Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Martin, George William

MARTIN, GEORGE WILLIAM (1828–1881), musical composer, was born in London 8 March 1828. He began his musical studies as a chorister at St. Paul's Cathedral, under William Hawes [q. v.], and was one of the choir boys at Westminster Abbey at the coronation of Queen Victoria. He became professor of music at the Normal College for Army Schoolmasters; was from 1845 to 1853 resident music-master at St. John's Training College, Battersea, and was the first organist of Christ Church, Battersea, opened in 1849. In 1860 he established the National Choral Society, by which he maintained for some years at Exeter Hall an admirable series of oratorio performances. In connection with these performances he edited and published cheap edit ions of the oratoriosand other works of the great masters then not readily accessible to the public. In 1864 he organised a choir of a thousand voices for the 'Macbeth' music at the three hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. He had a special aptitude for training school children, and conducted the National Schools Choral Festival at the Crystal Palace in 1859. As a composer his genius lay in the direction of the madrigal and part-song; and from the publication of his prize glee, 'Is she not beautiful?' in 1845 onwards few years passed in which he did not win distinction from some of the leading glee and madrigal societies of the country. 'No composer since the days of Dr. Callcott has obtained so many prizes as Mr. Martin,' said the 'Times' in 1856. The tune 'Leominster,' associated with Bonar's hymn 'A few more years shall roll,' is one of his best-known compositions. Martin, owing to intemperance, sank from ' a position which at one time gave him a claim to be regarded as one of the elements of musical force in the metropolis' (Musical Record). He died, quite destitute, at Bolingbroke House Hospital, Wandsworth, 16 April 1881, and was buried in Woking cemetery by the parish.

[Monthly Musical Record, May 1881; Musical Times, ibid.; Love's Scottish Church Music, p. 204; Grove's Dictionary of Music, ii. 221, iv. 711.]

J. C. H.