Open main menu


LEACH, JAMES (1762–1798), musical composer, was born at Wardle, Rochdale, Lancashire, in 1762. He became a hand-loom weaver, but having studied music in his leisure hours, ultimately devoted himself entirely to the art. He early attained proficiency as a player, and was made a member of the king's band. He gained some distinction both as a teacher and choir-leader, and as a counter-tenor singer took a prominent part in the Westminster Abbey and other musical festivals. He removed about 1795 to Salford, where he died from the effects of a stage-coach accident on 8 Feb. 1798. He was buried in the cemetery of Union Street Wesleyan Chapel, Rochdale, where his grave is marked by a stone on which is cut his short-metre tune 'Egypt,' in G minor.

It is as a composer of psalmody that Leach is remembered. He published 'A New Sett of Hymns and Psalm Tunes.' &c. (London, 1789), containing twenty-two hymn-tunes and two long pieces, with instrumental accompaniment. This was followed by a 'Second Sett of Hymn and Psalm Tunes' (London, n.d., 1794 P), which contains forty-eight tunes and three longer compositions. To an edition of the latter published after his death an advertisement is appended dated 'Manchester, 1798.' soliciting subscriptions towards publishing sundry manuscript anthems, &c., for the benefit of his family. Later impressions of both 'Setts' were printed from the original plates, but without the prefaces. A reprint, under the title of 'Leach's Psalmody.' edited by Newbigging and Butterworth, was issued in 1884 (London, 4to), with a sketch of his life. His tunes were mostly of the florid class popular in his day. They irritate the modern ear because of their erratic rhythmic form. At one time they were widely used both here and in America. Many of them were printed in American collections, notably in 'The David Companion, or the Methodist Standard' (Baltimore, 1810), which contains forty-eight of his pieces. Besides his tunes, Leach's published works include some anthems, and trios for two violins and a bass-viol.

[Life prefixed to edition of his Psalmody as above; Parr's Church of England Psalmody; Grove's Dict. of Music, ii. 108, iv. 698; Brown's Dict. of Musicians; Musical Times, April 1878, p. 226.]

J. C. H.