Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jeremiah Clarke

English composer Jeremiah Clarke died on this day in 1707. Like many people of his day, his exact birthdate (perhaps around 1674) was not recorded, nor much about his early life.

By 1785, the year of the coronation of James II, he was a boy chorister at the Chapel Royal. As an adult he sang at St. Paul's Cathedral in London and studied with John Blow. In later years, he was the organist at the Chapel Royal and Master of the Choristers at St. Paul's. He composed mostly choral music and some hymn tunes, but also pieces for keyboard and instruments, and at least one opera with Daniel Purcell (brother of Henry).

Despondent at the refusal of his marriage proposal by a “titled lady,” he killed himself on that December day. 302 years ago. Accounts differ as to whether he is buried in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral (unlikely for a suicide) or in unconsecrated ground outside the cathedral graveyard.

Clearly not planning ahead, I have already used Clarke's most familiar tunes here:

ST. MAGNUS (Lo, what a cloud of witnesses)

BISHOPTHORPE (Immortal love, forever full)

BROMLEY (O thou, whose gracious presence shone)

Clark's most familiar composition is undoubtedly his Trumpet Voluntary or the Prince of Denmark's March, which you will probably recognize as soon as you click on the video below. It is frequently used at weddings, which seems ironic given the circumstances of Clarke's suicide.

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