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Bishop, Sir Henry Rowley

BISHOP, SIR HENRY ROWLEY (1786-1855), English musical composer, was born in London on the 18th of November 1786. He received his artistic training from Francisco Bianchi, and in 1804 wrote the music to a piece called Angelina, which was performed at Margate. His next composition was the music to the ballet of Tamerlan et Bajazet, produced in 1806 at the King's theatre. This proved successful, and was followed within two years by several others, of which Caractacus, a pantomimic ballet, written for Drury Lane, may be named. In 1809 his first opera, The Circassian's Bride, was produced at Drury Lane; but unfortunately the theatre was burned down after one performance, and the score of the work perished in the flames. His next work of importance, the opera of The Maniac, written for the Lyceum in 1810, established his reputation, and probably secured for him an appointment for three years as composer for Covent Garden theatre. The numerous works - operas, burlettas, cantatas, incidental music to Shakespeare's plays, etc. - which he composed while in this position, are in great part forgotten. The most successful were - The Virgin of the Sun (1812), The Miller and his Men (1813), Guy Mannering and The Slave (1816), Maid Marian and Clari, introducing the well-known air of "Home, Sweet Home" (1822). In 1825 Bishop was induced by Elliston to transfer his services from Covent Garden to the rival house in Drury Lane, for which he wrote with unusual care the opera of Aladdin, intended to compete with Weber's Oberon, commissioned by the other house. The result was a failure, and with Aladdin Bishop's career as an operatic composer may be said to close. On the formation of the Philharmonic Society (1813) Bishop was appointed one of the directors, and he took his turn as conductor of its concerts during the period when that office was held by different musicians in rotation. In 1830 he was appointed musical director at Vauxhall; and it was in the course of this engagement that he wrote the popular song "My Pretty Jane." His sacred cantata, The Seventh Day, was written for the Philharmonic Society and performed in 1833. In 1839 he was made bachelor in music at Oxford. In 1841 he was appointed to the Reid chair of music in the university of Edinburgh, but he resigned the office in 1843. He was knighted in 1842, being the first musician who ever received that honour. In 1848 he succeeded Dr Crotch in the chair of music at Oxford. The music for the ode on the occasion of the installation of Lord Derby as chancellor of the university (1853) proved to be his last work. He died on the 30th of April 1855 in impoverished circumstances, though few composers ever made more by their labours. Bishop was twice married: to Miss Lyon and Miss Anne Rivière. Both he and his wives were singers. His name lives in connexion with his numerous glees, songs and smaller compositions. His melodies are clear, flowing, appropriate and often charming; and his harmony is always pure, simple and sweet.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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