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Andrew Clarke, Research Student, Department of Music, Bristol University
20 April 2010
Some 18 months ago I decided to explore the state of music and musicians in Bath in the long nineteenth century. While writing the history of the Bath Choral Society I had become fascinated with the occurrence of certain local names about which I knew nothing – Loder, Viner, Windsor, Milsom, Sondermann, Van Praag and many others. I embarked on this adventure in October 2008 as a post-graduate student at the University of Bristol. Very quickly I had reduced the period of research to the Late Georgian era. Within a year I realised that the interrelationships by marriage of many of these musicians meant that I could only do justice to my work if I concentrated on a handful of families. Indeed to date the detail appertains to just two families – the Loders and the Viners. Even now I have to apologise that this work is far from complete and two important members of the Loder family, namely Edward and Kate, both of whom were born in Bath, have yet to be explored. As it happens the Loders and the Viners have much to commend them as subjects for study. The principal characters – John David Loder and William Litton Viner – knew each other. They were born just two years apart, 1788 and 1790 respectively and in later years they both became constituents of a musical diaspora. They shared their formative younger years in a city at the height of its musical prowess.
Its concert life during the 18th century has been well researched by Kenneth James and you can now read his splendid thesis on the British Library website ETHOS without charge. From 1780-1810 I have no doubt that this musical excellence was due to one Venanzio Rauzzini who had the foresight to understand, though not without certain difficulties, the wants and needs of the British aristocracy who had adopted Bath as their resort of first choice.
Rev. Richard Warner’s Literary Recollections, 1830
“I knew Signor Venanzio Rauzzini well; he was a great man in his way: more remarkable, however, for science and taste as a composer than for genius or originality…he was an amiable, benevolent and cheerful man, but too generous to acquire competence, and too open-hearted to escape imposition…He died in 1810, universally esteemed and regretted.”
Bingley’s Musical Biography, 1834
“In private life few men were more esteemed; none more generally beloved. A polished serenity of manners, a mild and cheerful disposition, and a copious fund of information, rendered him an attractive and agreeable companion. Constitutionally generous and hospitable, he delighted in society. His natural gaiety of temper, the mode of his education, and an improvidence, not uncommon among those of his profession, sometimes however, involved him in difficulties.”
Yet by the early 19th century the perceived wisdom is that Bath was in decline. In 1967 David Jeremy wrote an article called ‘The social decline of Bath’ in History Today. The tenet of his argument is constructed on the multiplying middle classes, royal neglect and an increasing opportunity for continental travel following the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars. Cyril Ehrlich, musicologist, states that the city’s ‘days are numbered by the end of the eighteenth century, since it was fundamentally dependant upon temporary fashion’ and there was ‘far more teaching than performers.’ Graham Davis, former Professor of History at Bath Spa University, in his excellent book A History of Bath: Image & Reality, says ‘Bath’s role in the life of the nation was never to be greater or more flamboyant than it was between 1700 and 1790, when the city was the premier resort of frivolity and fashion.’ I do not intend to define ‘decline’ nor to challenge those who have advocated this position. In consequence perhaps the value of Bath’s musical life in the wider context of national endeavour has remained unexplored. But there are a multitude of sources which can build a very intimate picture of this period.
Fig. 1 Geoge Loder's song 'Oh Boyhood's Days', words by Frank Younge
So not withstanding this decline, I want to posit that there was a cauldron of musical excellence created under Rauzzini which did not just evaporate at the turn of the century but needed to explore different channels for fulfilment. John David Loder and William Litton Viner embodied this challenge and in their separate ways achieved rather different outcomes.
Let us make a start by exploring the Loder Family often referred to as ‘a long established musical family in Bath.’ But just how long established were they? A first glance at the family tree will give some insight to this question. I have prepared a number of vignettes from my rather longer thesis which will be submitted in the autumn.
