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Benjamin Jacob (Composer, Arranger)

Born: April 1, 1778 - London, England
Died: August 24, 1829 - (buried: Bunhill Fields)

The English organist and composer, Benjamin Jacob, was at a very early age taught the rudiments of music by his father, an amateur violinist. When 7 years old he received lessons in singing from Robert Willoughby, a well-known chorus-singer, and became a chorister at Portland Chapel. At 8 years of age he learned to play on the harpsichord, and afterwards studied that instrument and the organ under William Shrubsole, organist of Spa Fields Chapel, and Matthew Cooke, organist of St. George, Bloomsbury.

At 10 years of age Benjamin Jacob became organist of Salem Chapel, Soho, and little more than a year afterwards was appointed organist of Carlisle Chapel, Kennington Lane. Towards the latter end of 1790 he removed to Bentinck Chapel, Lisson Green, where he remained until December 1794, when the Rev. Rowland Hill invited him to assume the place of organist at Surrey Chapel. In 1796 he studied harmony under Dr. Arnold. In 1799 he became a member of the Royal Society of Musicians. In 1800 he conducted a series of oratorios given under the direction of Bartleman in Cross Street, Hatton Garden. As he advanced in years he became more and more distinguished as one of the best organists of his time, and in 1808 and subsequently, with the co-operation of Samuel Wesley and Dr. Crotch, gave a series of performances at Surrey Chapel, of airs, choruses, and fugues played upon the organ alone, without any interspersion of vocal pieces. In that and the following year Samuel Wesley addressed to him, as to a kindred spirit, a remarkable series of letters on the works and genius of J.S. Bach. These letters, now at the Royal College of Music in London, were published in 1875 by Miss Eliza Wesley, the writer's daughter.

In November 1823 Benjamin Jacob quitted Surrey Chapel for the newly erected church of St. John, Waterloo Road. This led to a dispute between him and the Rev. Rowland Hill, resulting in a paper war, in which the musician triumphed over the divine. Jacob died of consumption and was buried in Bunhill Fields.

Benjamin Jacob's compositions were not numerous, consisting principally of psalm tunes, and a few glees. He edited a collection of tunes, with appropriate symphonies, set to a course of psalms, and published under the title of National Psalmody (1817).


Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition; Author: William H. Husk)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2007)

Benjamin Jacob: Short Biography | Piano Trabscriptions: Works | Recordings

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