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William Boyce: William Boyce (b. London, 1711; d. London, 7 Feb 1779).
William Boyce was the son of a London cabinet-maker. A choirboy at St Paul's, he became the pupil and friend of the cathedral organist, Maurice Greene. He also received musical instruction from Dr Pepusch. Although he became hard of hearing at a comparatively early age, he lived an active musical life, becoming composer to the Chapel Royal, Director of the Three Choirs Festival, and Master of the King's Musick.
Two of his early works were resettings of texts that had already been used for music at the beginning of the century. When Lord Lansdowne's alteration of The Merchant of Venice was played at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre under the title of The Jew of Venice (1701) it contained a masque entitled Peleus and Thetis. This text William Boyce set in 1747 when the masque was performed in London at the Swan Tavern. Similarly he took Dryden's text for The Secular Masque, which had originally been set by Daniel Purcell in 1 700, and his version was included, with other compositions by him, in a four-day festival of his music at Cambridge in the summer of 1749 on the occasion of his being awarded a doctorate of music.
About this time Garrick asked William Boyce and Arne for two all-sung afterpieces for Drury Lane. William Boyce produced The Chaplet, a two-act 'musical entertainment', which was enormously successful when produced in 1749. It was played 129 times at Drury Lane until 1773 and reached North America in 1767 when it was given in Philadelphia. (Arne's contribution, Don Saverio (1750), does not appear to have been a success.) Another 'musical entertainment' by William Boyce - The Shepherds' Lottery - was given at Drury Lane in 1751. It was not so much liked as The Chaplet, enjoying only twenty-seven performances in three seasons. Full scores of both The Chaplet and The Shepherds' Lottery were published at the time; and in this connection it is interesting to note that a licence giving William Boyce the right for the sole publishing of his works for the term of fourteen years was prefixed to the full score of The Chaplet. An early instance of musical copyright.
In 1760 a collection of William Boyce's overtures appeared in parts under the title Eight Symphonies. These were rediscovered by Constant Lambert in the 1930s and arranged by him to form the score for a ballet entitled The Prospect Before Us, which was produced by the Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1940. In his later years William Boyce worked on the completion of Greene's great collection of Cathedral Music. When he died, he was buried beneath the dome of St Paul's.
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