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Blow, John

BLOW, JOHN (1648-1708), English musical composer, was born in 1648, probably at North Collingham in Nottinghamshire. He became a chorister of the chapel royal, and distinguished himself by his proficiency in music; he composed several anthems at an unusually early age, including Lord, Thou hast been our refuge; Lord, rebuke me not; and the so-called "club anthem," I will always give thanks, the last in collaboration with Pelham Humphrey and William Turner, either in honour of a victory over the Dutch in 1665, or - more probably - simply to commemorate the friendly intercourse of the three choristers. To this time also belongs the composition of a two-part setting of Herrick's Goe, perjur'd man, written at the request of Charles II. to imitate Carissimi's Dite, o cieli. In 1669 Blow became organist of Westminster Abbey. In 1673 he was made a gentleman of the chapel royal, and in the September of this year he was married to Elizabeth Braddock, who died in childbirth ten years later. Blow, who by the year 1678 was a doctor of music, was named in 1685 one of the private musicians of James II. Between 1680 and 1687 he wrote the only stage composition by him of which any record survives, the Masque for the Entertainment of the King: Venus and Adonis. In this Mary Davies played the part of Venus, and her daughter by Charles II., Lady Mary Tudor, appeared as Cupid. In 1687 he became master of the choir of St Paul's church; in 1695 he was elected organist of St Margaret's, Westminster, and is said to have resumed his post as organist of Westminster Abbey, from which in 1680 he had retired or been dismissed to make way for Purcell. In 1699 he was appointed to the newly created post of composer to the chapel royal. Fourteen services and more than a hundred anthems by Blow are extant. In addition to his purely ecclesiastical music Blow wrote Great sir, the joy of all our hearts, an ode for New Year's day 1681-1682; similar compositions for 1683, 1686, 1687, 1688, 1689, 1693 (?), 1694 and 1700; odes, etc., for the celebration of St Cecilia's day for 1684, 1691, 1695 and 1700; for the coronation of James II. two anthems, Behold, O God, our Defender, and God spake sometimes in visions; some harpsichord pieces for the second part of Playford's Musick's Handmaid (1869); Epicedium for Queen Mary (1695); Ode on the Death of Purcell (1696). In 1700 he published his Amphion Anglicus, a collection of pieces of music for one, two, three and four voices, with a figured-bass accompaniment. A famous page in Burney's History of Music is devoted to illustrations of "Dr Blow's Crudities," most of which only show the meritorious if immature efforts in expression characteristic of English music at the time, while some of them (where Burney says "Here we are lost") are really excellent. Blow died on the 1st of October 1708 at his house in Broad Sanctuary, and was buried in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey.

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

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