Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lowe, Edward (d.1682)

498163Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34 — Lowe, Edward (d.1682)1893Augustus Hughes-Hughes

LOWE, EDWARD (d. 1682), composer and organist, was probably son of John Lowe, who is described in Harley MS. 1443 as ‘of New Sarum and the Middle Temple,’ and received a grant of arms in 1601, and whose eldest son, John, was born in 1603. His mother seems to have been his father's second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Hyde, D.D., chancellor of Salisbury, 1588–1618. Edward was born in the parish of St. Thomas's, Salisbury, but it is erroneous to identify him with Edward, son of Richard Lowe of that parish, who was born on 9 Dec. 1613, because in that case the composer would have married and become organist of Christ Church, Oxford, at the impossible age of sixteen.

Lowe was chorister at the cathedral under John Holmes (fl. 1602) [q. v.], from whom he received valuable instruction. Though not a graduate, he was appointed to succeed Dr. William Stonard as organist of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1630. In 1648 he was described as ‘master of the choristers.’ Towards the close of the Commonwealth he took a leading part in the weekly concerts held chiefly at the house of Dr. William Ellis, organist of St. John's. Lowe, who only played the organ, took turns with Ellis and one or two other university musicians in presiding at that instrument; ‘but being a proud man, he could not endure any common musitian to come to the meeting, much less to play among them.’ He has the credit of introducing to the Oxford public Thomas Baltzar [q.v.] , of Lübeck, the violinist. Among the regular attendants and performers at these concerts was Dr. John Wilson, professor of music at Oxford, and Lowe acted as his deputy after resigning his post of organist at Christ Church in 1656 (Wood, Life and Times, Oxf. Hist. Soc., i. 205).

On 24 May 1660 ‘a musick lecture of the practick part’ was given at the public school at Oxford under the direction of Lowe, ‘to congratulate his majesties safe arrival to his kingdom,’ and in the same year he was appointed, along with William Child and Christopher Gibbons, one of the organists of the Chapel Royal, retaining this post till his death, when he was succeeded by Purcell. In 1661 Lowe brought out at Oxford his opus magnum, entitled ‘A Short Direction for the performance of Cathedrall Service, Published for the Information of Such Persons, as are Ignorant of it, And shall be call'd to officiate in Cathedrall, or Collegiate Churches where it hath formerly been in use.’ In a short introduction ‘To all gentlemen that are true lovers of Cathedrall Musicke,’ he writes ‘To revive the generall practise of the ordinary performance of Cathedrall service … a Person is willingly imployed, who hath seen, understood, and bore a part in the same from his Childhood … He hath therefore put together and published the Ordinary and Extraordinary parts both for the Priest, and whole Quire. The Tunes in foure parts to serve only so long till the Quires are more learnedly musicall, and thereby a greater variety used.’ For the ordinary morning service the plainsong only is given, except in the case of the ‘Te Deum,’ for which there are three settings harmonised for four voices. No special tunes are given for the evening service, but the ‘Te Deum’ and ‘Benedictus’ chants are directed to serve for the ‘Magnificat’ and ‘Nunc Dimittis.’ For ‘extraordinary services,’ i.e. for festivals, Lowe has supplied four-part settings of the responses and litany. At the end of the volume is a ‘Veni Creator’ for the ordination service, taken out of Ravenscroft's ‘Whole Booke of Psalmes,’ but with the ‘Plainsong put in the upper part instead of the tenor.’ In 1664 Lowe published ‘A Review of some short Directions formerly printed, for performance of Cathedral service, with many usefull additions according to the Common Prayer Book, as it is now established.’ It is preceded by a dedicatory epistle to Dr. Walter Jones, sub-dean of the Chapel Royal, in which Lowe takes the opportunity ‘to tell the world that all the Versicles, Responsals, and single tunes of the reading Psalmes (as many as we retain of them), are exactly (?) the same that were used in the time of King Edward the Sixt,’ his authority for this statement being ‘an ancient copy printed in the yeare 1550,’ i.e. Marbeck's ‘Booke of Common Praier noted.’ In this edition fresh tunes are given to the ‘Venite’ and Psalms for every day of the week. For the ‘Quicunque vult’ and 136th Psalm, Lowe has noted two tunes ‘anciently used at Salisbury,’ and the ‘Te Deum’ he directs to be sung to the harmonies of Byrd, Tallis, &c., besides the tunes given. There is an additional tune, the ‘Imperial’ chant, by Dr. Child, ‘for Psalms on solemn days, or the “Te Deum” on ordinary days.’ At the end a burial service in four parts by Robert Parsons is added, and a second ‘Veni Creator,’ by an anonymous composer.

About November 1661 Lowe succeeded Wilson in the professorship of music (Wood, Life and Times, Oxf. Hist. Soc., i. 420); but according to a note in a manuscript volume (Addit. MS. 29396)—this, chiefly in his autograph, containing many songs by Henry and William Lawes, Pelham Humfrey, Dr. John Wilson, and others, probably including himself—he was not installed till 1671. Lowe died at Oxford on 11 July 1682, and was buried in the Divinity Chapel on the north side of the cathedral. By his wife, Alice (d 1649), daughter of Sir John Peyton the younger of Doddington, Isle of Ely, knight, whom he married in 1631, he had nine children, seven sons and two daughters. Edward, the eldest surviving son, became vicar of Brighton in 1674, and rector of Slinfold, Sussex, in 1681; he died 1 Oct. 1711. By a second wife, Mary, Edward Lowe the elder had a daughter Susanna, who married on 7 Feb. 1681–2 John Strype, the church historian.

Of his anthems, one, ‘O give thanks,’ is included in the Tudway collection; another, ‘When the Lord turned,’ is bound up with some of the parts of the copy of Barnard's ‘Selected Church Music,’ now in the library of the Royal College of Music. Ely Cathedral possesses the organ and tenor parts of this, and a third anthem, ‘O how amiable.’ Others, whose words are included in James Clifford's ‘Divine Services and Anthems,’ are: ‘Why do the heathen, 'My song shall be,' 'O clap your hands' 'If the Lord himself,' and another version of 'O give thanks.' Rimbault mentions another, 'Turn thy face away,' in his reprint of the second edition of the 'Short Direction.'

[Copy of will at Somerset House; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss; Wood's Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc.). vols. i. ii.; Waters's Chesters of Chicheley, i. 315-6]

A. H.-H.