Weiss, Willoughby Hunter (DNB00)

WEISS, WILLOUGHBY HUNTER (1820–1867), vocalist and composer, the son of Willoughby Gaspard Weiss, professor of the flute and music publisher at Liverpool, was born there on 2 April 1820. He was a pupil of Sir George Thomas Smart [q. v.] and Michael William Balfe [q. v.], and made his first appearance in public as a singer at a concert of his own at Liverpool, 5 May 1842. He first appeared in opera as Oroveso in ‘Norma’ at Dublin on 2 July 1842, and subsequently became a useful member of the Pyne and Harrison and other opera companies. He was distinguished as a concert-singer, but he specially excelled as an exponent of oratorio music, in which his artistic feeling and rich voice found full means of expression. His first appearance at a festival was at Gloucester in 1844.

Weiss's chief claim to distinction rests upon being the composer of ‘The Village Blacksmith,’ set to Longfellow's words, a song which has had and still retains an extraordinary popularity. He composed it about 1854. He offered the copyright to a firm of music publishers for the sum of 5l., and, upon their declining to accept it on those terms, Weiss published the song on his own account, with the result that it brought to him and his descendants an annual income of no inconsiderable amount for upwards of forty years.

Weiss, who was of a genial, lovable disposition, died at St. George's Villa, Regent's Park, 24 Oct. 1867, and is buried in Highgate cemetery. He married, 15 Sept. 1845, Georgina Ansell Barrett (1826–1880), a native of Gloucester, who was favourably known as a singer. By her he left a daughter. In addition to ‘The Village Blacksmith’ Weiss composed many other songs and ballads, and arranged a pianoforte edition of Weber's Mass in G.

[Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, iv. 433; Musical World, 26 Oct. and 2 Nov. 1867; Gent. Mag. 1867, ii. 828; private information from his grandson, W. W. Graham, esq.]

F. G. E.