Callcott, John Wall

1766-1821

Born at Kensington, London, and became one of the most noted of the English glee writers. He learned the rudiments of music when quite young by frequenting the Kensington Church, and by attending the Chapel Royal at Westminster Abbey. He studied without a teacher for many years. From 1783 until 1785 he was assistant organist at the Church of St. George the Martyr, under Reinhold, and the latter year was introduced to the leader of the orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music and won several medals for glees and canons, and also took active part in the formation of the Glee Club in 1787. He was joint organist at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, and, in 1790, took lessons from Haydn in instrumental composition, in order to perfect himself in orchestral writing. In 1793, having studied the works of the best musical theorists, he projected a musical dictionary. While studying with Haydn he composed a song, These as They Change, which won much praise for him. Oxford conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Music in 1800 and in 1806 he published his dictionary. In 1795, upon the formation of a volunteer corps at Kensington, Calcott had accepted a commission in it and aided by a subscription, he formed a band for the corps, for which he purchased instruments, composed and arranged the music and instructed the performers. In 1806 he published a musical grammar and also wrote a scena upon the death of Lord Nelson. In that year he was appointed lecturer on German music, at the Royal Institution, to succeed Dr. Crotch, but under his heavy work his mind gave way and for five years it was a blank. He recovered for a time, but elapsed into the same condition again and died at Bristol in 1821. His works consist mainly of glees, catches and canons, and were edited after his death by W. Horsley. He showed but little skill in orchestral writing. He left in manuscript many anthems, odes and songs and other pieces of music. His daughter Sophia became eminent as a teacher of the piano and his son, William Hutchins Callcott, attained considerable distinction as a composer and adapted many of the elder Callcott's glees for male voices.