Life and career
Born in London, Abell became a member of the Chapel Royal in 1679. During the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he fled to continental Europe, where he won fame and wealth by his singing. There are several anecdotes relating to his travels from this time, several from the writings of Hawkins.
Upon his arrival at Warsaw, the king having notice of it, sent for him to his court. Abell made some slight excuse to evade going, but upon being told that he had everything to fear from the king’s resentment, he made an apology, and received a command to attend the king next day. Upon his arrival at the palace, he was seated in a chair in the middle of a spacious hall, and immediately drawn up to a great height; presently the king with his attendants appeared in a gallery opposite to him, and at the same instant a number of wild bears were turned in; the king bade him then choose whether he would sing or be let down among the bears: Abell chose the former, and declared afterwards that he never sang so well in his life.
In Kassel he was made Intendant of Music (1698–1699), before returning to England around 1700, where in 1701 he performed the title role in Daniel Purcell's The Judgment of Paris: in the following year his coronation song for Queen Anne, Aloud proclaim the cheerful sound, was performed. He also gave public and private concerts, and taught music. Furthermore, he wrote and compiled songs in the Italian style of the time, with a collection of his being published in 1701 and another posthumously in 1740. He is thought to have died in Cambridge.
- Theodore Baker and Alfred Remy, ed. (1919). "Abell, John". Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (3rd edition ed.). p. 2.
- Ian Spink. "John Abell", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 21 June 2007), grovemusic.com (subscription access).