Tans’ur, William (DNB00)

TANS’UR, WILLIAM (1699?–1783), psalmodist, stated to have been born at Barnes, Surrey, in 1699, and at Dunchurch, Warwickshire, in 1700, was baptised at Dunchurch on 6 Nov. 1706. The parish register describes him as ‘William Tanzer [sic], son of Edward and Joan Tanzer of Dunchurch.’ He seems to have become a teacher of music at an early date, and to have published his psalmodies in succession at Barnes, Surrey (1737), Cambridge (1754 and 1776), Stamford (1756 and 1759), and Boston (1761). He is said to have been living subsequently at Leicester. He can be traced at Witham, Lincolnshire, as well as at Market Harborough. The last forty years of his life were spent chiefly at St. Neots, where he was a stationer, bookseller, and teacher of music. He died there on 2 (or 7) Oct. 1783, and was buried on 9 Oct., aged 83. At Ware on 20 May 1730 he married Elizabeth Butler, who died there on 9 Jan. 1767. His son David was buried at Market Harborough on 8 Jan. 1743. Another son was a chorister at Trinity College, Cambridge, and afterwards joined his father as a teacher of music.

In later years Tans’ur adopted the name and style of ‘William Tans’ur, senior, musico theorico.’ He also called himself ‘psalmodist, philo music and theology, and professor, corrector, and teacher of musick above fifty years.’ Tans’ur's various publications contain the earliest known copies of what were formerly familiar psalm-tunes. His principal works are:

  1. ‘A Compleat Melody, or The Harmony of Sion’ (1736, preface dated 1734).
  2. ‘The Melody of the Heart,’ 1737.
  3. ‘Heaven on Earth, or the Beauty of Holiness,’ 1738.
  4. ‘Sacred Mirth, or the Pious Soul's Daily Delight,’ 1739.
  5. ‘A New Musical Grammar, or the Harmonical Spectator,’ 1746.
  6. ‘The Royal Melody Compleat, or the New Harmony of Zion,’ 1754–5; 8th ed., 1830.
  7. ‘The Psalm-singer's Jewel,’ 1760.
  8. ‘Melodia Sacra,’ 1772.
  9. ‘The Elements of Musick displayed,’ 1772.

[Love's Scottish Church Music, 1891; Grove's Dict. of Music; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

F. G. E.