Cooke, Thomas Simpson (1782–1848), musician and composer, was the son of Bartlett Cooke, a noted oboist. Trained in music by his father from an early age, he was later a pupil of the prominent Italian musician Tommaso Giordani. In 1791, at the age of 9, Cooke joined Weichsell Billington's augmented band and, despite his relative youth, became an early and active member of the Irish Musical Fund, established in 1787 to support professors of music who had fallen on hard times. By Christmas 1797 Cooke was leader of the orchestra at Crow St., in which capacity he served until 1812. During this time he composed a number of popular music pieces, including ‘Lord Hardwick's [sic] march’ (1804) and an Irish capriccio (1810); a number of his compositions were published at his warehouse at 45 Dame St. between 1810 and 1812. He collaborated with Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan (qv)) in the music for ‘The whim of the moment’, an operetta produced 5 March 1807 at the Theatre Royal, Dublin. At one of his benefit nights he attempted a virtuoso performance on eight different instruments. However, in the pamphlet Familiar epistles to Frederick J__s, Esq., on the present state of the Irish stage an anonymous invective was directed at him, accusing the ‘modest and diffident Mr T. C__ke’ of playing ‘for his own benefit; I am not sure it was either benefit or pleasure to anyone else’. Nevertheless there was little doubt about the scale of Cooke's talents. An excellent violinist, and skilled in at least eight other instruments, as well as possessing a well trained voice, he once amazed Michael Kelly, the conductor of the Rotunda orchestra that was led by Cooke, by accompanying a difficult aria unsighted on his violin, while simultaneously singing it, without any error. He was also much valued in company for his good humour and wit.
At another of his benefits, on 18 June 1811, he was a resounding success as a tenor vocalist in the part of the Seraskier in Storace's opera ‘The siege of Belgrade’. This triumph brought him to London, where he sang the same part at the English Opera House (Lyceum) from 13 July 1813. Two years later on 14 September 1815 he appeared as Don Carlos in R. B. Sheridan (qv) and Thomas Linley's ‘The duenna’ at Drury Lane Theatre and continued as a tenor at Drury Lane for almost twenty years. Unfazed by any criticisms of his earlier performance, at a benefit in 1820 he delivered another virtuoso performance, this time on nine separate instruments in succession. By 1821 he was titled ‘director of the music at Drury Lane Theatre’ and two years later added the role of leader of the band to his other duties. Between 1828 and 1830 he served as a musical manager at Vauxhall Gardens. Later, he was engaged at Drury Lane and Covent Garden as a director of music and conductor, and acted as principal tenor vocalist at the chapel of the Bavarian embassy for several years until resigning in 1838. His final appointment was as leader of the Concert of Antient Music, succeeding John Loder, in 1846. He also taught singing and had many pupils.
Equally versatile as a composer, he wrote operas, masses, glees, catches, songs, vocal duets, and even treatises on singing. His oeuvre includes ‘Frederick the Great’ (1814), ‘Oberon’ (1826), ‘Peter the Great’ (1829), ‘St Patrick's eve’ (1832), and ‘King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table’ (1834). In 1826 a duet, ‘The sisters’, won praise, and the following year two of his songs were reviewed as having a deep feeling for the poetry. One accepted criticism of his works was that passion overrode melody, for example in his song ‘Gentle Zitella, or Love's Ritornella’ from ‘The brigand’ (1829).
He married a Miss Howell and it appears that the union produced at least one child. There are only details for the eldest son, Henry Angelo Michael (known as Grattan) Cooke, who was born in Dublin in 1809 and served as principal oboist in many orchestras before becoming bandmaster of the 2nd Life Guards (1849–56).
Cooke lived in Great Portland St., London. He died there 26 February 1848 and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery.