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The Death of James Paisible

30th January 2021


The flautist Paisible was French but came
to London when he was nineteen and stayed
until his death three hundred years ago.
He’s buried in St Martin-in-the-Fields.
French musicians came to England with
King Charles the Second who had grown to love
their music in his exile. Best known are
the four and twenty violins but winds
came too: Jacques Paisible, Maxant de Bresmes,
Pierre Boutet and Jean Guiton. These names
appear on concert programmes and receipts.
Jacques Paisible had anglicised his name
and James was what they called him in the pit.
He’s named as a recorder player in
the masque Calisto at the Banquet Hall
before the court in sixteen seventy five.
He made his living in the theatres
which Charles the Merry Monarch had revived
on his return. The puritans had closed
them for a decade - lockdown of a sort.
(A Restoration’s what we have in store.)
James Paisible played oboe and composed.
He led the orchestra at Theatre Royal
Drury Lane and wrote the music for 
The Spanish Wives by Mrs Pix, Love’s Last  
Shift by Colley Cibber, Aphra Behn’s 
Oroonoko adapted for the stage 
by Southerne, and a number of the plays 
of Shakespeare, which none but the Theatre Royal
could stage, so early were they sacrosanct. 
In sixteen seventy seven he composed
a score for Rare-in-All by émigrée
Anne de la Roche-Guilhen which was performed
on Charles the Second’s birthday, once again
at Whitehall. Paisible was part of James
the Second’s entourage and Duchess Mazarin’s
as well. The niece of the French cardinal
had also emigrated here and lived
in Chelsea where James Paisible put on
the entertainments. He got married to
soprano Mary Davis who had been
a teenage wonder twenty years before.
The King was smitten and took her to bed.
He called her 'Moll' and she was popular 
at court. She bore a daughter who grew up
as Lady Mary Tudor and they sang 
together with James Paisible on flute.
So Paisible made Moll respectable.
I have a Naxos disc of ‘setts’ or suites
by Paisible for two recorders and
continuo - sweet warbling music for 
the amateur to play at home in scores 
John Walsh had published in the year before
the wind of Paisible was heard no more.





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