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

ROGERS, BENJAMIN (1614–1698), organist and composer, born at Windsor, and baptised at the church of New Windsor on 2 June 1614, was son of George Rogers of Windsor (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) He was a chorister of St. George's Chapel under Dr. Nathaniel Giles, and afterwards lay clerk. In 1639 he succeeded Randolph Jewitt [q. v.] as organist of Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin. The outbreak of the Irish rebellion of 1641 drove Rogers from his post, and he returned as singingman to Windsor; but there also the choral services were discontinued about 1644. Occupied with composition and teaching, Rogers maintained himself, with the help of a small government allowance, in the neighbourhood of Windsor. By virtue of Cromwell's mandate, dated 28 May 1658, Rogers obtained the degree of Bac. Mus. of Cambridge, a distinction probably due to the influence of Dr. Nathaniel Ingelo [q. v.] For the city banquet given to the king to celebrate the Restoration, he supplied the music both to a hymn by Ingelo and to the 32nd Psalm, ‘Exultate justi in Domino,’ for which he ‘obtained a great name … and a plentiful reward’ (Wood).

As early as 1653 the fame of Rogers's ‘Sets of Ayres in Four Parts’ extended to the court of the emperor, and when Ingelo went as chaplain to the Swedish embassy upon the Restoration, he presented to Queen Christina some of Rogers's music, which was performed ‘to her great content’ by the Italian musicians at the Swedish court. His ‘Court-Masquing Ayres’ were performed with no less applause in Holland.

Rogers won a high reputation in England by his music for the services of the established church and by his reorganisation of important choirs. At the Restoration he had been reappointed lay clerk of St. George's Chapel, with an addition to his allowances in consideration of his playing the organ whenever Dr. Child was absent, and in 1662 he was also appointed organist to Eton College. Invited by Dr. Thomas Pierce [q. v.] to fill a similar post at Magdalen College, Oxford, he became, on 25 Jan. 1664–5, informator choristarum; his duties, which included the playing of the organs, were remunerated by a salary of 60l. and lodgings in the college. On 8 July 1669 he proceeded Mus. Doc. Oxon.

In 1685 Rogers ‘forfeited his place through misdemeanour,’ that is to say, through the misconduct of his daughter, whom he persisted in keeping at home, within the precincts. This irregularity, together with some trivial charges of loud talking in the chapel and the like, led to Rogers's dismissal, which has been wrongly ascribed to the persecuting spirit of James II. In 1687 he petitioned the royal commissioners, then sitting at Oxford, to reinstate him, but he was persuaded to rest satisfied with the 30l. per annum which the college had voted him two years previously. His hymn ‘Te O Patrem colimus’ has been used every evening as grace in the college hall since his time, and is also sung annually on Magdalen tower every Mayday morning. Rogers retired to New Inn Hall Lane, and died there, aged 84, in 1698. He was buried on 21 June at St. Peter-le-Bailey. His widow, Ann, survived him only a few months. His son John, born in 1654, was B.A. 1674, M.A. 1677, clerk 1674–81. A granddaughter, Ann Rogers, dying in 1696, left most of the little property she possessed to ‘her deare, affectionate, tender, and well-beloved grandfather, Dr. Benjamin Rogers.’

Rogers's chief works are found in the various collections of cathedral music. They include a morning and evening service in D (Boyce, i.); evening service in A minor (Rimbault, Goss, and Turle); morning and evening verse service in G, by Peter or Benjamin Rogers (Rimbault); service in F; verse service in E minor (Ouseley). Among his published anthems are: a 4, ‘Behold, now praise the Lord;’ ‘Teach me, O Lord’ (Boyce, ii.; Hullah); Sanctus in D (Boyce, iv.); ‘Lord, who shall dwell’ (Page, iii.); ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul;’ ‘How long wilt Thou forget me;’ ‘Behold how good and joyful;’ ‘O give thanks;’ ‘O pray for the peace;’ ‘O that the salvation;’ ‘Save me, O God’ (Cope); ‘O God of truth’ (Hullah); ‘Everlasting God;’ ‘Hear me when I call’ (Clifford). For treble and bass: ‘Exaltabo Te;’ ‘Audivit Dominus;’ ‘Deus misereatur nostri;’ ‘Jubilate Deo omnis terra;’ ‘Tell mankind Jehovah reigns.’ For two trebles or tenors: ‘Lift up your head;’ ‘Let all with sweet accord’ (‘Cantica Sacra’); ‘Gloria’ (Playford's ‘Four-part Psalms’). His glees include: ‘The Jolly Vicar,’ a 3; ‘In the merry month of May,’ a 4; ‘Come, come, all noble souls,’ a 3 (many editions); ‘Bring quickly to me Homer's lyre’ (‘Musical Companion’). Thirty-six of his pieces are in ‘Court Ayres’ and ‘Musick's Handmaid’ (Playford).

There are unpublished anthems at Magdalen and New Colleges, Oxford, in the Aldrich collection at Christchurch, and at Ely, Gloucester, and other cathedral libraries.

[Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 305; Foster's Alumni Oxon., 1500–1714; Hawkins's History, p. 582; State Trials, ed. Howell, xii. 40; Carlyle's Cromwell, v. 243; Bloxam's Registers of Magdalen College, ii. 192 et seq., containing list of works and fullest details of Rogers's career. For Rogers's family, Bloxam's Reg. i. 93; Oxford Registers of Wills, 1695–6, fol. 310.]

L. M. M.