Smith, John Stafford (DNB00)

SMITH, JOHN STAFFORD (1750–1836), composer and musical antiquary, son of Martin Smith, organist of Gloucester Cathedral, was born at Gloucester in 1750. He received his earliest musical instruction from his father, and subsequently became a pupil of Dr. Boyce and a chorister of the Chapel Royal under James Nares [q. v.] In 1784 he was appointed a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and in 1785 a lay vicar of Westminster Abbey. In 1802 he succeeded Dr. Arnold as one of the organists of the Chapel Royal, and from 1805 to 1817 held the office of master of the children. He published five collections of glees, many of which have enjoyed well-deserved popularity. ‘Let happy lovers fly,’ ‘Blest pair of syrens,’ ‘While fools their time,’ and ‘Return, blest days,’ all gained prizes between 1773 and 1777; other familiar compositions by Smith are ‘What shall he have that killed the deer?’ ‘Hark, the hollow woods resounding,’ and the madrigal, ‘Flora now calleth forth each flower.’ In 1779 he published a collection of English songs composed about 1500, taken from manuscripts of that date. In 1793 appeared a volume of anthems, and in 1812 his most important work, ‘Musica Antiqua,’ a collection of old music from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Sir John Hawkins, in the preface to his ‘History of Music,’ acknowledges the valuable assistance which Smith gave him in the preparation of the work. He died on 20 Sept. 1836. In 1844 his interesting library was dispersed at an obscure auction-room in Gray's Inn Road, and—no connoisseurs being present—many valuable manuscripts were lost to the musical world.

[Grove's Dictionary of Music, iii. 540; Fétis's Biographie Universelle des Musiciens, viii. 222; Naumann's Hist. of Music, p. 1276.]

R. N.