Smart, Henry Thomas


b St Marylebone, Middx (London) 1813, d Hampstead, Middx 1879. Highgate Sch; gave up training as a solicitor for a largely self-taught musical career notwithstanding his musical relatives (see previous entry). He often visited the firm of Robson and Flight to learn about organ-building, and fixed pedals to the family piano to ‘fiddle about’ with Bach fugues. A virtuoso at extemporization, his first formal appointment was as organist at Blackburn Parish Ch aged 18, which he held for 5 years; then St Philip’s Regent St (1836), St Luke’s Old St (from 1844 to 1865 when he became totally blind) and then for 5 more years at St Pancras’ Euston Rd. The Old St appointment was by competition; on finding that Smart was a candidate, the others reputedly folded their music and quietly left. Continued playing and composing, including most of his organ music and an oratorio Jacob, with his daughter as amanuensis. Composed 84 ‘quintessentially English’ hymn tunes (David G Hill) published first in 15 collections) and 350 secular works including cantatas and part-songs; edited 4 books of church music and promoted congregational singing, preferably in unison. He urged that hymns be sung slowly, and often transposed tunes downwards; Grove describes him as not only the leading concert organist in England, but ‘an especially happy accompanist in the service’. It is perhaps fitting that his confident hymn-tunes have outlasted his other work. Nos.115=496=631, 528=618, 604=859, 665, 937.

Tunes and arrangements by Smart, Henry Thomas

Tune Name
Regent Square