Ware, William (1757–1826), organist, teacher, and concert promoter, was born 17 January 1757 at Armagh city; nothing is known of his parents. It was to Ware that Edward Bunting (qv) was apprenticed in 1784. Trained in Armagh cathedral, Ware arrived in Belfast in 1776, declaring himself ‘to have been employed these two years by many families of the first distinction in the County of Down, and now returned from Dublin, where he has been a considerable time for his improvement’. St Anne's, the parish church of Belfast, had been opened in 1776 in Donegall St., and in 1781 Ware appears as organist at the opening of the organ. Having charge of the only church organ in the growing town of some 13,000 inhabitants, he saw commercial as well as artistic advantages, and with the help of the newspapers made use of them. His wife (whose name is not known) ran a girls' boarding school in the family home in Donegall St.; he taught music in it, and used his wife's advertisements of the school to add his own NBs, drawing attention to the spinets, harpsichords, and pianofortes which he had for sale new or secondhand, with tuning, maintenance, and repair services provided by himself. They prospered: at a time when his salary in St Anne's was £50 a year he and his wife were earning £800. Almost immediately on becoming the organist of St Anne's he advertised for an apprentice. Three years later this was the post to which he appointed the 11-year-old Bunting. Ware showed an aptitude for taking new initiatives and, if they proved of limited attraction or success, withdrawing before his core interests suffered damage. In the increasingly politicised Belfast of the time, he confined his political activity to joining the Volunteers and playing the oboe in the band. Appointed as one of the three professional musicians to take down the music at the harpers' festival of 1792, he left it to his apprentice.
In 1782 he took part in a charity concert in the Exchange Rooms with Michael Atkins, manager of the theatre, and Byrne, Atkins's company musician, and in 1784 he played a harpsichord concerto in a notable concert with London professionals and the private band of John O'Neill. Perceiving the emergence in the town of a musical public for this new activity, he endeavoured to put concerts on a subscription-season basis. The enterprise was delayed by the illness of Mrs Ware and her death on 18 September 1786, with the attenuation of their lifestyle. By April 1789 an advertisement for ‘Mrs Ware's school’ indicates that William Ware had married a second wife, said by a late source to have been the former assistant in the school, Miss Agnew. By that time Ware had taken the plunge into concert promotion with a comprehensive and ambitious advertisement of a full season of professional concerts, each with vocal and instrumental soloists. Not one concert of the series seems to have taken place, and no concerts took place in the following 1778–9 season. Soloists of quality, it seemed, were not to be engaged for concerts in so small and remote a town as Belfast. A promoter would have to rely on the chance of an artist travelling between Dublin and Scotland via Belfast, or on the presence nearby of an artist or group of artists on a visit to a big house. The latter circumstance occurred in the 1789–90 season, and Ware was able to announce a series of eight concerts with the singer Mrs Arnold, who was on a visit to the Downshires at Hillsborough, and the violinist John Mahon and the flautist Andrew Ashe (qv), who were staying with the O'Neills at Shane's Castle. Only three of Ware's concerts took place (the second, on 7 December 1789, notable for the debut of his pupil Edward Bunting as a keyboard soloist), but the Belfast concertgoers enjoyed seven, the other four being the visiting artists’ benefits, organised by themselves. Further concert series, in which Ware might have put his growing knowledge of this difficult art to advantage, were negated by the worsening political situation. At a time in the 1790s when Belfast was under close government attention for sedition and people were seeking out-of-town places to live, Ware and his wife sold up and reestablished the girls' school in a seaside suburb; two years later (1796) they returned to Belfast. In the summer of 1799, at the end of the turbulent decade, a group of professional musicians from Dublin gave a series of five concerts in Belfast in the Exchange Rooms and the theatre. They were remarkable not only for their standard and consistency of programme but the manner in which the visitors accepted help from and identified with the local musicians. The vicar of St Anne's, persuaded no doubt by his organist and assistant organist, took the opportunity of a charity sermon to give a cathedral service, followed by a ‘grand selection’ of Handel's (qv) music, in which the visiting artists took part and Bunting played the organ. When the visitors were leaving Belfast they acknowledged ‘the assistance they have received from their brother performers in this town’ (Belfast News-Letter, 1 Oct. 1799). By the end of the century, however, Ware had left the concert field to Bunting (who was to discover his own limitations in due course). Ware, incidentally, deserves due credit for putting up, in these difficult times, with the frequent absences of his assistant Bunting on researches for the first two volumes of The ancient music of Ireland; there is no indication that he advertised for an apprentice to replace him. After Bunting left St Anne's for a post of his own in Second Presbyterian church, their ways diverged. Bunting was to move to St George's in 1817 and to leave Belfast for Dublin after his marriage in 1819.
Concentrating in the nineteenth century on the organ in St Anne's and on his teaching and commercial activities, Ware added to them two excursions into publication: one was Sacred harmony (Dublin, 1809), a selection of the music used in worship in St Anne's, the other Easy instructions (Dublin, 1803; reprinted 1808, 1811), a primer for keyboard beginners. In his old age the urge to innovate had not left him. In 1814 Johann Bernard Logier (qv), then based in Dublin, patented the chiroplast, a wooden device to assist the teaching of the piano. Extravagant claims were made for it; within the year Ware had procured one, set it up in his own house in Belfast, and was advertising for pupils. The chiroplast did not reach London until 1817.
William Ware died 6 January 1826 at his daughter's house in Arthur St., his wife Susanna having predeceased him a few weeks earlier on 15 November 1825.