music for pantomimes and other entertainments performed there. In 1732 he wrote the music for Henry Carey's 'Amelia' (Hawkins states that Carey was a pupil of Lampe's), and in 1737 he set the same writer's burlesque opera, the 'Dragon of Wantley.' The latter work, said to have been a favourite with Handel, and written in imitation of the 'Beggar's Opera,' had an extraordinary success. It was followed in 1738 by a sequel entitled 'Margery, or a Worse Plague than the Dragon.' In 1741 he wrote music for the masque of the 'Sham Conjuror,' and in 1745 composed 'Pyramus and Thisbe, a mock Opera, the words taken from Shakespeare.' He was the composer of many now-forgotten songs, several of which appeared In collections, like 'Wit Musically Embellish'd: a collection of forty-two new English ballads,' the 'Ladies' Amusement,' 'Lyra Britannica,' the 'Vocal Mask,' and the 'Musical Miscellany,' &c. Hawkins attributes to him an anonymous cantata entitled 'In Harmony would you excel,' with words by Swift. He was the author of two theoretical works: 'A Plain and Compendious Method of Teaching Thorough-Bass,' London, 1737. and the 'Art of Musick,' London, 1740. 'Hymns on the Great Festivals and other Occasions' (London, 1748) contains twenty-four tunes in two parts, specially composed by him, to words by the Rev. Charles Wesley. In 1748 or 1749, with his wife and a small company, he went to Dublin, where he conducted theatrical performances and concerts, and in November 1750 he moved to Edinburgh to take up a similar engagement at the Canongate Theatre. He died in Edinburgh on 35 July 1751, and was buried in the Canongate churchyard, where a monument, now in a dilapidated state, was erected to his memory. The prediction of the epitaph that his 'harmonious compositions shall outlive monumental registers, and, with melodious notes through future ages, perpetuate his fame,' has only been partly fulfilled, for, with the exception of the long-metre hymn-tune, 'Kent,' none of his compositions are now heard. From contemporary notices we gather that Lampe was an excellent musician, and a man of irreproachable character. He was greatly esteemed by Charles Wesley, who wrote a hymn on his death, beginning 'Tis done! the sov'reign will's obeyed!' This hymn was afterwards set to music by Dr. Samuel Arnold.

Lampe's wife, Isabella, was daughter of Charles Young, organist of All-Hallows, Barking, and sister of Mrs. Arne, She was noted both as a vocalist and as an actress. Lampe's son, Charles John Frederick, sometimes confounded with his father, was organist of All-Hallows, in succession to Young, from 1758 to 1769.

[Hawkins's Hist. Music. v. 371: Burney's Music, iv. 656; Grove's Dict. Music; Love's Scottish Church Music, its Composers and Sources p. 188, and article in Scottish Church, June 1890; Dibdin's Annals of the Edinburgh Stage. The epitaph in the Canongate churchyard states Lampe was in his forty-eighth year when died.]

J. C. H.