Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Harper, Thomas

HARPER, THOMAS (1787–1853), trumpet-player, was born at Worcester on 3 May 1787. As early as 1798 he was in London, where he studied the trumpet and the horn under Eley (Grove, i. 687), and soon joined the East India Company volunteer band, of which his master was director. Harper was afterwards appointed inspector of musical instruments to the company, and held this post until his death. He played in small London theatre orchestras until, in 1806, he was engaged as principal trumpet at Drury Lane and at the Lyceum English opera. In 1820 he distinguished himself at the Birmingham Festival, in 1821 he succeeded Hyde at the Ancient Concerts and at the Italian Opera, and from this time it may be said that he took part in every important orchestral concert or musical festival in town and country. Harper was an active member of the Royal Society of Musicians, and was first trumpet at the Philharmonic Concerts till 1851. His aid could always be counted upon for charitable concerts.

Harper was a very fine instrumentalist. 'For purity and delicacy of tone and for wonderful facility of execution no rival has approached him. His imitation of the voice part in "Let the bright Seraphim" may be pronounced one of the greatest achievements in the whole range of musical executive art' (Musical Times, i. 133). He used the slide trumpet, and has left a book of instructions for 'the Trumpet (with the use of the chromatic slide), the Russian Valve Trumpet, the Cornet and Keyed Bugle' (1836). Harper was seized with illness at Exeter Hall during the rehearsal of the Harmonic Union, 20 Jan. 1853, and died a few hours later at a friend's house in the neighbourhood (cf. Musical World, 29 Jan. 1853, p. 83).

[Authorities cited.]

L. M. M.