John Weldon (musician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Weldon's manuscript of "O be joyful". In the British Library.

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). Six solo anthems were published by John Walsh in 1716 under the title Divine Harmony.[6] They were claimed to have been sung by the famous tenor, Richard Elford, though it seems that at least some of the anthems were written for one Mr Bowyer during Weldon's time at New College.[7] Weldon also held the post of organist at two London Churches, St Bride's, Fleet Street (from 1702) and St Martin-in-the-Fields (from 1714).[7] He died on 7 May 1736 and is buried in St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, London. Some of his sacred music is published by Music 18.[8]


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 Hymns Ancient and Modern.


Sacred Music[edit]

Until the early 21st century, John Weldon's work had been judged primarily on the basis of the six anthems published in Divine Harmony during his lifetime and the two anthems published in Boyce's Cathedral Music.[9] The six solo anthems have much to commend them, but also weaknesses in sequential and (to a lesser degree) tonal control. The seventh, O God, thou hast cast us out is rather more sophisticated and as such gained a place in Arnold's Cathedral Music.[10] Also gaining a place in this collection was the full-with-verse anthem, Who can tell how oft he offendeth. It is this anthem that Weldon excels in a synthesis of Blow/Purcellian structure and Handelian harmony. The most successful of Weldon's writing, though, is found in the verse anthems. In these he conveys a wide range of emotions and develops ensemble writing techniques in systematic ways. Particularly successful are the anthems conveying joy and praise with unbounded elation. The solo and ensemble writing in these verse anthems is particularly strong, with real virtuosity required on the part of the singers.

Anthems in (probable) chronological order:[7]

Title Index number Genre Probable date
O praise God in his holiness JW24 Short Full Anthem 1701
O praise the Lord for it is a good thing JW25 Short Full Anthem 1701
O Lord, rebuke me not JW1 Solo Anthem Pre-1702
I will lift up mine eyes JW5 Solo Anthem Pre-1702
O how pleasant are thy dwellings JW8 Solo Anthem Pre-1702
Blessed be the Lord my strength JW2 Solo Anthem Pre-1702
O praise the Lord of heaven JW3 Solo Anthem Pre-1702
O praise the Lord, laud ye the name of the Lord

(Oxford version)

JW9a Verse Anthem Pre-1702
Thou art my portion JW4 Solo Anthem Probably pre-1702
Have mercy upon me JW6 Solo Anthem c.1700–1705
O God thou hast cast us out JW7 Solo Anthem 1703/4
O sing unto the Lord a new song JW12 Verse Anthem 9 January 1707/8
Ponder my words JW15 Verse Anthem 1708–1712
Praise the Lord ye servants JW14 Verse Anthem 1708–1712
O praise the Lord, laud ye the name of the Lord

(Chapel Royal version)

JW9b Verse Anthem 1708–1712
Sanctus and Gloria JW26/27 Full Service (with verses) c.1708
Rejoice in the Lord JW13 Verse Anthem 17 February 1708/9
O praise the Lord, ye that fear him JW16 Verse Anthem After February 1708/9; before 1713/4
O give thanks unto the Lord JW35 Verse Anthem 22 November 1709
Blessed is the man that feareth JW34 Verse Anthem ?1708–1712
Blessed are those that are undefiled JW33 Verse Anthem ?1708–1712
The King shall rejoice JW17 Verse Anthem c.1710-c.1715
Hear my crying, O God JW19 Full-with-verses Anthem ?1712-c.1715
In thee, O Lord JW20 Full-with-verses Anthem ?1712- c.1715
Turn thou us, O good Lord JW22 Full-with-verses Anthem ?c.1711-c.1713
The Princes of the People JW37 Verse Anthem Pre-1714, probably 1713
Service in D JW28/29/31/32 Full Service (with verses) 1714–1717
O be joyful JW10 Verse Anthem c.1715–1722
O Lord, let me hear thy loving kindness JW11 Verse Anthem c.1715–1722
I will love thee, O Lord JW36 Verse Anthem c.1715–1722
Who can tell how oft he offendeth JW21 Full-with-verses Anthem c.1715–1716
Let God arise JW18 Verse Anthem ?c.1715–1722


  • The Judgement of Paris (6 May 1701)
  • Orpheus and Euridice (c. 1701)
  • Britain's Happines (1704)
  • The Tempest (1712)

Cultural offices[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
new post
Organist of the St Martin-in-the-Fields
Succeeded by


  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 (1963–64), p. 43–57
  5. ^ See "In Thee O Lord" Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine in the Choral Public Domain Library.
  6. ^ Weldon, J., Divine Harmony. Six select anthems for a voice alone (London: Walsh and Hare, 1716)
  7. ^ a b c Bullamore, Stephen D. (2015) The sacred music of John Weldon (1676–1736). PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.
  8. ^ "John Weldon – Music 18". Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  9. ^ Boyce, William (1760–73). Cathedral Music. London: Printed for the Editor.
  10. ^ Arnold, Samuel (1790). Cathedral Music. London: Printed for the Editor.

External links[edit]