JOHN LODER (father)
Though only an ensemble player during his life the regard of his fellow musicians was apparent after death which was reported in both the local and London newspapers. In the former he was described as: ‘a respectable Musician of the Pump Room band.’ The distress of the family was noted following the loss of their ‘sole support.’ There was a benefit play organised in Weymouth before the return of Mrs Loder and, two months later, a benefit concert in Bath at the New Assembly Rooms. The local paper called for a good attendance for ‘the utmost fruits of his profession were barely sufficient to provide his numerous family with decent subsistence.’ The fact that the concert was delayed by a week so that ‘the whole band [could offer] their assistance’ demonstrates the esteem in which John Loder was held by his colleagues. John David Loder played a violin concerto.
Fig. 2 John D. Loder
(Bath Reference Library)
ANDREW LODER (uncle)
John Loder had an elder brother, Andrew, baptised in 1751. James records that he played various instruments, including the horn, clarinet, violin, viola and cello, as well as being a renowned bass vocalist. He was engaged at the theatre and at the New Assembly Rooms ‘if not obliged to attend at the Play House.’ A ‘Loader’ is listed among the musicians playing at the Orchard Street theatre between 1774 and 1777. He and his brother gave their services freely in the performance of Messiah in 1782. Andrew played at a commemoration concert for the young poet, Thomas Chatterton, in Bristol in 1784. In 1792 a Mr Loder sang in the Vauxhall Gardens. He composed secular and sacred music; the latter for the Countess of Huntingdon’s chapel and St James’s church where he trained the singers.
ANDREW LODER (son)
In the meantime John David Loder’s cousin, Andrew, was making his own way in Bath concert life. Together they organised a concert of vocal and instrumental music which was supported by the ‘professional members of the Harmonic Society and the Catch Club.’ By 1816 Andrew had established his own music business in Orange Grove. However, in 1825, his house and business were severely damaged by a fire but he was grateful for the support of his neighbours. ‘Mr A. Loder takes the opportunity of thus publicly thanking those Friends; who so kindly rendered their assistance in the rescue of his Property from the danger by which it was threatened from the late alarming fire; and by whose friendly exertions the Premises and property were saved from the threatening destruction.’ Whether the business fully recovered is questionable for some years later he was declared bankrupt.
JOHN DAVID LODER
Now we consider the spiritual embodiment of this family, John David Loder. In many respects this man rewrites the role of the Bath musician.
His performance at his mother’s benefit was not his debut. A year earlier he had played a solo written by Brooks, the leader of the Bath orchestra. He was propelled into public life with several concerts in 1796 for the benefit of the Sunday Schools attended by the Duke and Duchess of York, at the Bath. The following year he performed in a ‘Choral Night’ under the direction of Rauzzini in Bath. Weeks later he made his first appearance in London at a benefit concert for the New Musical Fund. Given that the Duke of York was a patron of the fund, we might speculate that royal influence may have secured this invitation which promoted John David Loder as ‘an Orphan, aged nine years, under the protection of the Society.’ The band was led by Wilhelm Cramer with whose son, Johann Baptist, John David Loder would co-lead the Philharmonic Society twenty years later.
In 1800 Master Loder appeared at the theatre playing between the two acts. Child prodigies were frequently promoted in Bath at this time and we can surmise the circumstances under which John David was thrust into the limelight. Clearly he was a source of income for his family and we can conjecture that the close bonding of local musicians would have encouraged him make full use of his talents
He played at concerts ‘under the patronage of the Noblemen and the Gentlemen of the York House Catch Club.’ In 1807, still a teenager, he took his first benefit ‘as leader of our theatrical Band.’ He and his cousin, Andrew, performed at the Harmonic Society when Charles Wesley played the harpsichord. Apparently Wesley had intimated that he intended to make Bath his home when ‘not required at Brighton by his Royal Patron.’ In 1808 the two cousins, John and Andrew, promoted a concert at the Lower Assembly Rooms involving the professional members of both the Harmonic Society and the Catch Club. Though he led the theatre band before he reached twenty he still played second violin to Richards, his uncle in the festivals in the Abbey directed by Rauzzini. In the summer months he led the band in Sydney Gardens and by the 1809-10 subscription season he was leading the orchestra at the New Assembly Rooms. In 1808, he married Rosamund Mills, step-daughter of the actor John Fawcett.
