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John Stafford Smith

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John Stafford Smith


John Stafford Smith (30 March 1750, Gloucester, England – 21 September 1836, London, England) was a British composer, church organist, and early musicologist. He was one of the first serious collectors of manuscripts of works by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Stafford Smith is best known for writing the music for The Anacreontic Song, which became the tune for the American patriotic song The Star-Spangled Banner following the War of 1812, and in 1931 was adopted as the national anthem of the United States of America.

His father was organist at Gloucester Cathedral. While still a boy, John was sent to London to study under John Boyce, and at the age of eleven, he joined the choir at the Chapel Royal. He had a long career there, becoming a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1784 and a lay vicar the following year. He played organ at the Gloucester Festival of 1790 and in 1802 was made one of the organists at the Chapel Royal.

Smith gained renown as a composer of glees, one of which was Anacreon in Heaven, which was later adapted for use with words written by Francis Scott Key, and designated the official national anthem of the United States in 1931. Smith is credited with being the first English musicologist. He collected many old manuscripts which were published in a collection by Sir John Hawkins. He amassed an extensive collection of old manuscripts, including some which were owned by Johann Sabastian Bach.

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