Boyce, William , significant English organist and composer; b. London (baptized), Sept. 11, 1711; d. Kensington, Feb. 7, 1779. As a youth he was a chorister in St. Paul’s Cathedral under Charles King. He then studied organ with Maurice Greene, the cathedral organist. From 1734 to 1736 he was organist at the Earl of Oxford’s Chapel, then at St. Michael’s, Cornhill, from 1736 to 1768. Concurrently he was named in 1736 composer to the Chapel Royal. In 1759 he was Master of the King’s Musick. An increasing deafness forced him to abandon active musical duties after 1769. His main task consisted in providing sacred works for performance; he also contributed incidental music to theatrical productions. He conducted the Festivals of the Three Choirs (Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford) in 1737, and served as Master of the Royal Band in 1755. His magnum opus was the compilation of the collection Cathedral Music, in 3 vols. (1760, 1768, and 1773; 2nd éd., 1788; later eds., 1844 and 1849). This collection comprises morning and evening services, anthems, and other church music by a number of British composers, namely Aldrich, Batten, Bevin, Blow, Bull, Byrd, Child, Clarke, Creyghton, Croft, Farrant, Gibbons, Goldwin, Henry VIII, Humfrey, Lawes, Locke, Morley, Mundy, Purcell, Rogers, Tallis, Turner, Tye, Weldon, and Wise. Of his own music, there are remarkable instrumental works: 12 overtures (London, 1770; reprinted in Musica Britannica, vol. XIII); 12 sonatas for 2 Violins and Bass (London, 1747); 8 syms. (London, 1760; modern ed. by M. Goberman, Vienna, 1964); 10 voluntaries for Organ or Harpsichord (London, 1779). Two overtures erroneously attributed to Boyce, and publ. in Lambert’s ed. under the titles The Power of Music and Pan and Syrinx, were works by John Stanley, not by Boyce. His stage works include the following, all produced in London: The Chaplet (Dec. 2, 1749), The Roman Father (Feb. 24, 1750; not extant), The Shepherd’s Lottery (Nov. 19, 1751), and Harlequin’s Invasion (with M. Arne and T. Aylward, Dec. 31, 1759). Several of his vocal works were publ in Lyra Britannica (1745–55); there were also 15 anthems (1780) and a collection of anthems (1750), which were republ. in Novello’s ed. in 4 vols.; also, various songs were orig. publ. in the anthologies The British Orpheus, The Vocal Musical Mask, and others.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire