English composer and organist. He wrote church music, symphonies, and chamber music, but is best known for his song ‘Heart of Oak’ (1759). He was one of the most respected English composers of his time. Much of his music exhibits a fresh liveliness, particularly his many dance movements.
Boyce was a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral and a pupil of Maurice Greene, whom he succeeded as Master of the King's Musick in 1755. Meanwhile he held various organ posts in London, was appointed composer to the Chapel Royal in 1736, and conductor of the Three Choirs Festival the following year. From 1758 he was organist of the Chapel Royal. Deafness forced him to give up much of his work during his later years. Although his dance movements and fugues show much individuality, based on an idiom bequeathed by Handel, his numerous court odes are more easily forgotten. In recent years his music has been revived.
WorksStage entertainmentsThe Chaplet (1749), The Shepherd's Lottery (1751); masques Peleus and Thetis (1740) and Dryden's Secular Masque (about 1746); incidental music for Shakespeare's The Tempest, Cymbeline (1746), and Romeo and Juliet (1750); pantomime Harlequin's Invasion (with M Arne and Aylward, and containing the song ‘Heart of Oak’, 1759).
Orchestral 20 symphonies and overtures.
Chamber 12 trio sonatas; keyboard music.
Other service settings and anthems; cantatas and odes; songs, and other pieces. He also completed a notable collection of earlier church music begun by Greene (published under the title Cathedral Music in three volumes (1760–73).