John Sims Reeves - Encyclopedia


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JOHN SIMS REEVES (1818-1900), English vocalist, was born at Woolwich on the 26th of September i8i8, and received his musical education from his father, a musician in the Royal Artillery. At the age of fourteen he had progressedso far as to be appointed organist of North Cray church, andcould play the oboe, bassoon, violin, and violoncello. Heseems to have studied medicine for a year, but changed hi~ mind when he gained his adult voice: it was at first a baritone, and he made his earliest appearance at Newcastle in 1839 in various baritone parts. He studied with Hobbs and T. Cooke, and, his voice having become a tenor, he appeared underMacreadys management at Drury Lane (184143) in sub- ordinate tenor parts in Purcells King Arthur, Der Freiscizulz, and Acis and Galalea, when Handels pastoral was mounted on the stage with Stanfields scenery. Four years were spent in studyon the Continent, under Bordogni in Paris and Mazzucato inMilan, and his debut in Italian opera was made at the Scala as Edgardo in Lucia. He reappea~ed in London in May 1847 at a benefit concert for Vincent Wallace, and at one of theAncient Concerts in the following month, his career on theEnglish operatic stage beginning at Drury Lane in December1847 in Lucia, under the conductorship of Hector Berlioz. in Balfes Maid of Honor he created the part of Lyonnel in the same season.

In 1848 he went to Her Majestys Theatre, singing in Linda di Chamounix; and in the autumn of that year, at the Norwich Festival, made a great sensation in Theenemy said, from Israel in Egypt, a song in which the finest qualities of his ringing voice could be appreciated. From hisfirst appearance at the Sacred Harmonic Society in the followingNovember he was recognized as the leading English tenor; andin Costas Eli and Naaman the tenor parts were written for him. His first Handel Festival was that of 1857, and the effect of his .wonderful declamation in the Crystal Palace was a main attrac-tion of this and of many subsequent festivals. His retirementfrom public life, at first announced as to take place in 1882, did not actually occur till 1891, when a farewell concert for his benefit was given at the Albert Hall. His savings were investedin an unfortunate speculation, and he was compelled to reappearin public for a number of years. He died at Worthing on the 25th of October 1900.

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