Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wood, John Muir

WOOD, JOHN MUIR (1805–1892), editor of the ‘Songs of Scotland,’ son of Andrew Wood and Jacobina Ferrier, was born at Edinburgh on 31 July 1805. His father was the founder of the firm of Wood & Co., music publishers. Young Wood, after attending successively Edinburgh high school and college, began to study music at Edinburgh under Kalkbrenner. Afterwards he was sent to Paris for two years to study under Pixis, and from Paris he proceeded to Vienna to study for two years under Czerny. About 1828 he began his career at Edinburgh as a teacher of music, and was a remarkably good pianist and sight-reader. He then spent several years in London, where he occupied himself mostly in literary pursuits. His half-brother George, afterwards senior partner of Messrs. Cramer & Co. (he died in 1893), had completed an apprenticeship with Messrs. Blackwood, and joined John in the business of music-sellers in Edinburgh and afterwards in Glasgow. John managed the Glasgow establishment. He was associated with Chopin (1848), Grisi, and other great artists who visited Scotland on concert-giving enterprises (cf. Nieck, Biography). He also helped to organise the lecture tours of Thackeray and Dickens. In conjunction with George Farquhar Graham [q. v.], the nominal editor, he brought out in 1849 an important collection of the ‘Songs of Scotland,’ with critical notices, in three volumes. The materials were collected by Wood. The airs were harmonised by Edinburgh musicians, including Thomas Molleson Mudie [q. v.], Finlay Dun [q. v.], John Thomas Surenne [q. v.], and Graham; Wood spared neither time nor trouble in tracing old airs to their earliest appearance in print, deciphering tablature and comparing versions. The work was reissued in an enlarged form in 1887, with a dedication to the queen, and the arrangements of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Sir George Alexander Macfarren [q. v.], and others. Wood's revisions and additions to the notes in the latest edition contain a mass of information regarding each air. In 1876 Wood edited and published ‘The Scottish Monthly Musical Times,’ which came to an end in 1878. To Grove's ‘Dictionary of Music and Musicians’ he contributed the articles on ‘Scottish Music,’ ‘The Coronach,’ ‘The Scotch Snap,’ and ‘The Skene Manuscript’ (preserved in the Advocates' Library). He was an extremely good linguist, writing and speaking fluently French, German, and Italian; and, having resided at Frankfort with the celebrated Polish violinist Lipinski, he acquired from him a knowledge of Polish which enabled him to converse with Chopin on his visit to Scotland. Wood, during his residence in Glasgow, was the leader of musical enterprise there, and before the days of the Orchestral Society he brought Hallé's band to give concerts. He died at Armadale, Cove, on 25 June 1892, and was buried in the Glasgow necropolis. On 22 Jan. 1851 Wood married Helen Kemlo Stephen. She survived him, with three sons and five daughters.

[Musical Herald (with portrait), August 1892; Brown & Stratton's British Musical Biography; Glasgow Herald, 28 June 1892; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ii. 40; information received from family.]

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