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A good part of Simpson’s compositions is contained in theoretical publications, notably Divisions — a type of variations on a theme in the Bass — in his own “The Division-Violist, or An Introduction to the Playing Upon a Ground” (London, 1659, written for John Bolles), praised by Jenkins, Coleman, and Locke; its practical approach to instruction is reflected in the titles of its three sections: “Of the Viol it self, with Instructions how to Play upon it,” “Use of the Concords, or a Compendium of Descant,” and “The Method of ordering Division to a Ground.”; revised 2nd edition in 1665 as “Chelys minuritionum artificio exornata: The Division-viol, or the Art of Playing Extempore upon a Ground”, Airs — a genre fit for vocal singing — in his “The Principles of Practical Musick” (London, 1665, inspired by another pupil, Sir John St. Barbe; augmented and revised in 1667 as “a Compendium of Practical Musick”). He further wrote — all in manuscript and for the Viol, with or without other instruments, but varying in difficulty — more Divisions, Airs, and another pair of instrumental genres, Fantasias and Fantasy-suites. He also annotated the section on Thomas Campion in John Playford’s “A Brief Introduction to the Skill of Musick” (2n ed., London, 1655).
- Months and Seasons
As a veteran of the English Civil War on the Royalist (Stuart dynasty) side (against Richard Cromwell’s puritan “protectorate”) in 1643–44, Simpson was employed as music tutor to sir Robert Bolles’s son John (born 1641). He won esteem as player of the viol (the English term for the (Viola da) Gamba), theoretical-pedagogical music writer and composer. About 1663 he bought an estate near Egton.
[Contribution by Koenraad Vissers. Mainly based on HOASM (link below) and N. Slominsky’s “The Concise Baker’‘s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians”, New York, Schirmer Books, 8th edition, 1994.]