Portrait by William Skelton
Memorial to Benjamin Cooke in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey

Benjamin Cooke (1734 – 14 September 1793) was an English composer, organist and teacher.[1]

Cooke was born in London and named after his father, also Benjamin Cooke (1695/1705 – 1743), a music publisher based in Covent Garden (active from 1726 to 1743), whose production included a seminal edition of the collected works of Arcangelo Corelli in study scores comprising all five books of sonatas and the twelve concerti grossi.[2]

From the age of nine, Benjamin Cooke the younger was one of four boy sopranos who sang at performances of the Academy of Ancient Music under the Academy's director Johann Christoph Pepusch (1667–1752), who supervised the boys' education. In due course Cooke became the Academy's librarian, and at the death of Pepusch assumed the leadership of the Academy.

In later life he received doctoral degrees in music from both Oxford and Cambridge universities.[3] Like his father before him, he became a member of the Royal Society of Musicians (from 1760).[4]

He was also the organist at Westminster Abbey and master of the Abbey's choristers for over thirty years, as well as being the organist at the church of St Martins in the Fields. He coached Abbey choristers who sang in the premiere performance of Harriet Wainwright's opera Comala in 1792. His Christmas Ode, written in a Handelian style, is one of his relatively few large-scale pieces to have been successfully revived in recent years. He wrote glees such as In the Merry Month of May, Deh! Dove?, How Sleep the Brave, Hark! the Lark, and In vino veritas. He also composed a variety of church music and organ music. Many of his musical autographs are now owned by the Royal College of Music.

Cooke died on 14 September 1793, probably of a heart-attack, and was buried in the west cloister of Westminster Abbey.[5][6] He was succeeded at the Abbey by Samuel Arnold, while his son Robert Cooke (1768–1814) was appointed organist of St Martin's in the Fields. Robert Cooke eventually succeeded Arnold at the Abbey.[1]


  1. ^ a b Shaw, Watkins; Gifford, Gerald. "Cooke, Benjamin (ii)". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 29 January 2013. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Smith, William C.; Ward, Peter. "Cooke, Benjamin (i)". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 29 January 2013. (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Cooke, Benjamin (CK775B)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ Matthews, Betty (1985). Members of the Royal Society of Musicians 1734-1984. London: The Royal Society of Musicians. p. 50
  5. ^ Johnstone, H. Diack. "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  6. ^ Benjamin and Robert Cooke Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 21 May 2017.

Further reading

Cultural offices Preceded byJohn Robinson (1682–1762) Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey 1762–1793 Succeeded bySamuel Arnold (1740–1802) Preceded byJoseph Kelway (1702-1785) Organist of St Martins in the Fields 1781–1793 Succeeded byRobert Cooke (1768–1814)