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Alline, Henry (1748–1784), evangelist and hymn writer, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on 14 June 1748, the second son of William Alline and Rebecca Clark. His father, who was probably a miller, responded to the announcements of free land in Nova Scotia...

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Aston, Hugh (d. 1558), composer and choirmaster, is of obscure origins. He became one of the foremost church musicians of his generation, the peer of John Taverner, and yet biographers have sometimes confused him with namesakes. He is not Hugh Aston, canon of ...

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

Barbier, Jane (fl. 1711–1740), singer, was said by John Hawkins to be 'a native of England' (Hawkins, 5.156). A contralto, she made her first stage appearance with the opera company at the Queen's Theatre in the Italian pasticcio Almahide in November 1711, singing a role previously taken by the castrato ...

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George Biddlecombe

Braham, John (1777?–1856), singer, was probably born on 20 March 1777 in London. The year of his birth has often been given as 1774, but two accounts published during his lifetime—in The Harmonicon (10, 1832, 1), and in the Illustrated London News...

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John Braham (1777?–1856) by unknown artist, c. 1834 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Campion, Mary Anne (c. 1687–1706), singer and dancer, was born of lowly parents, her father having possibly been a servant of William Cavendish, first duke of Devonshire. She displayed a precocious talent on the stage; aged eleven, she was a member of Christopher Rich's...

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Chelle, William (fl. 1524–1559), Church of England clergyman and musician, was born probably in the diocese of Worcester; he may be the William Chell who, a secular, was ordained acolyte on 21 May 1513 and subdeacon on 7 March 1516. Now a priest, he supplicated for the degree of BMus at ...

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Cowper [Cooper], Robert (c. 1465–1539/40), composer, was apparently brought up in Sussex, but of his parentage and musical training nothing is known. From early 1493 until October 1496 he served as a lay clerk in the choir of King's College, Cambridge, and he was admitted by the university to the degree of bachelor of music on 13 June 1494. During 1501–2 he was licensed to proceed as doctor of music on the grounds that five years of study and five years of practical experience so qualified him, and he was eventually admitted during 1506–7. Described as 'of ...

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Damascene, Alexander (d. 1719), singer and composer, was born in France. He was a protestant, and presumably it was for this reason that he went to England, where he obtained letters of denization on 22 July 1682. On 22 July 1680 he married ...

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Davies, Harry Parr (1914–1955), songwriter and composer, was born on 24 May 1914 at 15 Grandison Street, Briton Ferry, Glamorgan, the son of David John Davies, a bootmaker, and his wife, Rosina Parr, a teacher. He was playing the chapel organ and composing musical pieces by the age of twelve, and while attending ...

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Davies, Rowland (1740–1797), composer and Roman Catholic priest, was born on 9 May 1740 in London, son of Rowland Davies and his wife, Jane Nicholas. He was a pupil of George Frideric Handel, and is said to have played the organ at the coronation of ...

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Delius, Frederick Theodor Albert (1862–1934), composer, was born on 29 January 1862 at Claremont, Horton Lane, Bradford, Yorkshire, the grandson of Ernst Friedrich Delius (1790–1831) and the fourth of the fourteen children of Julius Delius (1822–1901) and his wife, Elise Pauline Krönig (1838–1929)...

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Frederick Theodor Albert Delius (1862–1934) by Ernest Procter, 1929 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Elderton, William (d. in or before 1592), ballad writer, is of unknown origins. Although he and his ballads were well known in Elizabethan England—Elderton's name appears in the records of the privy council, as well as in the writings of numerous contemporary poets and dramatists—very little is known of his life, save for the fact that, as ...

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Fields, Dame Gracie [real name Grace Stansfield] (1898–1979), music-hall entertainer and film actress, was born at 9 Molesworth Street, Rochdale, Lancashire, on 9 January 1898, the eldest of the four children (three daughters and one son) of Fred Stansfield (1874–1956), engineer, and his wife, ...

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Fraser, Simon (1773–1852), editor of traditional music and composer, was born at Ardachie, near Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire. His father, Captain John Fraser, son of Angus Fraser of Errogie, served with the 78th (Highland) regiment (the Black Watch) and 'scaled the heights of Abram...

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Freeth, John [pseud. John Free] (1731–1808), innkeeper and political ballad writer, was born at the Bell tavern, Philip Street, Birmingham, the son of Charles Freeth, landlord of the Bell, and his wife, Mary. Nothing is known of Freeth's education or of his early years, although it seems that he was once an itinerant street ballad singer. Where and when ...

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William Herschel (1738–1822) by Lemuel Francis Abbott, 1785 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Herschel, William (1738–1822), musician and astronomer, was born at Hanover on 15 November 1738, and baptized Friedrich Wilhelm. He was the fourth of the ten children (and the third of six to survive infancy) of Isaac Herschel (1707–1767), a former gardener who was then an oboist in the ...

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Horn, Charles Frederick (1762–1830), musician, was born on 24 February 1762 in Nordhausen, Germany, the third of four children of ‘John’ (presumably Johann) Wolfgang Horn (b. 1737, d. before 1793) and his wife, Sophia Dorothea, née Shenaman (1735–1798). His father intended him to become a surveyor and destroyed his clavichord so that he would concentrate upon that career, but was unable to stop him from studying music with the ...