Monday, October 22, 2007

John Stanley (1712-1786)

English organist and composer whose cantatas and keyboard works are especially important. Stanley was a friend and associate of Georg Friedrich Handel. Stanley was born on 17 January 1712, London (England) and died on the 19 May 1786, London (England). He was one of six children born to his father, also John Stanley (an Officer at Swithin's Lane Post Office) and his wife Elizabeth (nee Davy) who had married on 17th June, 1707. When two years old the future composer had a domestic accident which left him almost blind - he could apparently still distinguish colours and possibly some shapes. At the age of seven he began studying music with the organist John Reading but the teacher/student partnership was not fruitful. However, under the guidance of Maurice Greene - composer and organist at St. Paul's Cathedral - he studied "with great diligence, and a success that was astonishing" (Burney). In fact, so outstandingly well did the young Stanley advance that at the age of nine he played the organ (probably as an occasional deputy) at All Hallows, Bread Street. The organist at All Hallows at that time was the composer and harpsichordist William Babell, a former pupil of Handel. Babell died on 23rd September 1723 and exactly one month later the Flying-Post of October 24-6 reported that "by a considerable Majority" of the 66 electors present the eleven year old Stanley was appointed organist to the church at a salary of £20 per annum. The St. James's Evening Post reporting the event stated that Stanley "is become the Surprize of the Town for his ingenious Performance on the Harpsichord and Organ; and, in the opinion of good Judges, bids fair to equal, if not exceed the Merit of his celebrated Predecessor." At the age of fourteen "in preference to a great number of candidates" (Burney) he was chosen as organist at St. Andrew's, Holborn and at the age of seventeen became the youngest person ever to obtain the BMus degree at Oxford University. - Malaspina Biography

Sheet music: John Stanley

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