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Baker, George (1773?-1847) (DNB00)

BAKER, GEORGE (1773?–1847), musician, was probably born in 1773. He himself, at the time of his matriculation at Oxford in 1797, stated his age to be twenty-four, thus dating his birth at 1773; in after life, however, he considered himself to have been born in 1750. But the later date is most probably the correct one, since the eccentricities of character which marked the latter part of his life might well account for his imagining himself much older than he really was. He was born at Exeter, and received his first musical instruction from his mother's sister, becoming, it is said, a proficient on the harpsichord at the age of seven. He was next placed under Hugh Bond and William Jackson of Exeter, remaining there until his seventeenth year, when he came to London under the patronage of the Earl of Uxbridge. His patron caused him to become a pupil of Cramer and Dussek, and during his residence in London he performed 'his celebrated "Storm"' at the Hanover Square Rooms, meeting with the approbation of Dr. Burney. In 1794 or 1795 he was appointed organist of St. Mary's Church, Stafford, a new organ by Geib having been purchased five years before. He seems to have matriculated and taken the degree of Mus. Bac. in 1797 at Oxford, but he appears not to have taken his doctor's degree during his residence at Stafford, for in the Corporation Books of that town he is called 'Mr. Baker.' The same documents hint at a state of affairs that can hardly have been satisfactory. On 5 March 1795 there is an entry to the effect 'that the organist be placed under restrictions as to the use of the organ, and that the mayor have a master key to prevent him having access thereto.' And on 16 July in the same year 'it is ordered that Mr. George Baker be in future prohibited from playing the piece of music called "The Storm."' The inhabitants of Stafford did not therefore concur in Dr. Burney's opinion as to the excellence of this piece, apparently its composer's chef d'œuvre. During the following years several entries prove that Baker habitually neglected his duties, and on 19 May 1800 the entry is 'Resignation of Baker.' In 1799 he had married the eldest daughter of the Rev. E. Knight of Milwich. If he ever took the degree of Mus. Doc., it must have been in or before 1800, as after that year the registers in Oxford were most carefully kept, but they contain no entry of the kind, while from 1763 to 1800 musical degrees were systematically omitted from the register, so that the absence of his name from the list does not absolutely prove that he did not receive the degree. In the published copies of several glees, printed about this time and dedicated to the Earl of Uxbridge, he is called simply 'Mus. Bac. Oxon.;' thus we are entitled to regard his claim to the more distinguished title as at least problematical. In 1810 he was appointed to the post of organist at All Saints', Derby, and finally, in 1824, he accepted a similar situation at Rugeley, where he remained until his death, which took place on 19 Feb. 1847. Since 1839 his duties had been undertaken by a deputy. He produced a large number of compositions, which are now completely forgotten. He is said to have been singularly handsome, with an exceedingly fair complexion; generous, even to the point of improvidence. In his later years the eccentricities, which probably gave rise to a large proportion of his difficulties with the Stafford authorities, increased, and he was moreover afflicted with deafness.

[Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians; Corporation Books at Stafford; Registers at Oxford; Musical World, 17 April 1847.]

J. A. F. M.