Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Norris, Thomas (1741-1790)

NORRIS, THOMAS (1741–1790), singer, son of John Norris of Mere, Wiltshire, was baptised there on 15 Aug. 1741 (church register). He became a chorister in Salisbury Cathedral under Dr. Stephens, and attracted the notice of James Harris [q. v.], the author of ‘Hermes,’ who wrote a pastoral operetta for the purpose of introducing him to the public. He sang as a soprano at the Worcester and Hereford festivals of 1761–2, and at Drury Lane in a pasticcio, ‘The Spring.’ In 1765 he was appointed organist of Christ Church and of St. John's College, Oxford, where, in the same year, he graduated Mus. Bac.; and in 1771 was admitted a lay clerk of Magdalen College. He appeared as a tenor at the Gloucester festival in 1766, and sang at the festivals of the Three Choirs until 1788. He was one of the principal singers at the first Handel commemoration festival in 1784, and his success then led to frequent engagements for oratorio in London. His last appearance was at the Birmingham festival of 1790, the strain of which caused his death, at Himley Hall, near Stourbridge, on 5 Sept. An early disappointment had driven him to convivial excesses, which greatly injured his voice and impaired his health. He was an excellent musician, a skilful performer on several instruments, and while at Oxford a favourite teacher with the students. His compositions include several anthems, one only of which has been printed; glees and other pieces, some of which are included in Warren's ‘Collections;’ and six symphonies for strings, oboes, and horns. A portrait was engraved ad vivum by J. Taylor in the year of his death.

[Dict. of Musicians, 1824, where he is erroneously called ‘Charles’ Norris; Parr's Church of England Psalmody; Love's Scottish Church Music; Grove's Dict. of Musicians; Abdy Williams's Degrees in Music, p. 89; information from the Vicar of Mere.]

J. C. H.