The Master of the Queen's Music is the musical equivalent of the Poet Laureate, one of Britain's foremost composers appointed to this honorary title with no specific duties, but who can be expected to compose works from time to time on special occasions. He is paid a nominal stipend.

When a king is on the throne, the office was Master of the King's Musick. Until 1975 the title said Musick with a K. This anachronism was dispensed with on the appointment of the Australian Malcolm Williamson, who died last year. The post has until this year been held for life. In March 2004 Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was appointed for a ten-year term, the change being to enable fresh blood in composers to be brought in. So perhaps in 2014 they'll appoint Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Gavin Bryars, or Judith Weir, who'll be well and truly old blood by then but who at least were once avant garde.

In the twentieth century we have been lucky, and the Master of the King's or Queen's Musick has often been unquestionably one of the leading composers of the day: Elgar, Bax, Bliss, and now Maxwell Davies. Before that however, only one name rings any bell with me, that of William Boyce: all the rest are just WHO?? In fact I'm not even going to hardlink them. /msg me if you've ever heard of the others and want to node them, and I will.

Nicholas Lanier (1625-49, 1660-66)
Louis Grabu (1666-74)
Nicholas Staggins (1674-1700)
John Eccles (1700-35)
Maurice Greene (1735-55)
William Boyce (1755-79)
John Stanley (1779-86)
William Parsons (1786-1817)
William Shield (1817-29)
Christian Kramer (1829-34)
Franz Cramer (1834-48)
George Frederick Anderson (1848-70)
William George Cusins (1870-93)
Walter Parratt (1893-1924)
Sir Edward Elgar (1924-34)
Walford Davies (1934-41)
Sir Arnold Bax (1942-52)
Sir Arthur Bliss (1953-75)
Sir Malcolm Williamson (1975-2003)
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (2004-)

Royal appointment: http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page2965.asp

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