Tans’ur (Tanzer), William


b Dunchurch, nr Rugby, Warwicks c1700, d St Neots, Hunts 1783. The son of a village labourer, he travelled widely (for his day) from Surrey to Lincolnshire to play the organ and teach Psalmody, until settling in St Neots as a bookseller; at some point he changed the spelling of his surname to its more unusual form, a small indication of his eccentric streak. His aim was to improve the quality of church singing, publishing at least 10 books to that end. He called his Harmony of Zion: a Compleat Melody (1735) ‘the curiosest book ever published’, and the New Musical Grammar (1746) ran to a 7th edn after his death. Both ‘Old’ (Sternhold and Hopkins) and ‘New’ (Tate and Brady) versions of the Psalter are used in his work. He has been called the founder of community singing, but his elaborately ornamental and sometimes grandiose style (‘fuguing’ tunes notably from 1755 onwards) proved more acceptable in N America. His books rarely make clear which tunes are his original compositions. No.824.