In a previous blogpost in March 2021 we wrote about an eighteenth-century engraving depicting ‘A Concert in Cambridge’ that hangs on the wall in the Rowe Music Library in King’s. That blogpost identified all the individuals in the rather cosmopolitan group of musicians captured in the engraving and provided brief biographical information about each of them. We had a wonderful excuse to revisit the engraving in the autumn of 2022 when the College Librarian, Dr James Clements, took part in the filming of an episode of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001mgp3/who-do-you-think-you-are-series-20-1-andrew-lloyd-webber) which focusses on the ancestry of the composer and musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of whose ancestors features in the engraving.
The musician in question is the rather stern-looking bespectacled cellist in the centre of the engraving. He is believed to be the Dutch musician Alexis Magito (1711–1773) who came from a family of showmen, acrobats and musicians who had lived in Holland since about 1675. His father, Johannes Alexis, was a violin teacher and impressario, and another close relative, Pieter Magito, is thought to have been the first circus master in Holland. By the second half of the eighteenth century the word Magito had become synonymous with fairground showmen, circus entertainers and musicians. We discovered in the episode that Alexis is Andrew’s six times great-uncle, and his father Johannes his six times great-grandfather.
Born in Rotterdam in 1711, Alexis lived in Gouda for a few years in the 1730s, before going back to Rotterdam during the 1740s, and enrolling at the University of Leiden in 1746. There is plenty of evidence of his activities on the Dutch concert scene up until 1754, but by 1760 it is clear he had moved to England, perhaps to London initially. By the early 1760s there is documentary evidence that he was active on the Cambridge concert scene, alongside other figures in our 1767 concert engraving including the Dutch-born violinist Pieter Hellendaal (1721–1799) (on the far left of the engraving) and Cambridge double bassist John Wynne (1720–1788). The following newspaper concert advertisement from 1764, which features in the episode, demonstrates this:
It’s clear that the career of Alexis Magito took a somewhat different musical path from that of some of his family, and he was well enough known on the British concert scene as a cellist to be referred to without his surname as only ‘Mr Alexis’. Like several of the musicians in our engraving, his skills weren’t limited to musical performance, however, as we know he also composed music as well as engraved music for publication. The cellist and musicologist Elske Tinbergen has identified four publications that were engraved by Alexis Magito, one of which is the Concerti Armonici by Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692–1766) published in the Hague in about 1740, a copy of which is in the Library at King’s.
We noted in the earlier blog post that Magito’s six cello sonatas were printed and published by the double bassist in our engraving, John Wynne, in Cambridge in the 1760s. Like Magito, Wynne also composed music as well as having a successful music shop in Cambridge in Regent Walk (nowadays a lawn in front of Senate House). We saw in the advertisement for the ‘Grand Concert’ above that concert tickets could also be purchased at Wynne’s music shop.
In the Rowe Music Library we have a copy of Ten English songs by John Wynne published for him in London by John Johnson in 1754. Being published in London will have ensured a wider potential audience, but as the title page clearly states it was ‘printed for the author and sold by him at his House in the Regent Walk, Cambridge’.
Another multi-talented figure in our group is the oboist John Frederick Ranish (1692/3–1777). Thought to have been of East-European origin, Ranish also played the flute, and published two sets of flute sonatas. The subscription list to his first set (opus 1, published circa 1735) includes the Cambridge Musical Society as well as some thirty names of individuals associated with Cambridge Colleges, indicating that he had considerable standing in the city at that time. In the Rowe Music Library we have his second set of flute sonatas (opus 2, 1744) published by John Walsh, one of the most important music engravers and publishers of the time, in London.
Finally we turn to the figure on the far right of our engraving, listed as ‘Wood’ on the surviving copies, who appears to be singing, and is curiously not mentioned in the literature about the engraving. The research for the episode uncovered a newspaper advertisement for a concert that took place in Ely in 1770 which was ‘For Mr. Wood, Organist’, and he was clearly known to Alexis Magito who is playing the cello in the concert, and also John Wynne who sold tickets for the concert in his shop. It seems very likely the musician Wood in our engraving and in this concert is David Wood, organist at Ely Cathedral between 1768 and 1774, who became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1774 and passed away in 1786. The violinist in the concert, Mr Alexis Jun[ior], is thought to be Alexis Magito’s younger brother and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s five times great-grandfather Henry Alexis Magito who was born in 1732.
Working with the director Harvey Lilley, producer Laia Niubo and the team at Wall to Wall who produced this episode, and of course with Andrew Lloyd Webber and being able to play this small part in telling his genealogy story was not only great fun, but gave us another opportunity to take a second look at this engraving resulting in a better understanding of the activities of the musicians it depicts and the ways in which the engraving relates to other music holdings in King’s Library.
 The biographical information about Alexis Magito and his family comes from Elske Tinbergen, ‘The “cello” in the Low Countries: the instrument and its practical use in the 17th and 18th centuries’ (PhD Diss., University of Leiden, 2018), pp. 255-271. See http://hdl.handle.net/1887/68235
 The researcher for the episode who found the newspaper concert advertisements was Xin Fan.