Aspects of Jewish contributions to musical life in Britain, 1770-1820*

Some music historians would argue that the most significant event of 1770 was the birth of Beethoven, but the purpose of this presentation is to focus attention on aspects of the Jewish contribution to musical life in Britain between that year and 1820. By 1770 George III had been king for ten years, and although Hannah Norsa was still alive, it was more than thirty years since the celebrated singer actress, possibly the most famous English Jew of her day, creator of the role of Polly Peachum in ‘The Beggars Opera’ and erstwhile mistress of Robert Walpole, had made her last stage appearance.

Our point of departure is Meir ben Judah Meir Lyon, otherwise known as Myer or Michael Leoni, to whom the famous Friday-night Yigdal tune is attributed, and who was both an opera singer and synagogue singer (m ‘shorrer) of great significance. He made his debut at the

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