Voluntary No. 1 from Ten Voluntaries, Op. 5

by Max Derrickson

John Stanley
(Born in London in 1712; died in London in 1786)

Voluntary No. 1 from Ten Voluntaries, Op. 5
1. Adagio
2. Andante – Trumpet voluntary
3. Slow
4. Allegro

In Baroque England, the organ was very much of part of Christian worship services and composers became especially keen on using the different stops (specific sets of pipes and sounds) available on an organ.  One such stop that particularly captured the imagination of the great British composers was the “Trumpet” stop, which, like a trumpet, belted out loud and clarion-like sounds.  It even created, in a way, its own genre of music called the Trumpet Voluntary – the Voluntary was the music played before and after the service, often either improvised or written to sound extemporaneous.  The form had multiple movements, one of which typically featured the organ’s Trumpet stop. 

Even though English organist and composer John Stanley went nearly completely blind at about the age of two, he nonetheless became a virtuoso organist by age 9 and at 17 was the youngest student to ever attain a Bachelor of Music degree from Oxford.  He was so prolific and talented that Handel, who spent a good deal of his life in London, travelled to hear the younger Stanley play the organ.  So accomplished was Stanley, in fact, that when Handel died in 1760, Stanley took over several of Handel’s musical duties.  Stanley’s music was excellent, too – melodic and crisp and well crafted, such as his delightful set of Ten Voluntaries from 1748, from which we will hear the first of the set.  Its Trumpet Voluntary (Andante) movement is especially joyful and regal.