William Boyce
William Boyce

William Boyce was born in 1711 in Maiden Lane (now Skinners' Lane) in the City of London. At the age of twelve he became a chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral and was later accepted as a pupil to the composer Maurice Greene, the Cathedral organist. He received further musical training under Johann Pepusch.

In addition to a number of ecclesiastical posts, during the 1740s Boyce became involved with the theatre though he abandoned the theatre in 1760, the year in which his Eight Symphonies were published by Walsh in London. They were titled as: "Eight Symphonies in eight parts. Six for Violins, French Horns and Trumpets, with a bass for the Violoncello and Harpsichord. Opera Seconda." The words "opera seconda" suggest that these works had been in existence for some considerable time before their publication probably in manuscript form. These light and varied works were clearly intended for entertainment in the popular London pleasure gardens of Vauxhall and Ranelagh, as well as for performance by the many musical societies which had grown up during the middle years of eighteenth century London.

The Trio Sonatas were published in 1747 as "Twelve Sonatas for two Violins; with a bass for the Violoncello or Harpsichord" and they were an immediate success. Burney tells us that they were: "longer and more generally purchased, performed, and admired, than any productions of the kind in this kingdom, except those of Corelli. They were not only in constant use, as chamber Music, in private concerts, for which they were originally designed, but in our theatres, as act-tunes, and our gardens, as favourite pieces, during many years." Published by subscription, they were immediately sold out, and reprinted several times thereafter.

A very popular figure of whom everyone spoke well, Boyce died at the age of 67 on 7th February, 1779 and was buried under the centre of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on the morning of Tuesday 16th February. The combined choirs of St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal sung at his funeral service, which included his anthem 'If we believe that Jesus died'. In the arrangements drawn up for the service it states that, "After the morning service is ended, the Corpse is to be carried down to the vault during which time Mr. Jones [John Jones (1728-1796) the Cathedral organist] will perform with the organ a solemn March composed by Dr. Boyce".

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