Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wise, Michael

WISE, MICHAEL (1646?–1687), musician and composer, was born in Wiltshire not earlier than 1646, if he was, as generally stated, one of the first set of the children of the Chapel Royal in 1660, and in 1663 lay-clerk of St. George's, Windsor. On 6 April 1668 he was appointed organist and master of the choristers of Salisbury Cathedral; on 6 Jan. 1675–6 he was admitted gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and entered as a counter-tenor from Salisbury. When attending Charles II on his progresses, Wise was said to have claimed the privilege of playing the organ in any church visited by his majesty. The charge against Wise of active participation in the schemes of the country party (1680) cannot stand after a careful examination of the ‘Wiltshire Ballad’ (Bagford Ballads, p. 741), and that contemporary rumour gave Wise the credit of being a loyal abhorrer is evident from the tory preacher's approval of the musician's ready wit (cf. Modern Fanatick, 1710, p. 50). His absence from the coronation procession of 1685 has given rise to the belief that social or political misconduct had led to his dismissal; but in a great representative ceremony it was inevitable that a singer holding appointments at Westminster and the Chapel Royal should abandon one or the other choir, and no fewer than twelve singers were thus represented by substitutes (Sandford, Coronation of James II, p. 70). On 27 Jan. 1686–7 Wise was appointed almoner and master of the boys at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Wise's character for conviviality and uncertain temper (Ebsworth) is best supported by the manner of his end. He quarrelled one night with his wife, and rushed out of his house at Salisbury only to stumble upon a watchman, who returned his assaults by a blow from a bill, fracturing Wise's skull. He died on 24 Aug. 1687, and was buried near the great west door of Salisbury Cathedral (Bumpus). His first wife, Jane, the daughter of Robert Harward, died on 10 July 1682, aged 30, and was buried in the churchyard. The administration grant of Wise's goods, of 28 Sept. 1687, gives the names Jane and Harward as those of two elder children, while his youngest girl bears the name of a second and surviving wife, Barbara, and not Margaret, as erroneously stated by Hoare. She renounced probate, and the children, all minors, were placed under the guardianship of John Hopkins clericus.

Dr. Aldrich is said to have composed the second part of the anthem, ‘Thy beauty, O Israel,’ on the death of Wise (Bumpus).

Wise, Blow, and Humphrey, who were all trained together by Henry Cooke, form a transition school of English church music, and constitute a link between the foreign style which, encouraged by the king, struggled for mastery after the Restoration, and the original genius of Henry Purcell, for whose bold new harmonies and modulations they paved the way.

Among published music by Wise are: 1. ‘Old Chiron thus preached.’ 2. Catches in the ‘Musical Companion,’ 1667. 3. ‘I charge you, O Daughters,’ in Dering's ‘Cantica Sacra,’ 1674. 4. ‘New Ayres and Dialogues,’ 1678. 5. ‘I will sing,’ in Langdon's ‘Divine Harmony,’ 1774. 6. Six Anthems in Boyce's ‘Cathedral Music,’ 1849, viz. ‘Prepare ye the way,’ a 4; ‘Awake, put on,’ a 3; ‘The Ways of Sion,’ a 2; ‘Thy Beauty, O Israel,’ a 4; ‘Awake up, my Glory,’ a 3; ‘Blessed is he,’ a 3. Several of these anthems have also been republished in Novello's ‘Collections.’

The following remain in manuscript: 1. In Tudway's ‘Collections:’ ‘O praise God,’ a 3; ‘Behold how good,’ a 3; ‘I will sing a new Song,’ a 4; ‘How are the Mighty fallen!’ Morning and Evening Service in D (Harl. MSS. 7338, 7339). 2. ‘Open me the Gates,’ a 3; ‘Comfort ye’ (ascribed to Wise or Aldrich) (Addit. MS. 17840). 3. Bass part: ‘Have Pity on me;’ ‘By the Waters;’ ‘Thy Strength, O Sion’ (ib. 17784). 4. Alto part: ‘Christ rising again’ (ib.. 17820). 5. Organ part: ‘Arise, O Lord;’ ‘I will arise;’ ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ a 2 (ib. 30932). 6. ‘Catches’ (ib. 17481, 22099). 7. Song, with Chorus, ‘Justly now let's tribute pay’ (ib. 33234). 8. Service in E flat, at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. 9. ‘Gloria in excelsis,’ and ten Anthems, besides those published by Boyce, at Ely Cathedral. 10. Anthems in the Gloucester Cathedral Library. 11. ‘Christ being risen,’ composed by Wise for Easter, and for a long time in use instead of ‘Venite’ at Salisbury Cathedral. Other volumes of his church music are in the British Museum Additional MSS. 30933, 31344–5, 31404, and 31460; and of secular music in Additional MSS. 30382 and 31462.

[Hawkins's Hist. of Music, 2nd edit. ii. 719; Burney's Hist. of Music, iii. 454; Grove's Dict. of Music, iv. 334, 476; Old Cheque-book of the Chapel Royal, pp. 16, 129, 218; Bumpus's Organists and Composers, p. 270; Hoare's Wiltshire, vi. 634; Harris's Salisbury Epitaphs; P. C. C. Admon. Grants; Registers of Salisbury Cathedral, through the courtesy of the Rev. Precentor Carpenter.]

L. M. M.