Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jacob, Benjamin

JACOB, BENJAMIN (1778–1829), organist, son of Benjamin Jacob, an amateur violinist, was born before 26 April 1778, and was employed as a chorister at Portland Chapel, London. He learnt the rudiments of music from his father, singing from Robert Willoughby, harpsichord and organ from William Shrubsole and Matthew Cooke, and at a later date harmony from Dr. Samuel Arnold [q. v.] At the age of ten Jacob became organist of Salem Chapel, Soho; in 1789 organist of Carlisle Chapel, Kennington Lane; in 1790 organist of Bentinck Chapel, Lisson Grove; in 1791 he was a chorister at the Handel commemoration; and in 1794 was appointed organist of Surrey Chapel, in succession to John Immyns [q. v.], the first organist there. An organ (built by Thomas Elliot) was first introduced into Surrey Chapel in 1793, ten years after the chapel was opened by Rowland Hill (1744–1833) [q. v.], and ‘all the serious people were exceedingly grieved’ by its introduction. Jacob held the post until 1825; he was a very fine executant, and established a series of organ recitals at the chapel. In 1809 the elder Wesley played alternately with him, and in 1811 and some years afterwards Dr. Crotch [q. v.] was his principal coadjutor. Their concerts began at 11 A.M. and lasted between three and four hours, the audiences numbering three thousand people. A variation was made when Salomon played the violin in concert with the organ. Jacob also gave annual public concerts in aid of the Rowland Hill Almshouses. His connection with Hill ceased after May 1825, when he accepted the post of organist to St. John's Church, Waterloo Road, at a salary of 70l., with permission to play once each Sunday at Surrey Chapel. Hill preferred to dispense entirely with the musician's services, and after a painful discussion and a published correspondence their friendship was interrupted. Jacob remained at St. John's Church until his death on 24 Aug. 1829. He was buried at Bunhill Fields. He left a widow and three daughters. An only son died early.

Jacob's compositions were few and unimportant. The best known are ‘Dr. Watts's Divine and Moral Songs, Solos, Duets, and Trios,’ London, 1800 (?); ‘National Psalmody’ contains twelve pieces by Jacob among a large collection of old church melodies, London, 1819, 4to. Jacob is also represented in ‘Surrey Chapel Music,’ London, 2 vols. 1800 (?) and 1815 (?). ‘Letters’ addressed by Wesley to Jacob ‘relating to Bach’ were published by Eliza Wesley in 1875.

[Dict. of Music, 1827, i. 385; Georgian Era, iv. 324; Grove's Dict. of Music, ii. 28; article by F. G. Edwards in the Nonconformist Musical Journal, April and May 1890.]

L. M. M.