Temperley, Nicholas (1932-2020) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Temperley, Nicholas (1932-2020)

Historical Note:

Nicholas Temperley (1932-2020) was born in Beaconsfield, England on August 7, 1932. His parents were Arthur Cecil Temperley, a Major-General of the British Army who served as a representative at the League of Nations, and Joyce van Oss, a Dutch musician and author. Temperley began his musical studies at the age of five, performing on piano and studying composition. After his father died in 1939, he was admitted to an all-boy's boarding school. In this same year he published his first composition entitled "Elegy," which appeared in a British publication called The Young Musician. In 1945, Temperley won a Foundation Scholarship to study at Eaton College, where he received further musical instruction until 1951. In 1948, his mother married a German refugee named Donald von Hirsch, who would go on to lead the German Institute in London. Temperley then earned his associate degree in piano performance at the Royal College of Music in 1952 as well as a certificate in organ performance at the Royal College of Organists in 1954. Following this, he earned another Foundation Scholarship to study music at King's College, Cambridge University where he earned a bachelor of arts degree (Double First in Music) in 1955, a bachelor's of music degree in 1956, and both his master's and doctoral degrees in 1959. While at King's College, Temperley specialized in the history of English music during the Classical and Romantic periods and he took additional courses in composition and organ performance.

Following his graduation from King's College, Temperley moved to the United States, becoming a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It was here that Temperley met Mary Dorothea Sleator, an assistant professor of English who was also an active singer in Urbana. The two were married a year later in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While in Urbana, Temperley published several early articles on the influence of Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn upon English composers; founded an amateur carol group called the "Temperley Singers"; and served as a music critic for the Champaign-Urbana Courier.

In 1961, he and Mary moved to the UK, Temperley having accepted a position as an assistant lecturer at Cambridge University and the Director of Studies in Music at Clare College, Cambridge. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Temperley edited and revised both the entrance exams and the "Musical Tripos" final exams for graduate students. Two of Temperley's children were born during this time, Lucy (1962) and David (1963). During this period, Temperley began publishing short articles on the history of English Parish Church music and Victorian opera. He also combined his historical research with his interest in composition, arranging new editions of Victorian operas. While at Cambridge in 1966, he resurrected the Victorian-era composer Edward Loder's opera Raymond and Agnes. Soon after, Temperley accepted a position as an assistant professor at Yale University, where he taught for a year.

In 1967, Temperley returned to the University of Illinois as an associate professor in musicology. On the first day of school, his third child, Sylvia, was born. Temperley was promoted to full professor in 1972, at which point he had already written nearly two dozen articles about English music in the Victorian era. Temperley published his first book, Jonathan Gray and Church Music in York, 1770-1840 five years later in 1977. Two years later he received the Otto Kinkeldey Award from the American Musicological Society for his book, The Music of the English Parish Church. Building upon his research on hymns and church music, Temperley founded the Hymn Tune Index at the University of Illinois in 1982. As a research center, the Hymn Tune Index compiled an archive of hymns printed in English texts up to 1820 and published a reference book of their findings in four volumes begininng in 1998.

In 1981, Temperley published The Romantic Age: 1800-1914, a groundbreaking book on the music of the Victorian era. He would go on to edit several other books related to Victorian music including the 20-volume series The London Piano Forte School 1766-1860. Tied to his research on this era, Temperley also completed critical editions of both Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique (1971) and Haydn's The Creation (1988); a revised edition of John Gay's the Beggar's Opera (1984); and arrangements of two unfinished operas, George Friedrich Handel's Hercules (1985) and Mozart's L'Oca del Cairo (1991).

After serving two terms as department chair of the Musicology Division and being named a University Senior Scholar between 1986 and 1989, he retired in 1996. Temperley continued to research and publish in the areas of English church music and Victorian-era opera. For instance, in 2007, Temperley served as the co-editor alongside Sally Drage for a critical edition of 18th-Century English church music for the Musica Britannica series. In 2016, he published his twelfth book, Musicians of Bath and Beyond: Edward Loder (1809-1865) and His Family. In 2018, he and Beth Quitslund published the first critical edition of the Elizabethan era congregational book The Whole Book of Psalms, Collected into English Metre.

During his retirement, Temperley remained connected to the Musicology Division at the University of Illinois, establishing a dissertation prize in 2003 and a research prize in 2017. Temperley also spent his retirement staging Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in Urbana and in 2009 he published Christmas is Coming, a collection of original and arranged carols. Temperley died on April 19, 2020 in Urbana Illinois.


Nicholas Temperley CV found within his personal papers and published online at: http://nicholastemperley.com/publications/

"Obituaries: Nicholas Temperley."Champaign, Illinois News-Gazette. (April 19, 2020).

Michael Siletti, "Remembering Nicholas Temperley." sonorities. (2021): 13-14.

Note Author: Nolan Vallier

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