Polly Young

Polly Young

English singer (soprano), composer and keyboardist
Date of Birth: 07.07.1749
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Polly Young
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Professional Career
  4. Later Years and Legacy
  5. Polly Young passed away on September 20, 1799.

Biography of Polly Young

Polly Young, also known as Maria Young, Polly Barthélemon, and Maria Barthélemon, was born on July 7, 1749, in Covent Garden, London. She was an English soprano singer, composer, and keyboardist, and she came from a renowned English family of musicians, which included several professional singers and organists of the 17th and 18th centuries. Her husband, François-Hippolyte Barthélémon, was a composer and violinist, and their daughter, Cecilia Maria Barthélémon, was a composer and opera singer.

Early Life and Education

Polly was the youngest of three daughters in her family. Her father, Charles Young, worked as a clerk at the Ministry of Finance. Her aunt, Cecilia, was one of the greatest English opera singers (soprano) of the 18th century and the wife of composer Thomas Arne. Her aunt Isabella was married to composer John Frederick Lampe, and her aunt Esther married Charles Jones, a successful music publisher of the 18th century.

As a prodigy, Polly began performing singing numbers and playing the harpsichord at a very young age. In 1755, at the age of 6, she traveled to Ireland with her aunt Cecilia and her husband Thomas. In Dublin, Polly brilliantly performed in Arne's opera "Eliza." However, the trip was overshadowed by the deteriorating relationship between Thomas and Cecilia, and Thomas eventually left Polly's aunt.

Polly remained in Ireland with Mrs. Arne for the next 7 years, where she studied music under her aunt and performed in concerts and on the Dublin stage. In 1761, she played the role of Ariel in Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" at the Smock Alley Theatre and received praise from playwright John O'Keeffe, who was particularly impressed by Polly's performance and her charming face and petite figure.

Professional Career

In September 1762, Charles Young's daughter returned to London and made her debut on the London stage at the Royal Theatre in Covent Garden. She sang and played the harpsichord between acts, performing in the London theater for the next two seasons. In the fall of 1764, she continued to perform small opera roles with an Italian opera troupe.

After meeting the French violinist and composer François-Hippolyte Barthélémon, who led the opera company, Polly became his lawful wife in December 1766.

After her marriage, Polly mostly appeared together with François in Italian opera and began composing music herself. In 1776, she gifted the musical society a series of 6 sonatas for harpsichord or piano and violin, signing them as Maria Barthélémon. Mrs. Barthélémon traveled to Ireland, where she frequently performed, and embarked on a tour of Europe in 1776-1777. She had the honor of performing before Marie Antoinette and her sister Maria Carolina of Austria. Her daughter, Cecilia Maria, performed alongside her, and after returning to London in 1777, the family continued to give highly acclaimed concerts throughout the city.

Later Years and Legacy

In the 1780s, the Barthélémon family faced financial difficulties and struggled to find new work. In early November 1784, Polly wrote a letter of complaint to "The Morning Post," refusing to fulfill her obligations as an "Englishwoman with an impeccable reputation" in such circumstances. Despite this, the Barthélémon family managed to overcome their difficulties and remained influential in London's musical circles.

In 1786, Polly published her 6th series of English and Italian songs. Shortly after, the Barthélémon family began attending a chapel near their home in Vauxhall, which was associated with an orphanage for girls. The New Jerusalem preacher Duché had a significant influence on Polly, and she composed several spiritual hymns and songs as a result.

Polly Young passed away on September 20, 1799.