John Stanley: The forgotten Handel
Friday 07 May 2010
When he was two, John Stanley was blinded in a bizarre domestic accident – he fell onto a marble hearth while carrying a china basin – but this didn't stop him becoming one of the most celebrated organist-composers in 18th-century England. And, anyway, his real misfortune was to be eclipsed by Handel, as was every other British musician in those days.
Tomorrow, six of his anthems will be performed for the first time in more than 200 years: step forward Trevor Barr, head of music at Warwick School, whose diligent researches have brought this music to light.
"As a young organist in Northern Ireland," he says, "I played his organ voluntaries, but when I went back to them later I found myself wondering that else this man had done – I knew very little about him at all. I discovered his involvement with the Foundling Hospital, and in its archive I came across the manuscripts of six of his anthems, and copied them. This was like the days in the Twenties when musicologists were discovering Vivaldi's music."
The performance, by Canticum and the choirs of Warwick School, will be in St Andrew's Church in Holborn, where Stanley was organist for 60 years. "These are very fine works, pretty much as good as Handel's," says Barr.
Tomorrow, 7.30pm, St Andrew's Church, Holborn, London EC4 (tickets 01926 776438, extension 6438; firstname.lastname@example.org)
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