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John Wall Callcott

John Wall Callcott (20 November 1766 – 15 May 1821) was an eminent English composer.

Callcott was born in Kensington, London. He was a pupil of Haydn, and is celebrated mainly for his glee compositions and catches. In the best known of his catches he ridiculed Sir John Hawkins' History of Music. Although ill-health prevented Callcott from completing his Musical Dictionary, His Musical Grammar (1806) remained in use throughout the 19th century.

His glees number at least 100, of which 8 won prizes. Callcott set lyrics by leading poets of his day, including Thomas Gray, Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Chatterton, Robert Southey and Ossian. They include (selective list):

  • O snatch me swift for 5 voices SATBarB
  • It was a friar of orders grey for 3 voices SSB
  • In the lonely vale of streams for 4 voices SATB
  • Ella for 4 voices SATB
  • Cara, vale! for 4 voices SSTB
  • Father of Heroes (1792) for 5 voices ATTBB
  • The Erl-King - a setting of Goethe's Erlkönig translated into English by Matthew Lewis, author of the Gothic novel, The Monk,
  • the original setting (as a three part glee) of Drink to me only with thine eyes

A number of his glees specify two soprano or treble (boy soprano) voices, the second of which has a range appropriate to a female mezzo-soprano or contralto (but would have been thought too high for a counter-tenor of this period).

Callcott also composed solo songs and religious music including psalms and sacred canons.

Callcott's daughter Elizabeth married William Horsley who, in 1824, published A collection of Glees Canons and Catches, an edition of his father-in-law's works together with a Memoir of Dr Callcott. His brother, Augustus Wall Callcott, was a noted landscape painter.

Birth and Death Data: Born November 20th, 1766 (Kensington), Died May 15th, 1821

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1938

Roles Represented in DAHR: arranger


Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Gramophone 0EA7090 10-in. 11/20/1938 Drink to me only with thine eyes Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with orchestra arranger  


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Callcott, John Wall," accessed October 22, 2020,

Callcott, John Wall. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from

"Callcott, John Wall." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 22 October 2020.

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