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Christopher Simpson

Christopher Simpson

Christopher Simpson


Christopher Simpson (c.1605-1669) was an English musician and composer particularly associated with music for the bass viol. Simpson was born between 1602 and 1606, probably at Egton, Yorkshire. He was the eldest son of Christopher Sympson, a Yorkshireman, who is usually described as a cordwainer but who was also the manager of a theatre company patronised by wealthy Yorkshire Catholics. It is thought that Sympson senior may have preferred to portray himself at times as a simple craftsman Read more on Last.fm
Christopher Simpson (c.1605-1669) was an English musician and composer particularly associated with music for the bass viol. Simpson was born between 1602 and 1606, probably at Egton, Yorkshire. He was the eldest son of Christopher Sympson, a Yorkshireman, who is usually described as a cordwainer but who was also the manager of a theatre company patronised by wealthy Yorkshire Catholics. It is thought that Sympson senior may have preferred to portray himself at times as a simple craftsman, rather than a high-profile Catholic sympathiser, at a time when Catholics were persecuted in England. Simpson fought in the English Civil War on the Royalist side and, in 1642, was a quartermaster in the army of the Earl (later Duke) of Newcastle. Following the siege of York, Simpson took refuge at the manor of Sir Robert Bolles, at Scampton, Lincolnshire, where Bolles employed him as a resident musician and tutor to his son John. Simpson remained in the Bolles' household (either in Lincolnshire, or at their house in London) for the remainder of his life.

His will was made on 5th May 1669 and was proved in London on 29th July 1669. It seems likely that he died at Sir John Bolles' house in Holborn, London, or possibly at Scampton Hall. Simpson made a small contribution to John Playford's work A Brief Introduction to the Skill of Musick, but is best known for his own book, The Division Violist (1659) ,which is a set of practical instructions, organised into three sections: "Of the Viol it self, with Instructions how to Play upon it", "Use of the Concords, or a Compendium of Descant", and "The Method of ordering Division to a Ground". The second edition (1665) is a parallel text in English and Latin, thus addressing both the British and continental European markets. It was a highly successful publication and continued to appear in new editions for sixty years after the death of its author.

With the revival of early music during the twentieth century, and renewed interest in the viol, Simpson's book was read with renewed interest by those who sought to rediscover the authentic technique for playing the instrument. Simpson wrote a short guide to musical composition in 1665: The Principles of Practical Musick (dedicated to Sir John St Barbe, another of his pupils), and expanded this into his 1667 publication A Compendium of Practical Musick. Very few of Simpson's musical compositions appeared in print during his lifetime, except those included as examples in his books. Some of his compositions survive in manuscript form. For example, he composed two sets of fantasias entitled "The Monthes" and "The Seasons", which both consist of one treble and two bass viol parts, with continuo. All his surviving instrumental works are for viol ensembles or for the solo viol, an instrument of which he wrote: "a viol in the hands of an excellent violist may (no doubt) be reckon'd amongst the best of musical instruments. To play extempore to a ground is the highest perfection of it". Read more on Last.fm.

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