An engraving by W Ward
from a portrait by J Hoppner RA
The eldest son of George Nares of Albany, he was born at Stanwell, Middlesex, on 19th April 1715. After the family moved to Oxford, he studied music as a chorister in the Chapel Royal under Dr Croft and Bernard Gates, and subsequently studied under Dr Pepusch. After acting as Deputy Organist of St George's Chapel - Windsor, he was appointed Organist of York Minster in 1735, following the dismissal of his predecessor for 'absences without leave' and 'insolent behaviour' towards the Chapter! The following year he was also appointed Master of the choristers and held those posts for some 21 years. (In fact, the two posts have been combined ever since).
In 1756, the Dean of York, Dr John Fontayne, recommended that he should succeed Dr Greene as Organist and Composer to King George III at the Chapel Royal, and in 1757 he received his Doctorate of Music from Cambridge. In the same year he succeeded Gates as Master of the Children at the Chapel Royal, and held that post until ill-health compelled him to retire in 1780.
He must have been very competent at the keyboard and wrote a lot of music for the harpsichord and organ, but the bulk of his compositions were sacred vocal works, and the texts he chose to set to music, in his rather sweet and flowing style, tended to be of a sad nature. In 1770 he gained a prize from the Catch Club for his glee "To all lovers of harmony". He was one of the first composers to give singers specific advice on performance - in "The souls of the Righteous", (see recordings listed below), there are charming instructions such as "a trifle faster" and "succeed...in gentle advances to the Allegretto". He also appears to be the first person to publish a systematic series of keyboard lessons, rather like a modern keyboard tutor! In fact, he seems to have had a definite interest in keyboard music which emphasized the need to strengthen weak fingers, with early examples of attention to trills, and his pieces for voices tended to concentrate on the proper singing of musical syllables (which has given some useful insight for musical historians studying this period).
We have also discovered that one of his pupils was William Beckford (1760-1842), whose music has been edited, published and performed by Maxwell Steer. By strange coincidence, the performance was recorded by Oliver Nares in June '98.
He was first married in 1748 to Jane Pease, but it was with his second wife, Jane Bacon of York, that he produced four children, Robert Nares b.1753, Jane Nares, William Nares and Mary Nares. He died on the 10th Feb 1783, and was buried at St Margaret's - Westminster.
His published music includes:
I have come across several recordings of his
works, which are listed below with links to their sources.
|"Introduction and Fugue" is in a collection of 1957 recordings by Thurston Dart.||JMSCD 1||Martin Stafford.|
|"Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis in F" is included in a collection entitled York Minster Vol 9, with Philip More directing the York Minster Choir, John Scott Whiteley playing the organ (that Nares used to play!)||(Priory)
|"The Souls of the Righteous" appears on Remembrance and Resurrection performed by the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, dir. Ian Curror, organist Jeremy Filsell.|| (Guild)
|George Bartle with the Ely Cathedral Choir, dir.Paul Trepte, includes "Rejoice in the Lord" from the "Twenty Anthems" (1778), on A Song of Trust.||(Herald) HAVPCD159||Abergavenny Music.|
|Martin Souter plays Nos III & IV from his set of 8 Keyboard Lessons, published in 1747, on the spinet at Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral home of George Washington.|| (Cl. Com.)
|Paul Nicholson plays his Harpsichord Concerto/Sonata in G major on his CD of English 18th Century Keyboard Concertos.|| (Hyperion)
|MDT Classics Ltd|
|Joseph Payne plays a "Voluntary and Fugue" on his "Early English Organ Music, Vol 2" CD, which is attributed to John Nares, but I am certain this is in fact meant to be James Nares.|| (Naxos)
|Julian Perkins has just released a recording of Eight Harpsichord Setts, recorded in the Queen's Drawing Room at Kew Palace.||AV2152||Avie Records|