John David Loder would anticipate the commercial opportunities in the city. Around 1809 Samuel Wesley wrote to his brother, Charles, in Bath, saying that he had ‘no objection to [his] music appearing in any of the first rate shops in Bath.’ He continued that he ‘should not like them to be set in an inferior window as if soliciting purchase.’ Music sellers abounded such as Lintern, Patton and White, vying for the lucrative and emerging trade in music publications. London publishers would advertise locally that their music was available throughout the city. By 1813 John David Loder had settled in Milsom Street and established himself as a ‘Music & Musical Instrument Seller’ along with his cousin, Andrew. Some years later the business claimed accreditation ‘to her late Majesty and their royal highnesses The Princesses.’ In addition to the sale or hire of pianos, pedal harps and ‘every new publication,’ it was the subscription office for the many concerts in the city. During the latter part of his residency the premises were frequently cited as a venue for private concerts. The business remained in Milsom Street for twenty years until John David Loder was declared bankrupt.
By 1812 John David Loder had regular employment leading the theatre band and the subscription concerts in the winter months. The theatre continued a family affair with his cousins, the Cunninghams, and father-in-law, John Fawcett, appearing frequently. In the summer months he led the grand galas in Sydney Gardens. His cousin Andrew regularly sang with the Harmonic Society at the White Hart and accompanied the glees on the piano.
But performance did not fill every hour of John David Loder’s working day. He taught the violin and singing and wrote a teaching manual. The earliest known edition is dedicated ‘as a mark of Respect for superior Talents’ to Paolo Spagnoletti, himself a violin teacher. Throughout the next century the book reappeared in various guises. By 1841 it was in its fifth edition, revised by J.F. Carrodus in 1884 and by Hawkes in 1911. In the second edition, Loder, acknowledged in the preface, the support of ‘my Professional Friends [who] will perceive the most valuable suggestions I have been favoured with, have been carefully adopted.’ The exercises in the instruction book, which worked through the major to the minor keys, had been supplemented with a duet. David Golby argues in his doctoral thesis that the introduction of the duet promoted greater informality in the relationship between teacher and pupil.
In 1840, Richard Doyle, who became an illustrator for the periodical Punch, wrote about violin practice in his journal. ‘I am told that unless I play from the music it is no use learning and that I may as well give it up. Acting upon this hint I have made out an “andante” two lines long in Loders book and I regularly frighten the whole house with it.’ Mr Cooke, an upholsterer in Bath, articled his daughter,Harriet, later Mrs Waylett, to Loder, possibly for singing lessons. She became an actress of some distinction. John David Loder had something of an eye for talent spotting. A contemporary article described the ‘a powerful recommendation of Mr John Loder, a gentleman whose brilliance of talent is only surpassed by the warmth of his kindness.’
During his early career in Bath, John David Loder was actively looking beyond the confines of the city to further his reputation and earning capability. In 1815 he was elected an associate of the Philharmonic Society in London. Loder was obviously excited by the honour stating in his acceptance letter that he would ‘make it a particular point in attending the Whole of the Concerts if possible.’ In 1816 this would have meant travelling to London on eight separate occasions and it is doubtful that he kept his promise. Nevertheless within months he received a further letter from the secretary Watts recommending that Loder ‘an associate of this Society’ be elected a Member. He first performed for the Society in 1817 in a quartet by Ferdinand Ries when Robert Lindley played the cello. Lindley had played in Bath on several occasions in the previous decade but this would be the start of an association which would last many years. The pattern was established, playing one or more times in every year up to and including 1845.
