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English Early Keyboard Music:
Thomas Chilcot


Thomas Chilcot (c1707 1766) was an English organist and composer. Thomas was born in or about 1707 .He was the son of John Chilcot and Elizabeth Powell.Records of his birth, like most other records from his life, are lost.


He was educated at Bath Charity School, whose headmaster, Henry Dixon, had a strong interest in church music. On 6 July 1721 Thomas (presumably aged 14) was apprenticed to Josiah Priest, the organist of Bath Abbey since 1714 - seemingly the only occasion on which the school allowed a pupil to be apprenticed to a musician.On Priest's death four years later Thomas was made Abbey organist on a probationary basis. In 1728 the appointment was made permanent.


He rapidly established relationships with many noble families, attracting their patronage and subscriptions to his publications. He became a member and subsequently Grand Master of the Royal Cumberland Lodge of Freemasons. He was also amongst the original members of the Royal Society of Musicians, founded in 1738/1739.


As well as his work at the Abbey, Chilcot organised and directed some ambitious choral concerts (at which he played his own concertos) and appears also to have run a small instrument hire business.


He married Elizabeth Mills of Bath in 1729 and had seven children, of whom four survived. Following Elizabeth's death, he married Anne Wrey, a member of a prominent West Country family (the Wrey baronets), in 1749.


Chilcot died suddenly on 24 November 1766. He had been influential in Bath for forty years. Almost no public notice was taken of his death. A complicated disagreement over Chilcot's estate meant that none of the elaborate arrangements that the composer had made for his own funeral procession, monument and memorial trusts were ever carried out.


His published music consists of:


Six Suites of Lessons for the Harpsicord or Spinet (London, Wm Smith, 1734). Modern edition by Le Pupitre (Paris, Heugel & cie, 1981)
Twelve English Songs with their symphonies. The words by Shakespeare and other Celebrated Poets. (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Anacreon, and Euripides) (London, John Johnson, [1744])
Six Concertos, for the Harpsichord (London, John Johnson, 1756) (dedicated to Lady Elizabeth Bathurst)
Six Concertos, for the Harpsichord (Bath, privately, 1765/1766)
His unpublished music has not survived.


ND'S NOTES ON THE SIX SUITES
These are accessible, reminiscent of Handel and John Loeillet; very melodious and lie well under the fingers. The repeats especially in the dance movements need the material to be varied, as was the custom. When played on the piano, one has to remember that this is not the instrument for which the music was written, and care is needed.

This means that when a section is repeated, you don't just play it again in exactly the same way. Adding scale runs and other figures, using different ornamentation, varying the harmonies a little, changing the melody line whilst maintaining the character of the original, simplifying the bass line a little and other devices are all in order and, indeed, necessary for a good performance. One should aim for clarity of texture.

I have recorded all of the Chilcot suites and they are in the following collections:

2020c: Suite 1, Gm (CD 20c)
2021: Suites 6, 5, 2 in that order. (CD 21)
2021a: Suites 3, 4 in Bb and Cm (CD 21a)





ND / Diversity Website / Jan 23

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