UPDATED 09/18/2007

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John Adson
(bap. ?Watford, Northants., ?24 Jan 1587; d London, 29 June 1640). English wind player and composer. He was perhaps the Johannes Adson baptized at Watford, Northamptonshire, on 24 Jan 1587, though nothing is known of him for certain before 1604, when he is recorded as a cornett player at the court of Charles III of Lorraine in Nancy. Charles died in 1608, and Adson was back in England by the end of 1613, when he joined the Waits of London. He married Jane Lanerie in about February 1614 and settled in the parish of St Giles Cripplegate. At least two of his sons, Islay (or Islip; bap. 30 May 1615) and Roger (bap. 24 June 1621), became musicians. In November 1633 he became a royal wind musician, and on 18 January 1636 he was paid 4 15s. for a treble cornett and a treble recorder, which presumably were the instruments he played at court. In February 1634 he organized the wind players who played in the procession for the second performance of Shirley's masque The Triumph of Peace, thereby incurring the displeasure of the Master of the King's Music, Nicholas Lanier. Adson had evidently preferred theatre musicians to members of the Royal Music, and his association with the King's theatre company is confirmed by references to him in plays put on by it in 1634 and 163940. He died on 29 June 1640, and was buried at St Giles Cripplegate the next day. He was succeeded at court by William Lanier and in the Waits of London by James Hinton.

Adson is best known for the collection Courtly Masquing Ayres (London, 1621; ed. P. Walls, London, 19756), which he dedicated to the Duke of Buckingham, a frequent and enthusiastic masquer. It consists of 31 lively dances for 'violins, consorts [mixed ensembles] and cornets', and divides into three sections. The first 18 pieces seem to be genuine masque dances (14 have concordances in masque sources), using the five-part single-soprano scoring associated with violin bands. The next three pieces, also in five parts, are marked 'for cornets and sackbuts', while the remainder are probably intended for the same instruments, since they use the six-part scoring with two sopranos associated with wind bands. It has been generally assumed that the collection is Adson's own work, but he did not have a court appointment when he published it, so the masque dances, at least, are likely to be his versions of pieces originally composed by royal musicians. Only four other pieces by him are known: a six-part air with one part missing (GB-Cfm Mu.734), two two-part corants (US-NH Filmer 3), and the bass part of another corant (GB-Ob Mus. Sch.D.220). In 1636 a book containing music by 'Edsons' was in the collection of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle.