Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kelway, Joseph

KELWAY, JOSEPH (d. 1782), organist and harpsichord player, studied under his brother Thomas [q. v.] and Geminiani. He succeeded Shuttleworth as organist of St. Michael's, Cornhill, about 1730, and resigned in 1736 to succeed Weldon at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. His extempore playing, with its ‘flights, fancies, and execution adapted to the instrument’ (A. B. C. Dario, Musicians, p. 30), had not been excelled ‘even by Handel, though the fugue … of the latter was greater.’ Handel himself, among other musicians, frequented St. Martin's Church to hear his fantastic performances. Kelway was no less esteemed as a performer on the harpsichord. Among his pupils were Charles Wesley, Mrs. Delany, and Queen Charlotte, to whom he was appointed harpsichord master on her arrival in England, 1761. Mrs. Pendarves (Delany, Letters) wrote in 1736 to Ann Granville: ‘My brother has tied me down at last to learn of Kellaway; he has paid him the entrance money, which is two guineas, and has made me a present of Handel's “Book of Lessons.” I don't find Kellaway's method difficult at all;’ and Ann Granville asks Lady Throckmorton, in August 1739: ‘Have you heard Mr. Kellaway upon the harpsichord? He is at Scarborough, and a most delightful player, very little inferior to Handel.’ He rendered Scarlatti's most difficult sonatas brilliantly, and is described by Burney as the ‘head of the Scarlatti sect.’ John Christian Bach subsequently introduced a new style, the pianoforte became fashionable, and Kelway's musical ‘sect’ did not survive the change in public taste.

Kelway died in 1782, and his will (signed 14 April 1779 and proved 5 June 1782) provided for his grandnephew, William Kelway, and for four grandnieces, one of whom was Elizabeth, wife of John Stafford Smith. To her and to Ann Heather he left his harpsichord (‘made by Petrus Joannes Couchet’), his Cremona violin, and all his instruments and books of music. He had given his picture of Geminiani and his own portrait to his ‘faithful servant, Ann Phillips,’ to whom also was granted during her life the use of his house in King's Row, Upper Grosvenor Street, and his household goods. Robert Heather, coachbuilder, and John Stafford Smith were the executors. The collection of music was sold in 1782. Except a few court minuets, &c., Kelway's only publication was ‘Six Sonatas for the Harpsichord,’ 1764.

[Dict. of Musicians, 1827, ii. 8; Boyce's Cathedral Harmony, i. 2; Mrs. Delany's Letters, i. 579, ii. 61; Wesley's Letters on Bach, p. 14; Burney's History, iii. 262, iv. 665; Pohl's Mozart in London, pp. 103, 118; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, ii. 50; P. C. C. Reg. of Wills, (Gostling), f. 295.]

L. M. M.