Shield, William

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Shield, William

Shield, William, English violinist and composer; b. Swalwell, County Durham, March 5, 1748; d. Brightling, Sussex, Jan. 25, 1829. He was taught by his father, a singing master, on whose death he was apprenticed to a shipbuilder; then took lessons in music with Charles Avison at Newcastle upon Tyne. He played violin in various small theaters in the neighborhood, and in 1772 settled in London as violinist at the King’s Theatre; from 1773 to 1791 he played the viola there. He produced his first comic opera, A Flitch of Bacon, at the Haymarket Theatre on Aug. 17, 1778; it was followed by a great number of theatrical pieces. After holding the post of composer to Covent Garden from 1778 to 1791, he traveled in France and Italy, returning to Covent Garden in 1792; he retained this position until 1797. He was appointed Master of the King’s Music in 1817, and was the last to compose court odes in 1818. He wrote about 40 light operas, pantomines, musical farces, ballad operas, etc., as well as 6 string quartets, 6 string trios, 6 duets for 2 Violins, and other instrumental pieces. He publ. An Introduction to Harmony (1800) and The Rudiments of Thoroughbass (1815). Shield had some original ideas, and was not averse to experimentation; e.g., he wrote movements in 5/4 time.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire