Thomas Adams

Thomas Adams was born Sept. 5, 1785. He commenced the study of music, under Dr. Bushy, at eleven years of age.

In 1802 he obtained the appointment of organist of Carlisle Chapel, Lambeth, which he held until 1814, in which year (on March 22) he was elected, after a competition in playing with twenty eight other candidates, organist, of the church of St. Paul’s, Deptford. On the erection of the church of St. George, Camberwell, in 1824, Adams was chosen as its organist, and on the opening of the church (March 26, 1824), an anthem for five voices, ‘O how amiable are Thy dwellings’, composed by him for the occasion, was performed. In 1833 he was appointed organist of the then newly rebuilt church of St. Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street, which post he held, conjointly with that of Camberwell, until his death.

From their commencement Adams for many years superintended the annual evening performances on the Appolonicon, a large chamber organ of peculiar construction. For a period of upwards of a quarter of a century Adams occupied a very prominent position as a performer, and was commonly called ‘the Thalberg of the organ’. Excelling in both the strict and free styles, he possessed a remarkable faculty for extemporizing. His services were in constant requisition by the organ builders to exhibit the qualities of the newly built organs, prior to their removal from the factories to their places of destination. On such occasions the factories were crowded by professors and amateurs, anxious of witnessing the performances, and Adams played from ten to twelve pieces of the most varied kind, including two or three extemporaneous effusions, not only with great effect, but often with remarkable manner which enraptured his hearers. Even in so small a field as the interludes then customary between the verses of a psalm tune, he would exhibit this talent to an extraordinary degree.

Adams was a composer for, as well as many organ pieces, fugues, and voluntaries, besides ninety interludes, and several variations on popular themes. He also published numerous variations for the pianoforte, and many vocal pieces, consisting of short anthems, hymns, and sacred songs.

Besides his published works, Adams composed several other pieces of various descriptions, which yet remain in manuscript. [The Musical Times of Sept 1899 contains an account of his organ recitals, and a set of harmonies to the ‘Old Hundredth’, an amusing burlesque of the tortuous style of treatment then coming into fashion.] He died Sept. 15, 1858. His youngest son, Edgar Adams, followed the profession of his father, and held for many years the appointment of organist of the church of St. Lawrence, Jewry, near Guildhall. He died May 2, 1890.