(b ?England, 1711/12; d ?England, 1786). English plainchant scribe and publisher. He is best known as the composer and author of Adeste fideles. He was almost certainly a convert to Roman Catholicism and attended the Dominican college at Bornem (Belgium) where, presumably, he learnt to copy plainchant. His extant works, which date from the period 1737–74, divide into three types: plainchant manuscripts, printed books with hand-notated plainchant, and printed liturgical books without plainchant. The manuscripts, which substantially outnumber his other works, serve a wide range of functions and include antiphonals, graduals, vesperals, offices for the dead and books of diverse chants. The printed books with plainchant comprise a gradual, psalter and confraternity handbook; printed liturgical books without plainchant include two vesperals, one for general use and another for Holy Week. Internal evidence in the manuscripts suggests that they were used in practically all of London's foreign embassy chapels; by extension it can be assumed that Wade volumes circulated among many Catholic aristocratic families. Wade's influence is considerable in contemporary and later manuscript and printed sources, from An Essay of the Church Plain Chant (London, 1782) to Novello's plainchant publications of the 1850s.
B.Zon: Jacobitism and Liturgy in the Eighteenth-Century English Catholic Church: an Unlikely Marriage, Royal Stuart Papers, xli (Huntingdon, 1992)
B.Zon: ‘Plainchant in the Eighteenth-Century English Catholic Church’, Recusant History, xxi (1993), 361–80
B.Zon: Plainchant in the Eighteenth-Century Roman Catholic Church in England (1737–1834): an Examination of Surviving Printed and Manuscript Sources, with Particular Reference to the Work and Influence of John F. Wade (diss., U. of Oxford, 1994)
B.Zon: ‘The Origin of “Adeste fideles”’, EMc, xxiv (1996), 279–88
B.Zon: The English Plainchant Revival (Oxford, 1999)
(b Dublin, c1801; d London, 15 July 1845). Irish composer. He claimed to have been a student at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Irish College of Surgeons, but his name is not recorded at these institutions. Having decided to devote himself to poetry and music, he moved to London in 1821, and for a short time conducted the opera at the King’s Theatre, then under the management of Monck Mason. In 1826 his comic opera The Two Houses of Grenada was successfully produced at Drury Lane with John Braham as Don Carlos. In the same year, his song ‘Meet me by Moonlight alone’ was launched by Lucia Vestris and, revealing Wade’s natural melodic gift, it became immensely popular.
After these initial successes, however, Wade’s tendency to indolence gave way to dissipation. The Rev. John Richardson recalled him as ‘A wise man in theory and a fool in practice … increasing the confusion of his brain by copious potations of any fluid which at the moment might be before him’. Yet Wade’s musico-poetic talents were of a high order: he wrote the words of the great majority of his songs, and of The Two Houses of Grenada. This work’s two best-known numbers, ‘Love was once a little boy’ and the duet ‘I’ve wandered in dreams’, demonstrate Wade’s knack of hitting upon the kind of quasi-folktune that is immediately memorable. Though influenced by Henry Bishop, Wade’s style betrays the eccentricities of the self-taught dilettante: in the final movement of the Grand Duetfor piano this results, typically, in oddly attractive rhythmic effects and modulations, which contrast vividly with the canonic second movement’s funereal and parodistic ‘Marche grotesque’. The magical atmosphere of the eight-part canon Spirits we of Fairy Land reveals an authentic touch of Weber, though Wade’s words are often more Romantic than his music, which, as in Songs of the Flowers, frequently distils the strong late 18th-century continental influences which shaped England’s pre-Mendelssohnian musical style.
With William Crotch and George Macfarren, Wade was responsible for the accompaniments of Chappell’s National English Airs. His later dramatic works were unsuccessful. He also wrote The Handbook to the Pianoforte (London, 1844/R) and an unpublished history of music, and contributed articles to Bentley’s Miscellany and the Illustrated London News. Increasingly reliant upon opium as well as alcohol, Wade died penniless and in a state of mental derangement, which the obituary in the Musical World generously attributed to ‘intense study’.
printed works published in London unless otherwise stated
The Two Houses of Grenada (comic op, J.A. Wade), London, Drury Lane, 31 Oct 1826, selections (1826)
The Convent Belles (comic op, T.H. Bayly), London, Adelphi, 8 July 1833, collab. W. Hawes
The Yeoman’s Daughter (musical play), London, Lyceum, 14 July 1834, collab. Hawes [1 no. only] (?1834)
The Pupil of Da Vinci (burletta, M. Lemon), London, St James’s, 30 Nov 1839
Orats: Jerusalem, London, 1823, collab. J. Stevenson; The Prophecy (after A. Pope: Messiah), London, CG, 24 March 1824
Vocal: c73 songs, pubd separately, incl., I’ll cull ev’ry Flow’ret that grows (Dublin, n.d.), Morning around us is beaming (1825), The Vesper Bell (1826), Songs of the Flowers (Wade) (1827), Sing not my song yet (1829), A Series of Select Airs (Wade) (Dublin, ?1830), Polish Melodies (Wade) (1831), The Glow Worm and the Star (1832), resignation (sacred song) (?1840); Spirits we of Fairy Land, eight-part canon [from a Masque, lost] (1827); 2 trios; 8 duets; arrangements
Inst: Grand Duet, pf (1827); fantasias, waltzes, pf; other works
DNB (F.G. Edwards)
Grove1 (R.P. Stewart)
Grove6 (N. Temperley)
Musical World, xx (1845), 385–6, 501
J.Richardson: Recollections, i (London, 1856), 231–8