The 'big three' composer anniversaries this year - those of Mozart (born 1756), Schumann (died 1856) and Shostakovich (born 1906) - have proved the perfect opportunity to understand and appreciate these composers more through a year-long association; a concert or disc here, a feature or review there, and thus a relationship nurtured.
But allow me to introduce another compositional birthday boy - William Child. Born either in 1606 or 1607 in Bristol, Child sung at the city's cathedral before moving to Windsor to work at St George's Chapel where he famously feuded with the Organist Matthew Green. Not many details of Child's life are known, but a 1668 shouting match between Child and Green in the Windsor organ loft creeps into most biographical summaries; indeed, the specter of personal dispute seems to have haunted Child throughout his career. From Windsor Child went on to work at the Chapel Royal, meeting Henry Purcell and John Blow.
Child's output consists mainly of sacred music, catches, and music for winds (he was for some years Master of the King's Wind Music - nice work if you can get it). Some of the music is very good, of that there's no doubt. It's harmonically rich and inventive, and came during a period of cross-fertilisation of European styles (particularly at the Chapel Royal - were composers were funded jointly by the Court and the Secret Service to travel overseas to other chapels royal for 'study') which proved the midwife for a freer style in vocal church music which paved the way for the baroque.
In late 2008 you'll be able to hear some Child on disc, when chamber choir LSC (Liverpool Schola Cantorum) releases a disc of Chapel Royal music featuring three works from Child's pen, including his Magnificat in E Minor, Nunc Dimittis in E Minor, and anthem O Lord Grant the King a Long Life (other featured composers include Humfrey, Morley and Purcell).
But before that, LSC will perform a concert in Bristol - A Child of Bristol - provisionally scheduled for Saturday 24 February 2007 at the Lord Mayor's Chapel in the shadow of Bristol Cathedral where the composer began his career. Further details will soon be posted on LSC's website: www.lsc-online.org. In the meantime, let us delight in the fact that William Child is being considered, thought about, and performed four hundred years after his birth. I doubt he'd have expected it, but am pretty sure he'd be delighted if he knew.