In 1822 John David Loder suffered a nervous breakdown and was ordered by his doctor to take a rest in Exeter. Presumably the view was that he would be away from the pressure of work in Bath and elsewhere. Nonetheless within a few months he was playing in London and the presumption has to be that he either suffered exhaustion or could not cope with the demands of the Philharmonic Society. In a letter in 1822 he refers to his aliment ‘which has materially increased of late’ and as a consequence finds himself ‘unequal to the Task of playing a Quarteto at the Philharmonic Concerts.’ It would appear that this was no ordinary request for Loder continues: ‘Anything Obligato, such as a Song or Quinteto or Symphony I would not shrink from, But I will not disgrace the Philharmonic, By attempting That, which I feel so totally out of my power to accomplish…’. He concludes by saying that he ‘would rather forgo the honour of Leading altogether than suffer the anxiety of mind that would follow were [he] to acceed [sic] to the wishes contained in [their] letter.
Four years later he was embroiled in another issue about the use of the term ‘leader’ He was anxious not to offend and he warned the secretary when writing to Spohr not to use the term. What appears to have happened is that the Society had introduced the term ‘conductor’ in 1820. On an occasion when Attwood had been conducting, Spohr, playing first violin, had produced as if in protest. Interestingly following Loder’s last concert season in 1845 Sir Michael Costa took sole responsibility for the orchestra and the term ‘leader’ was dropped from all promotional material. Loder is credited with being the first Englishman to lead the Philharmonic. However his leadership did not go without criticism in the earlier years. The Examiner described him as impatient and ‘to give the wrong direction as to the time of taking a movement’ it continued: ‘We once heard him play the every deuce with a symphony of Hayden’s at the Philharmonic Concerts. Mr Loder may take a hint from King James’s recommendation to the Members of Parliament to retire to their country seats, because like ships in a river, they then become objects of admiration; whereas in London, they were like ships in the sea, which diminished to insignificance. Mr Loder is a first rate in Bath.’ The following year the Examiner was more contrite noting the ‘great applause from the graceful manner in which he played the solo’ from the Haydn. He led the orchestra under conductors Muzio Clementi, Ferdinand Ries, Cipriani Potter, Sterndale Bennett, Henry Bishop, Sir George Smart, T Cooke, Ignas Moscheles and Felix Mendelssohn. He presided over new works by Cherubini, Spohr, Romberg, Bochsa, Beethoven, Clementi, Mendelssohn, Herz, Bishop, Hausmann, Moscheles, Berlioz, Vieuxtemps and Molique. In April 1837 he led the orchestra for a second performance at the Society of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, twelve years after it had been ‘mercilessly butchered’ by conductor Sir George Smart. The Musical World said that this second performance ‘overwhelm[ed] the auditors with ecstasy and astonishment at its marvellous beauty.’ In 1844 he led a first performance of a Bach Overture and Suite with Mendelssohn conducting.
His reputation established in Bath and developing in London, Loder was associated with another venture in London, that of the formation of the Royal Academy of Music in 1822. His name appears on the handwritten prospectus issued around 1820 under the list of professors. In fact his first teaching engagements did not start until 1840 and his earliest payment in the Academy Minute book is 1843. Earlier he was party to a benefit for the Academy in Bath in 1829 arranged through Giuseppe de Begnis involving both students and staff. The financial details are presented in a letter to the Academy offering a fixed rate or ‘to share half of the receipts with Mr Loder, the Manager of the Bath Theatre.’ A poignant moment in the Academy’s minutes occurs when the Committee replied to a letter from Loder ‘expressing his regret at finding he is not to lead the Public Concerts in the Place of Mr Cramer who has retired.’ He is advised that they wish to establish ‘a different Style of Violin Playing among the Pupils of the Institution.’ Further, wishing to distant themselves from the disappointment, the Committee advises that any matters of attendance payment ‘which Mr Loder has so obliging as to give for Mr F. Cramer during his temporary Absences from Illness’ are a personal matter between the two of them. It was a remarkable decision given that Loder’s teaching treatise continued along with that of Spohr’s well into the 20th century.
John David Loder developed a musical career both locally in Bath were he played and taught, and in London with the Philharmonic Society where he led the orchestra and at the Royal Academy of Music where he was a professor. But his wanderlust took him to all parts of the British Isles and he would lead many of the musical festivals around the country over a period of thirty years. In 1832 Samuel Sebastian Wesley, writing to his father, reported that he played a duet with ‘Loder of Bath. We got on tolerably well but I hate playing the mountebank on these occasions.’ Two years later they met again in Hereford when Wesley was conducting the festival. The leading role was shared between Francois Cramer, Nicholas Mori and John David Loder. This format appears to have been adopted both at this and other festivals. When Loder led the orchestra at the Yorkshire Festival, Wesley was presiding at the piano. Included in the programme was the first performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony in England outside London. Later, at the Society’s annual dinner, he was privileged to propose a toast to Wesley when he recounted his singing as a child and admired his genius. This admiration may have been formed in Bath when Wesley sang at the Triennial Musical Festival in 1824.
In 1841 while in Scotland he ‘had a narrow escape of his life.’ The press report described the accident: ‘proceeding from Glasgow in a carriage to Edinburgh, where he was to lead at the Grand Musical Festival, The Vehicle, we understand, was upset, the driver thrown from his seat and killed on the spot by the fall of some heavy luggage on his head. A boy riding with him had also received severe injury in his arm. Mr Loder escaped with only some slight bruises, but was greatly shocked by the dreadful accident.’ This all too graphic a description demonstrates the risks and dangers involved in travelling around the country at this time.
John David Loder took care in developing the musical skills of individuals who were apprenticed to him and developing the tutor materials to support that endeavour. It has been noted that his technique of involving the teacher with the child pupil through playing duets together lent itself to the increasing number of amateurs from the lower orders. This interest extended beyond the individual to group participation in music. He was anxious to establish a permanent choir in Bath. His first attempt followed a concert at the opening of the Masonic Hall when he had deployed a scratch group of singers. Encouraged ‘by many amateurs and lovers of Choral Music’ he proposed the formation of the Bath Choral Society which might perform ‘during the summer and winter months, when all the other amusements in Bath are suspended.’ Such was his success, that after the second concert, the local paper congratulated the Society in its ‘capacity for singing chorus music, under every disadvantage – at hours stolen from repose after the toiling labours of the day.’ It continued: ‘It is to us truly gratifying to hear that each week swells their numbers, and that so refined and delightful resource for filling up the vacant evening hours is offered to the trader and artisan.’ The patronising nature of this commentary should not deflect from the positive results that Loder appears to have achieved.
By 1841 John David Loder had left his native city permanently and moved to Chelsea, London. From then on his attention when not travelling was increasingly directed towards the metropolis. He performed at benefit concerts and private soirées, and later, took over as leader at the Concert of Ancient Music when Cramer retired in 1844. He died in 1846 and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery attended by three sons, John, Edward and William. Sir George Smart and soloists Charlotte Dolby, her sister, and the Misses Pyne, travelled together by the recently opened railway. The lessee of the New Assembly Rooms, a Mr Bellamy, ‘not only granted the use of the rooms but also provided the lighting (no small matter) at his own expense.’ The local paper reported that ‘a metropolitan and resident talent provided their Gratuitous Services’ in front of six hundred people.
GEORGE LODER 1816-1868
At this juncture I must say a few words about George Loder. George Patrick Henry Loder was born in 1816 in Bath to George and Mary Loder. He was the nephew of John David Loder. There is no evidence that he ever performed in Bath but doubtless he would have attended many of the concerts and theatricals in which his uncle played. He sailed to America in 1836 but we know nothing of the years prior to his emigration. He resided in Baltimore before relocating to New York, There he married a local American girl, Harriet, and she begat him three children. He played the flute, double bass and piano but became better known as an orchestral conductor where ‘in spite of his small stature, made a striking figure at the conductor’s desk because of his long well kept beard.’ In addition, he was a composer and arranger. In 1840 he arranged the music for a burlesque The Cats in the Larder contrived from Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which he might have seen in Bath during his younger days.
Within a decade Loder had established the New York Vocal Institute (1844), conducted the American Musical Institute (1845-48) and was ‘a valuable and efficient officer’ of the American Musical Fund Society. He conducted at least one concert in each of the first ten seasons of the Philharmonic Society of New York [NYP] and in the early years he was their second double bass player of a five strong section. With them he programmed first performances in New York of pieces by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Vieuxtemps. On 20 May 1846 he conducted the first performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony at Castle Garden. The publicity was prestigious: ‘this concert will be given ... on the most magnificent scale ever attempted in this country combining the principal musical talent, vocal and instrumental, in and about New York. There will be between 300 and 400 performers … making this an era in the musical world.’ Krehbiel acknowledged the honour of his directing the Philharmonic at such an event but disputed the proposition in Mendel’s Musical Lexicon that he was the society’s originator. However Krehbiel noted that Loder had conducted the first performance in New York of Beethoven’s Symphony No 8 in F major.
In 1840 George Loder’s cousin-in-law, Mrs Edward Loder, emigrated with her mother and siblings (Eleanor, Henrietta and Henry) in the footsteps of their father, John Watson. Following her separation from Edward Loder, she was anxious to re-establish her singing career. Vera Brodsky Lawrence suggests she made her debut in the United States under the ‘superintendence’ of Charles Horn. Little is known of her movements until she performed with the NYP in their first season of 1842-3. In a critical summary of the season the Pathfinder was reserved with its praise. It complained about the lack of pianissimo... ‘if a player in an orchestra hears his own instrument, he may form a shrewd suspicion, that he is playing too loud …’ Mrs Loder alone is commended.
In September 1850 Jenny Lind arrived in New York. Recognising the commercial opportunity, George Loder organized the Musical Fund Society to ‘assemble beneath her windows.’ Two hundred members of the Society marched up Broadway and executed the prepared programme in ‘a manner highly creditable.’ Would Loder have been aware of the eighteenth century practice in Bath of the Waits who, ‘on getting wind of the arrival of a visitor,’ would play outside the house in which they were lodging? Such a visible presence would ensure he was the agent of first choice for the provision of choral support.
By 1852 George Loder had conducted the NYP on sixteen occasions, the concerts of which had included symphonies by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Spohr and Mozart, and piano concertos by Mendelssohn, Chopin and Hummel. He provided an entrée for the works of Berlioz, Verdi, Benedict and Sterndale Bennett. Then suddenly George Loder heads west. Why? Lawrence suggests that the arrival of Theodore Eisfeld in 1848 at the NYP may have been a turning point. Or was he suddenly infatuated with a certain lady, Eliza Biscaccianti?
Fig. 3 W.L. Viner: Sanctus in F, first page of manuscript (1837)
Sibley Library, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, USA
RECOLLECTIONS OF CALIFORNIA & AUSTRALIA (By a Musician)
THE MUSICAL WORLD, 1858
“…the first outbreak of the Californian fever…thought myself vastly clever in decrying the rambling propensities of others…the fever crept upon me…a dissatisfaction with my present position, and a dread of emptiness of the pockets.”
ON ARRIVING IN HAVANA
“There could be no mistaking the proprietorship of that establishment. It was Figaro’s, I was positive of it, or if it wasn’t Figaro’s shop, was the deuce did Doctor Bartolo’s house do exactly opposite? If it wasn’t Figaro’s shop, what was Rosina doing in the balcony with that same old fan of hers that I saw Ronzi de Begnis play with (I am ashamed to say how many years ago)?”
“Having plenty of time to spare, the next job was to bring down the pianoforte, which had safely arrived at the top of the mountain three miles off; and having pressed into my service a gang of gentlemen, who in all such places live upon their wits, or some such available capital (for they toil not, neither do they spin), we, being well provided with ropes and blocks, lowered the precious article from tree to tree, and with immense toil and good luck brought it safe and sound into the town – which achievement seemed to be regarded much in the same light as the discovery of squaring the circle or finding the elixir vitae would have done. I unpacked it with fear and trembling, not knowing what the state of the interior might be, but found it all right; and then favoured the admiring multitude with “Hail, Columbia,” and “Yankee doodle,” topping off with “God save the Queen,” for my own especial delectation.”
WILLIAM LITTON VINER
Dwight’s Journal of Music, Boston, March 17 1866
‘Musical Library. The attention of musical persons is called to the sale announced for next Wednesday, by Messrs Leonard & Co. of an uncommonly valuable private library of musical works. It was collected in the course of a long life, in England, by Mr Wm. L. Viner, an English organist of high standing, who has resided a few years past in Western Massachusetts. It numbers between five and six hundred works, mostly bound, and good editions; embracing quite a number of full scores of Symphonies, of Mozart’s and other operas, of Concertos, &c.; Handel’s Oratorios, in Clark’s and Arnold’s editions; much standard organ music, numerous piano and vocal scores of operas, masses, &c., &c. Here will be a chance for each one to pick out something to fill gaps in his library.’
William Litton Viner – organist, pianist, harpist, conductor and composer – is an unfamiliar name to most musicologists, yet he commanded entries in Sainsbury’s and Grove’s dictionaries and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. His working life is equally divided between Bath and Penzance in S W England in the first half of the 19th century. A large part of his musical compositions and transcriptions are preserved in the William L Viner Collection in the Sibley Music Library at Rochester University. In 1790 he was born into a working family, yet from an early age appears to have established himself as a competent and respected musician. During the latter years in Bath he persuaded a number of eminent musicians to perform in the city. Arriving in Penzance as organist at St Mary’s Church he again sought to promote concerts in the local assembly rooms but the local newspaper was sometimes critical of his efforts. Establishing a music shop in the town he expanded into general printing and there is a suggestion that he increasing adopted a political stance. Certainly his elder son, Henry, became involved in local mining activity and was a pamphleteer of some magnitude voicing his opinions of the justice system with some candour. He invented a piano with a double action, the strings being tuned an octave apart. William would follow a younger son, Frederick, to America where he in died in 1867. Frederick was a piano manufacturer and may have made the voyage following a downturn in business as result of the collapse of the local mining industry.
Fig. 4 Signature of William Litton Viner
Unfortunately, so far as is known, no portrait or image of Viner exists
Clearly William Viner was a man of some intellect, and a range of capabilities which ensured considerable respect while in Bath; he was doubtless a figure of some stature in the smaller provincial town of Penzance. At least two of his children, Henry and John, were active in the music scene in the town. Yet unlike his contemporary John David Loder neither he nor his family appear to have received the same magnitude of approbation. Why did William make the voyage to America aged 69? There is some evidence that he was contentious and this trait undoubtedly rubbed off onto his son, Henry. Did he become persona non grata in a closed urban community? Was the family on hard times following the collapse of this industry? His two youngest sons, Will and Charles, became organ builders; the latter establishing the Charles Viner & Sons Organ Company, Buffalo, New York. William continued to compose in America.
Fig. 5 Bottom of Milsom Street showing J.D. Loder’s shop bottom right
But perhaps we should end where we started and recognise that we would not have had a Loder without a Viner or vice versa. Certainly William Litton Viner’s admiration for his contemporary is evident in a dedication to John David Loder.