William Boyce

William Boyce is widely regarded as one of the most important English-born composers of the 18th century. Born in London, he started his musical career as a choirboy at St. Paul’s Cathedral, began studying music with Maurice Greene after his voice broke, and eventually replaced Greene as the organist at the Earl of Oxford’s chapel. In 1736, he became a composer at the Chapel Royal, and the organist of St. Michael’s, Cornhill. He received multiple music degrees from Oxford in 1749, and was appointed Master of the King’s Musick in 1755. 22 years after taking the position of composer, Boyce became one of the organists at the Chapel Royal in 1758. Though he was forced to retire from performing because of his impeding deafness, he still continued to write, and compiled a three volume work of cathedral music between 1760-1773. His former teacher, Maurice Greene, had started the collection but left it incomplete upon his death. In addition to the compilation, he also wrote anthems, stage works, and instrumental pieces, though he is perhaps best known for his set of eight symphonies. Boyce also composed the British and Canadian Naval March "Heart of Oak", with lyrics later written by David Garrick. Buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral when he died, Boyce was largely forgotten about and remains a little-performed composer today, though many of the pieces in the three-volume work of cathedral music are still used in Anglican services today. In the 1930’s, Constant Lambert rediscovered, edited, and conducted a vast majority of his pieces. This followed Lambert’s 1928 Boyce revival, when the first modern edition of his Eight Symphonies was published.

Boyce’s only son, William Boyce Jr. (March 25, 1764-1824) was a professional Double Bass player.

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