Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Porter, Walter

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PORTER, WALTER (1595?–1659), composer, was son of Henry Porter, who in 1600 graduated Bac. Mus. at Oxford, and in 1603 was musician of the sackbuts to James I. Walter, born about 1595 (Baptie), was on 5 Jan. 1616 sworn gentleman of the Chapel Royal, to await a vacancy among the tenor singers. On 1 Feb. 1617 he succeeded Peter Wright. In 1639 he was appointed master of the choristers of Westminster Abbey, Richard Portman being organist at the time. Among his patrons were John, lord Digby, first earl of Bristol, to whom he dedicated his ‘Ayres,’ and Sir Edward Spencer. Dismissed from his post during the rebellion, Porter was relieved by Edward Laurence, esq. (Wood). He was buried at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, on 30 Nov. 1659 (Grove).

Porter's printed works are: 1. ‘Madrigales and Ayres of two, three, foure, and five voyces, with the continued bass, with Toccatos, Sinfonias, and Ritornelles to them after the manner of consort musique. To be performed with the Harpsechord, Lutes, Theorbos, Basse-violl, two Violins or two Viols,’ 4to, printed by Wm. Stansby, 1632. The book contains twenty-six pieces, and is recommended to the ‘practitioner’ in these terms: ‘Before you censure, which I know you will, and they that understand least most sharply; let me intreate you to play and sing them true according to my meaning, or heare them done so; not, instead of singing, to howle or bawle them, and scrape, instead of playing, and perform them falsely, and say they are nought.’ A copy is in the Music School, Oxford. 2. ‘Ayres and Madrigals … with a thorough-bass base for the Organ or Theorbo-lute in the Italian way,’ 1639. Psalms and Anthems for two voices to the organ, first set, 1639 (Playford advertisement). 3. Second set, or ‘Mottets of two voices for treble or tenor and bass, to be performed to an Organ, Harpsycon, Lute, or Bass-viol,’ small folio, 1657 (Sacred Harmonic Cat.) Burney found the words of some of these were taken from George Sandys's ‘Paraphrase.’ 4. ‘Divine Hymns by W. Porter,’ advertised by Playford, 1664, perhaps the same as 5. ‘Psalms of Sir George Sands,’ translation for two voices by Walter Porter, three books, fol., advertised 1671. The following words of anthems set by Porter are in British Museum Harleian MS. 6346: Full anthems, ‘Brethren,’ ‘Consider mine enemies,’ and a collect; single anthems, ‘O praise the Lord,’ ‘Ponder my words,’ ‘Awake thou lute,’ ‘He taketh the simple,’ ‘Praise the Lord,’ ‘O give thanks,’ ‘O Lord, thou hast searched.’

[Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 21 June 1603; Nichols's Progresses of James I, i. 598; Grove's Dict. iii. 19; Rimbault's Cheque-Book of the Chapel Royal, pp. 8, 9, 47, 76, 123, 205; Baptie's Handbook; Wood's Fasti, p. 284; Rimbault's Bibliotheca Madrigaliana; Burney's Hist. of Music, iii. 403.]

L. M. M.