Charles Stanley, the blind composer

Dear Friends,

For this weekend’s prelude, I will play Voluntary in G major by English organist and composer Charles John Stanley (1712 - 1786).

Born in London, Stanley suffered a critical accident at the age of two which left him effectively blind.  Despite his handicap, Stanley began studying music at the age of seven and demonstrated exceptional ability.  He studied with Maurice Green, organist of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and went on to become the youngest person ever to earn the Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Oxford, graduating at the age of seventeen.

In1734, Stanley was appointed organist to the Society of the Inner Temple.  His playing there garnered the attention of many prominent musicians, perhaps most notably George Frederic Handel.  The two became good friends, and would work together many times in the years to come.

Stanley became a great advocate of Handel’s music, and conducted many performances of Messiah.  When confronted with a new score to learn, such as Messiah, he would ask his sister-in-law to play it for him just once.  In that single hearing, Stanley would commit the entire score to memory.

A noted composer in his own right, Stanley published numerous operas, a wealth of ceremonial music, and three volumes of voluntaries for organ.

Enjoy the music - and until we meet again, take care and stay well!


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