Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1663-1708 - Pall Mall (Westminster)

Composer and keyboard player Giovanni Battista Draghi was born around 1640 in Rimini. He became a leading court musician in Vienna. In 1663, Draghi was invited to London by Charles II and remained in England for the rest of his life. He established a great reputation as a performer and composer (John Evelyn was one of his admirers). Between 1673 and 1677 he may have taken over some duties in Queen Catherine’s Roman Catholic chapel at Somerset House, Pall Mall, and he succeeded Matthew Locke as the Queen’s organist in 1677.

In 1684 he took part in what became known as the Battle of the Organs. He was hired by master organ maker Renatus Harris in a play-off to gain the contract for a new organ at Temple Church in the City of London. His rival was Father Bernard Smith who hired John Blow and Henry Purcell to demonstrate his organ. The latter won the contest. About Christmas 1687 Draghi was appointed organist of James IIs new Catholic chapel at Whitehall: this post was destined to be short-lived, but after the Revolution of 1688 he continued to serve Queen Catherine until she returned to Portugal in 1692. Draghi was awarded a pension by William III in 1698. He died in May 1708. At the time of his death he lived in the parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields.

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