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William Turner (composer)

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This page is about the composer William Turner. For other people called William Turner see William Turner (disambiguation page).

William Turner (born Oxford 1651; died London 13 January 1740) was a composer and singer in the Baroque period. He lived at the same time as English composers such as Pelham Humfrey and Henry Purcell, although he lived a lot longer than they did. He is remembered today as a composer of about 40 verse anthems. As a singer, he was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal from 1669 until his death.

Turner started being a choir boy at Christ Church, Oxford. Then he became a choir boy in the Chapel Royal in London. He wrote an anthem together with John Blow and Pelham Humfrey, known as the Club Anthem. When his voice broke in 1666 he had three years out of the choir, but returned in 1669 and sang as a countertenor in the Chapel Royal for another 71 years until his death. He became a member of the King's Private Musick. Besides his work at the king's court he was also a vicar-choral of St Paul's Cathedral and later a lay vicar of the choir of Westminster Abbey. In 1696 he was given a doctorate of music by Cambridge University. After that he was known as "Dr Turner".

Most of his music was written before 1700. It is nearly all church music, but he did write a few pieces for the theatre. He wrote 40 anthems, three service settings and a motet. One of his best anthems is God standeth in the congregation of Princes. It includes a very dramatic solo for bass to the words "God reigneth over the heathen".


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  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie; 1980; ISBN 1-56159-174-2