Thomson, John, 1805-1841

John Thomson, b. Sprouston, Kelso, 28 October 1805; d. Edinburgh, 6 May 1841

Scottish composer and conductor
First Reid Professor of the Theory of Music at the University of Edinburgh, elected 14 October 1839 

28 October 2015 is the 210th anniversary of the birth of John Thomson.   
This drew attention to the number of anniversary years ending in 00 or 05, which are closely associated with the history of Music at Edinburgh and the Reid Concerts.  The following link takes you to a selected list on the blog page: 

Period in office: 

John Thomson was appointed in 1839 as the first Professor of the Theory of Music at the University of Edinburgh.  

Thomson in 1929, met Felix Mendelssohn when the composer visited Edinburgh and was persuaded to develop his musical studies in Germany, staying for a time with the Mendelssohn family. 
Having spent time away in Leipzig and London, Thomson returned to Edinburgh in 1836 and in 1838 with Finlay Dun, edited a joint publication of arrangements of Scottish songs, “The Vocal Melodies of Scotland”. 

In 1840 he married Jane [Janet] daughter of John Lee, Principal of the University of Edinburgh (appointed 1840).

He organised and directed the first Annual Reid concert on Friday evening, 12 February 1841.  
Due to public demand for tickets the concert was repeated on Saturday morning, 13 February 1841.
Professor Thomson is credited with being the first to introduce analytical programme notes on the works performed. 

The first Reid concert was directed by Thomson in February 1841 and the following words were printed in the front of the programme booklet for the performance:
In compliance with the Testator's instructions, … - namely, the encouragement and improvement of the musical taste of his countrymen, - the Senatus Academicus, …  directed Mr Thomson, the Professor of Music, to take steps for celebrating General Reid's Birth-day, in the present year, according to the terms of the Bequest; and being desirous, that upon this, the first occasion of fulfilling his wishes, the Concert should be conducted on a scale worthy of his munificence to the University, they determined that it should be opened amply to the Public of Edinburgh, and … they placed a sum of £200 at the disposal of the Professor, in addition to the proceeds of the sale of tickets at the usual price for ordinary Concerts.

For this first commemoration concert Professor Thomson selected the Grand March no. 4 of “Twelve Marches” composed by General Reid and he noted in the programme:
This composition will be at once recognised as that to which the well-known verses “In the garb of old Gaul” have been written.  Any other March might have been selected from the set, but Thomson thought that the performance of this fine melody in its original form would prove interesting, more particularly as the public are now, for the first time, made aware of the name of the author to whom they are indebted for one of the most vigorous and spirit-stirring of our adopted National Songs.

The 1841 printed concert programme is notable as it has been credited as one of the first in the United Kingdom to include formal analytical programme notes written by Thomson.   The concert was well received and Thomson praised in the local press for the success of the event.  Sadly, he was unable to build on this success due to ill health and passed away in May 1841 at the age of 35.

Concerts in the Reid Series featuring compositions by John Thomson