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 William Shield

William Shield

Birth
Swalwell, Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England
Death 25 Jan 1829 (aged 80)
London, City of London, Greater London, England
Burial Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Plot The Cloister, buried with Johann Salomon
Memorial ID 10244 · View Source
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Composer, Violist. He was one of England's preeminent musicians during the reign of King George III. His greatest success was the light opera "Rosina" (1782); its overture helped popularize a melody now known as the New Year's song "Auld Lang Syne". Shield has been credited as the author of the tune, though he often used folk material in his music and it's more likely he borrowed it from traditional Scots sources. Two soprano arias from "Rosina", "Light as Thistledown" and "When William at Ever", are still heard as recital pieces. Shield was born in Swalwell, near Gateshead, and received violin lessons from his father. Orphaned at age nine, he was apprenticed to a boat-builder in Newcastle-upon-Tyne while continuing to study music with Charles Avison. He made his concert debut as a violinist in 1763. In 1772 he moved to London to join the orchestra of the King's Theatre, quickly becoming principal violist; his first opera, "The Flitch of Bacon" (1778), was written for that venue. As house composer for the Covent Garden Theatre from 1782 to 1807, Shield produced over 50 operas, afterpieces, ballets and pantomimes, including "The Poor Soldier" (1783), "Robin Hood" (1784), "Fountainbleau" (1784), "The Noble Peasant" (1784), "Richard the Lion-Hearted" (1786), "The Farmer" (1787), "Aladdin" (1791), "The Woodman" (1791), and "The Travellers in Switzerland" (1794). Several won international popularity and "The Poor Soldier" was one of the first operas to be performed in Canada (Montreal, 1787). He was also responsible for the 1789 British premiere of Joseph Haydn's Op. 54 string quartets, participating as violist. The two became friends during Haydn's 1791 visit to London. Shield's own chamber music, especially the Six String Quartets Op. 3 (1782), show imagination and an intimate grasp of string technique. From 1817 until his death he was Master of the King's Music. He was buried in the musician's section of Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey. Shield's longtime friend, philanthropist John "Mad Jack" Fuller, commissioned a memorial tablet to mark his tomb, but for reasons that remain obscure the dean of the abbey refused to accept it. Fuller then had the memorial installed in his own parish church, St. Thomas a Becket in Brightling, Sussex. In 1891 a cenotaph for Shield was erected in the churchyard of St. Mary's in Whickham, near his native Swalwell.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 3 Jul 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10244
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Shield (5 Mar 1748–25 Jan 1829), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10244, citing Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .