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date: 03 April 2020

Babell [Babel], Williamlocked

  • Gerald Gifford
  •  and Terence Best


(b ?London, c1690; d Islington, London, Sept 23, 1723). English harpsichordist, organist, violinist, composer and arranger. He received his early musical instruction from his father, Charles Babel, a bassoonist in the Drury Lane Theatre orchestra until he was 80, and later from Pepusch and possibly Handel (according to Mattheson, in Der vollkommene Capellmeister, 1739, but denied by Hawkins). Babell led an active professional life in London. As a violinist he was said to have played in the private band of George I, while as a harpsichordist, from about 1711, his name frequently appears in London concert notices, usually in conjunction with those of Corbett, Paisible and (later) Dubourg. He was also associated with Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. From November 1718 until his death he was organist of All Hallows Bread Street and was succeeded there by John Stanley. Babell was buried at All Hallows.

He acquired an international reputation as a harpsichordist largely through his virtuoso arrangements of fashionable operatic arias and overtures, especially those of Handel. His keyboard style was undoubtedly influenced by his close acquaintance with Handel's playing; it has been proposed that one of the manuscript settings of ‘Vo' far guerra’ (...

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