The Suicide of Jeremiah Clarke

Today is a tragic day for lovers of the Baroque. Jeremiah Clarke, Baroque composer & organist at the Chapel Royal, committed suicide on this day 1 December, 1707, by shooting himself in the head.

Born around 1674 and having been tutored under great Baroque composer John Blow and having obtained the distinguished role of being the first organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral, then organist & Master of the Choristers at the Chapel Royal – it seemed Clarke had everything to live for.

But he did not have the love of the woman he loved. Or so the story goes. Clarke appears to have fallen madly in love with a beautiful woman who was out of his league in every way, and he couldn’t bear it. We do not know if she knew of his love and spurned him, or it was reciprocated but the difference in their stations would not permit their union, or perhaps, if he was too shy to ever face her. Most of us, unfortunately, know all-too-well the agony – the unmitigated torment – that unrequited love brings into our lives.

Lamentably, he decided life wasn’t worth living.

He had trouble deciding whether to hang or drown himself and flipped a coin, which fell into mud so he decided to shoot himself instead. He was only about thirty-three years old. A complete tragedy.

There is controversy surrounding the date of his suicide and the circumstances surrounding his death due to differing accounts. Unless some amazing new piece of evidence turns up, we again do not know. But, again, as I’ve said about other historical persons who have died young, we are left with the same question: what if?

Jeremiah Clarke left behind a musical legacy which we ALL know in the form of the Prince of Denmark’s March (popularly known as the Trumpet Voluntary):

Now, I refused to have this played at my wedding because, well, that’s kind of horrible. The poor bloke, if this story is to be believed, would have wanted to marry this mysterious high-born lady. It’s simply too sad a tale, and anyway, it was a march for the slothful, corpulent dolt, Prince George of Denmark, husband to Queen Anne, and not originally intended as wedding music.In honour of Mr. Clarke, I have posted some more of his music below, which I am sure you will enjoy:

Read more about Clarke at HOASM and ClassicFM.

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Hear ye! 5 thoughts — so far — on “The Suicide of Jeremiah Clarke”:

  1. alistair kewish

    Well, when it comes to suicide, it seems to be a closer scrutiny that reveals a larger number of such amongst musicians of all genres and callings.
    What remains a total mystery is how the music composed and the state of mind of the individual are so very far apart.
    Best example of this being one Ryba, who wrote the Christmas music which is performed every year in the Czech Republic.
    Truly a total enigma.

    Reply
  2. A. Kizildel

    What desperation..! Suicide was a mortal sin for the Christians then and our man was a distinguished churchman !

    Reply
  3. Prytyn

    Do you mean to imply there are people that “don’t” like the Baroque. The idea of no smog, horse travel, no speed traps. I Baroque instruments and music; and if I could would wear a silver hilted hanger to hold the disingenuous at fence, (Small sword) would do so in a rodent’s heart beat. Then to flick the Maccarone from the heads of Dandies with enthusiastic glee. I would do the same with my Great Kilt and Frock coat. It’s a pearl of Historic Epoch.
    I must of watched Barry Lyndon sixty times and there will be a few more yet. I prefer to paint the Chiaroscuro vernacular of the period starting from mars red grounds with Verdigris mark outs , having the knack for such endeavours, and have lost count of how many of Paramours and their Ivy lattice fensters, I’ve been inspired to negotiate, and old Jerry is the epitome of Baroque Trumpet in D sans valves and just a hole at the crook to shift the standing wave.
    It is without doubt, one of the most Romantic and appealing periods in history and actuality.
    I want my time machine, and I want it now 🙂
    What’s not to love

    Reply

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