John Weldon (musician)

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John Weldon (19 January 1676 – 7 May 1736) was an English composer.

Born at Chichester in the south of England, he was educated at Eton, where he was a chorister, and later received musical instruction from Henry Purcell.[1] By 1694 Weldon had been appointed organist of New College in Oxford and became well known in the musical life of that city, writing music for masques as well as performing his organist duties.

Some believe he set Shakespeare's play The Tempest to music in 1695, although others attribute that to Henry Purcell.

Weldon moved to London and in 1701 took part in a competition to set Congreve's libretto The Judgement of Paris to music. Perhaps surprisingly, Weldon's setting was chosen over contributions by his older, more experienced and better-known competitors, Daniel Purcell (younger brother of Henry), John Eccles and Godfrey Finger. Even more curiously, Purcell's and Eccles's scores were later published by John Walsh. Weldon's however was not and remains in manuscript, though the lack of recognition of his relatively new name may also have played a part.[2] There is some evidence to suggest that the judges of the competition were not entirely impartial, however it has also been suggested that Weldon's setting was considered less old fashioned than his somewhat older contemporaries.[3] In the same year as the competition, Weldon was made a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.

Having established his reputation in London, Weldon continued for some years to write music for the theatre. Music for The Tempest, until the mid-1960s believed to have been composed by Henry Purcell, was in all probability written by Weldon for the Drury Lane Theatre, in 1712.[4] Weldon's musical style owes much to Purcell's influence but is more Italianate and also embraces the 'modern' French styles and forms that were becoming increasingly popular at the time.

John Weldon devoted the latter part of his life almost exclusively to the duties of the Chapel Royal and to writing church music.[5] He succeeded John Blow (1649-1708) as Chapel Royal organist, and in 1715 was made second composer under William Croft (1678-1727). He wrote six anthems for the tenor Richard Elford.[6] From 1714, Weldon also held the post of organist at two London Churches, St Bride's, Fleet Street and St Martin-in-the-Fields.[7] He died on 7 May 1736 and is buried in St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, London.

John Weldon's grandson Samuel Thomas Champnes would follow in his musical footsteps and become one of Handel's soloists. Many of their descendants were involved in the church and took the Weldon surname as their second name, often writing the music for hymns in the Ancient and Modern song book.

Operas[edit]

  • The Judgement of Paris (6 May 1701)
  • Orpheus and Euridice (c. 1701)
  • Britain's Happines (1704)
  • The Tempest (1712)
Cultural offices
Preceded by
new post
Organist of the St Martin-in-the-Fields
1714-1736
Succeeded by
Joseph Kelway

References[edit]

  1. ^ Franklin Zimmerman, Henry Purcell 1659-1695, his Life and Times (New York 1967)
  2. ^ In the Folger Library, Washington, D.C., Ms. Cs. 1479
  3. ^ In the printed score of Eccles's The Judgement of Paris, published by Walsh (1702), the composer commented that there were some [judges] 'who came prepar'd to Dislike it'.
  4. ^ Margaret Laurie: 'Did Purcell set The Tempest?', Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, xc (1963–4), p. 43–57
  5. ^ See "In Thee O Lord" in the Choral Public Domain Library.
  6. ^  "Weldon, John". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  7. ^ New Oxford Companion to Music Vol. 2

External links[edit]