Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Giles, Nathaniel

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GILES, NATHANIEL (d. 1634), composer, was born in or near Worcester about the middle of the sixteenth century, and was a chorister at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1567 to 1571. In 1577 he was clerk in the same chapel, but remained there only one year. He took the degree of Mus.B. at Oxford on 26 June 1585, and on 1 Oct. 1595 became organist and master of the choristers at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. In June 1597 he succeeded William Hunnis as a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and master of the children. Hawkins's statement that on the accession of Charles I he received the appointment of one of the organists of the Chapel Royal appears to be without foundation, as the Cheque Book contains no mention of such an appointment. He applied in 1607 for the degree of Mus.D., but, ‘for some unknown reason’ (Hawkins), declined to perform his exercise, and the degree was not conferred upon him until 5 July 1622, when it was proposed that he should dispute with William Heyther on three questions concerning music. The fact that the dispute did not take place may be perhaps explained by Heyther's insufficient knowledge of music, for it is beyond question that his exercise had to be written for him by his friend Orlando Gibbons [q. v.] It was certainly due to no lack of learning on Giles's part, for his ‘Lesson of Descant of thirtie-eighte Proportions of sundrie kindes’ on the plain-song ‘Miserere’ (quoted by Hawkins) is a monument of erudition, and is no doubt the cause of Burney's attack on him as a pedant and nothing else. Two inscriptions at Windsor show that he died on 24 Jan. and was buried 2 Feb. 1633–4. The longer of these gives various erroneous statements concerning the tenure of his offices; it also states that his wife was Anne, eldest daughter of John Stayner of Worcestershire.

Though few in number Giles's compositions seem to have enjoyed a wide popularity. His service in C and his five-part anthem ‘O give thanks unto the Lord’ were printed in Barnard's collection, and are found in many of the manuscript collections of church music. Blow's manuscript in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge gives a ‘new service’ (evening only) in ‘A re,’ and a verse anthem ‘I will magnify,’ besides the two more familiar works, and in the Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 29372 there is a five-part madrigal, ‘Cease now vain thoughts.’ Giles was noted for his religious life and conversation. A son of his, of the same name, was canon of Windsor and prebendary of Worcester.

[Grove's Dict. i. 595; Bloxam's Registers of Magdalen College, i. 15, &c.; Hawkins's History, ed. 1853, pp. 573, 574, 961; Burney's History, iii. 324; Wood's Fasti, vol. ii. col. 405; Catal. Fitzwilliam Museum; Old Cheque Book, Chapel Royal.]

J. A. F. M.