Work of John Wilson of Faversham Celebrated

John Wilson (1595-1674)

Born in Faversham in 1595 John Wilson worked his way into the city and the theatre and was composing for masques by 1614 as his comic setting of ‘Kawasha comes in Majestiee’ composed for the Masque of Flowers, was published in that year along with text of the masque. This setting seems to have given him some early success and notoriety as a composer. In February 1608, he was apprenticed for eight years to the actor John Heminges, a freeman of the Grocers’ Company and started his long association with the stage and in particular the Blackfriars theatre in London.

Ian Spink is emphatic that the ‘Jacke Wilson’ mentioned on page 107 of the 1623 Shakespeare folio edition of Much Ado became the later doctor, and then professor, John Wilson. Certainly, by around 1615 Wilson was attached to the Kings Men company, where he would have worked alongside Robert Johnson, taking over from him as composer and musician for the troupe from 1617. In particular, Wilson provided music for a string of plays by John Fletcher, working at the theatre until the 1630s; though it is his early association with Shakespeare and the original settings of the bard’s songs that Wilson is probably best known.

After becoming a King’s musician, he followed the Court to Oxford becoming the Professor in 1656. After the Commonweath he returned to London to serve the King and Chapel Royal. He died in 1674 and is buried in West Minster Abbey with full honours.

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