John Stanley was born in London on 17th January 1712. At the age of two he had a fall at home which resulted in near-total blindness. He began studying music at seven, and did so well that by the age of nine he was playing the organ at All Hallows, Bread Street. When the chief organist died two years later, Stanley was voted in as the successor, and was given a wage of £20 per year. When he was 14 he beat many talented candidates to become organist at St Andrews, Holborn, and at 17 was the youngest person ever to obtain a BMus degree at Oxford. In 1734 he became the organist to the Society of the Inner Temple, and kept that position for the rest of his life.
Works that survive include several sets of Voluntaries for Organ, concertos for strings and Organ, cantatas and solos for flute and continuo. His performances were very popular, attended by great musicians including Handel. Published works were reissued several times.
Stanley was a man of remarkable talent, not only musically. He had a faultless memory, allowing him to remember people from their voices, beat his friends at cards, and take visitors on guided walks around Epping Forest despite having never seen the landmarks he pointed out. His reputation as a singular individual was enhanced by the fact that every hair on his body fell out for no obvious reason at around age 70. He died at home on May 19th 1786.
Related composers: Handel