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Harriett Abrams
(c.1758-1821)
 

Biographical

A singer and composer, Harriet was the eldest child in a large musical family. Her siblings included Theodosia (*c. 1769; †1849, Torquay) , a contralto with whom Harriet often performed as a duo; Jane (c. 1766-c. 1814), a singer; Eliza (c. 1766-1831), a pianist; William (fl 1792-95), a violinist; Charles (fl 1794), a cellist. The siblings were of Jewish descent and were baptised in 1791 at St George's, Hanover Square.

Harriet was a pupil of Thomas Arne and she first appeared in public at Drury Lane theatre in her master's musical piece, May Day, in October 1775. Because she had little success on stage, she left Drury Lane to sing at London concerts and provincial festivals. She and her sister Theodosia sang at the opening of the Concert of Ancient Music in 1776. The youngest sister, Eliza, would join her sisters in the pieces which were sung at the Ladies' Catch and Glee Concerts. Another notable performance by Harriett took place in 1779 in the role of an Italian girl in Sheridan's The Critic. Harriett and Theodosia sang at the Commemoration of Handel, in Westminster Abbey, in 1784, and at the principal London concerts for several years afterwards. After 1790, the two appeared mostly in private concerts and also in Harriett's annual benefits. In 1792, 1794, and 1795, when these annual events were held, Haydn himself presided over the piano. After this, the two sisters retired into private life.

Harriet Abrams composed several pleasing songs, two of which, The Orphan's Player and Crazy Jane, aided by the expressive singing of her sister, Theodosia, became very popular. In 1787, she published A Collection of Songs, and A Collection of Scotch Songs harmonised for three voices, besides other pieces at later dates.

Place of birth: possibly London
Place of death: Torquay

 

 

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Sources

1. W. Rubinstein, M. Jolles et al. The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
2. S. Sadie, G. Grove, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edn, vol. 1, A to Aristotle. London: Macmillan, 2001.
3. J.A. Fuller Maitland, ed. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 1. New York: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & co., Ltd, 1911.

 

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