Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Elford, Richard

ELFORD, RICHARD (d. 1714), vocalist, became famous in London as a singer of sacred music at the beginning of the seventeenth century. In his youth he belonged to the choirs of Lincoln and Durham cathedrals, and came to London to display his fine counter-tenor on the stage. His success at the theatres was small, owing to his awkward and ungainly appearance (Hawkins quoting Dr. Tudway). Elford was sworn a gentleman of the Chapel Royal on 2 Aug. 1702, 'in an additional place to be added to the establishment,' but there is no mention in the Cheque-book of the addition of 100l. to his salary for the excellence of his voice, referred to by several writers. Elford was also appointed lay vicar at St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. His talent is praised by Croft as 'excelling all (as far as is known) that ever went before him, and fit to be imitated by all that came after him, he being in a peculiar manner eminent for his giving a due energy and proper emphasis to the words of his music,' and also by Weldon, who composed six solo anthems for the celebrated counter-tenor. Elford was also admired in profane music; he was chosen to take part in the performance before Queen Anne at St. James's Palace of Eccles's 'Birthday Songs,' in 1703, and was advertised to sing 'some new songs accompanied by the lute' at York Buildings in the same year. No mention of Elford is made by Downes or Genest. The well-known dancer, Mrs. Elford, was in the cast of D'Urfey's 'Wonders of the Sun,' given at the Haymarket in 1706, and this fact, noted by Downes, may have led to the assertion by Hawkins and later historians that Elford sang a part in that play. In Carey's poem, 'On the Death of the late famous Mr. Elford,' published in 1720, his loss is deplored in extravagant terms, and the patronage accorded to Elford by Queen Anne is alluded to. Some songs 'set by Mr. Elford,' 'Brightest Nymph,' 'To thee, O gentle Sleep' (Tamerlane), 'To Chloris all soft charms agree,' and 'Ah! cruel Damon, cease,' are in the British Museum. Elford died on 29 Oct. 1714. He had a brother a singer in the Dublin Cathedral choir.

[Hawkins's History of Music, 1853, p. 718; Cheque-book of Chapel Royal, ed. Rimbault, pp. 24, 27; Croft's Musica Sacra (1724), preface; Weldon's Divine Harmony (1725), first collection; Daily Courant, 19 March 1703; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus, various editions, lines following the entry of 9 April 1705; Carey's Poems, 1720, p. 22; Eccles's Songs and Symphonies, 1703; Elford's printed Songs, Nos. 98 and 99 in Horton collection, and No. 143 in collection by Walsh, Brit. Mus. Library.]

L. M. M.