Isaac Cooper

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Isaac Cooper


 Given name:     Isaac
 Middle name:     
 Family name:     Cooper
 Place of birth:     Banff
 Place of death:     
 Year of birth:     c. 1755
 Year of death:     c. 1811
 Profile:     Composer, Musician
 Source of information:     

Biographical notes[edit]

From The Annals of Banff

He lived much respected, was an excellent teacher and a man of great versatility of talent. An idea of his abilities may be learnt from the following extract from an advertisement of his of date 30th march, 1783. We think few professors of the present day will undertake one half of what he promised to do, yet we believe he was capable of performing all. in addition to his giving lessons in dancing, he gave instruction 'on the harpsichord or pianoforte, violin, violoncello, clarionet, pipe an tabor, German flute, the fife in the regimental style, the hautboy, French organ, the Irish organ (bag) pipe; how to make flats, sharps, and the proper chords with the brass keys; and the guitar after a new method of fingering (never taught in this country before), which facilitates the most intricate passages. He likewise begs leave to inform all who have a taste for Highland reels that he has just now composed thirty Strathspey reels for the violin and harpsichord, with agreeable and easy basses, all in the true Strathspey style. His motives for publishing these were his observing the public so much imposed upon by people who have published reels and called them new, and at the same time were only old tunes and new names, and most of them on the wrong key.' In a subsequent advertisement he informs the public that he had been in Edinburgh studying music and dancing, and the people of Banff having been imposed upon by ignorant teachers of dancing, who taught their pupils 'last season for seven months without showing any of the scholars any of the positions,' he promises to teach his pupils 'all the dances in vogue, such as the Minuet de la Cour, the Prince of Wales' Minuet, the Devonshire Minuet, and variety of Cotillions and Allemands, &c, &c. He has likewise learnt from the best masters how to teach two performers to play upon one harpsichord or pianoforte, which is greatly in vogue, and has a most beautiful effect, and never was taught in this country before.' Then follows a discovery in guitar playing, by which a performer may transpose music into different keys without the aid of a moveable bridge. Mr. Cooper was a clever man, and composed a number of beautiful airs, such as "Miss Forbes’ Farewell to Banff," "Lord Banff's Strathspey," "Banff Castle," and many others of equal merit." [Davie's Caledonian Repository]

The pieces Mr. Cooper published appear in "A Collection of Strathspeys, Reel and Irish Jigs for the Piano Forte and Violin, to which are added Scots, Irish and Welch airs composed and selected by I. Cooper at Banff, Price 5s. Sold by the Music Sellers in London, Edinburgh, &c." It contains 58 tunes, among which occur: "Miss Dirom," "Lord Banff's Strathspey," "Banff Lasses, a reel," "Mrs. Gordon of Aberdour's Strathspey," "Mrs. Abernethy's Strathspey," "Mrs. James Duff's Strathspey," "Mrs. Rose's Strathspey," "Miss Forbes’ Farewell to Banff," &c., the lost of which is given at the close of this volume, the original form in which it here appears being somewhat different from that found in modern musical works. There appear to have been other editions of Cooper's Collection, but all are now rare.

The following is a copy of one of Cooper's accounts, now in possession of the present writer:--

Account--Mrs. Rose of Montcoffer to Isaac Cooper,
... To three months dancing to Miss Rose ... ... ... ... £1 1s.
... To the musician ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 0 3s.
... To three months dancing to the three young gentlemen... 3 3s.
... To the musician ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 0 9s.
... To tickets to the Ball ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 0 4s.
... To " for practising to Miss Rose ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 0 3s.
Banff, 9th October, 1784. Received the above--Isaac Cooper £5 3s.

He married Miss Rebecca Reid, sister of Captain Reid, Inverichney, and is said to have died suddenly, c. 1810 or 1811, while playing his favourite tune, "Robin Adair". The Banffshire Journal, remarked, “Isaac Cooper is said to have been a first-class violinist, and was supposed to have been originally in the class of society usually called ‘Gentlemen,’ but he ruined his prospects by his habits”.