Jeremiah Clarke/Music of the Day

Jeremiah Clarke was one of the leading harpsichordists, organists, and composers of Renaissance Europe and a highly respected figure in society.

I’ve always had in my mind the idea that this was a man rather like Handel, who had a fairly happy life playing music and directing the choirs for royalty. This morning and completely by chance, I discovered that this was far from the case with Clarke, who fell in love with a lady of considerably higher social status (respected though musicians were), and found himself in the heart-breaking situation of unrequited love (ah, amor). Determined to end his life, he couldn’t decide whether to kill himself through hanging or drowning, so he flipped a coin. The coin fell into the mud on its side, so instead of deciding to continue writing love songs to his nameless lady, he shot himself. He died in 1707 at the age of 33.

Unlike unrequited love, suicide was not looked upon very favorably, and those who killed themselves were not usually buried in consecrated ground. Clarke, however, was a very rare exception due to the high regard his royal patrons had for him, and he was buried in a crypt at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Here is probably one of his most famous pieces. You might have heard it at a wedding…


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