Smart, George Thomas (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 52
Smart, George Thomas

by Robin Humphrey Legge
Contains subarticles Henry Smart (1778–1823) & Henry Thomas Smart (1813–1879).

SMART, Sir GEORGE THOMAS (1776–1867), musician and orchestral conductor, born in London on 10 May 1776, was the son of George Smart, a music-seller, and his wife Ann (born Embrey). He began his musical career as a chorister at the Chapel Royal, St. James's, and learnt music at various times from Ayrton, Dupuis. J. B. Cramer, and Arnold. He sang at the first Handel commemoration festival at Westminster Abbey, 1784, and conducted the last there in 1834. At fifteen he left the choir and became organist to St. James's Chapel, Hampstead Road; he often played the violin in Salomon's band, and taught singing. In 1811 Smart visited Dublin to conduct a series of concerts, and was knighted by the Duke of Richmond, lord lieutenant of Ireland. In 1813 he became an original member of the Philharmonic Society, for which he often conducted. For thirteen years (1813–25) he was conductor of the city concerts and the Lent oratorios, at which in 1814 he produced for the first time in England Beethoven's ‘Mount of Olives’ in his own arrangement. In 1822 Smart became joint organist of the Chapel Royal, St. James's, and afterwards went to Vienna to consult Beethoven as to the correct tempi of the movements of his symphonies. On his return he was appointed musical director of Covent Garden under Charles Kemble. With Kemble he subsequently visited Weber in Germany. They induced that composer to come to England and produce a new opera, ‘Oberon,’ there. Weber died in Smart's house in Great Portland Street, on 3 June 1826; and Smart was mainly instrumental in erecting the Weber statue in Dresden. In 1824 Smart conducted the first Norwich festival, and in 1836 he produced for the first time in England Mendelssohn's ‘St. Paul’ at Liverpool. Two years later he became composer to the Chapel Royal, and conducted the music at the funeral of George IV, and at the coronations of William IV and Queen Victoria. In course of time Smart was conductor of nearly all the principal provincial festivals, and was presented with the freedom of Dublin and Norwich in recognition of his musical attainments. He was a life governor of the Norwich Great Hospital, and was grand organist of the ‘Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.’ He was much sought after as a teacher of singing almost to the end of his days. Smart died at Bedford Square on 23 Feb. 1867, and was buried at Kensal Green. He married Frances Margaret Hope, daughter of the Rev. C. S. Hope of Derby, on 28 Feb. 1832, and had one daughter.

Sir George Smart had a wide knowledge of the Handelian traditions, obtained from singers who had appeared under Handel. He was a fine conductor, and his abundant notes to the Norwich festival programmes he conducted (now in the British Museum) attest his scrupulous care. He wrote some church music and glees, and edited Gibbons's first set of madrigals, and Handel's Dettingen ‘Te Deum’ for the Musical Antiquarian Society. A portrait of him is in the possession of the Royal Society of Musicians.

Henry Smart (1778–1823), musician, brother of the foregoing, born in 1778, studied the violin under William Cramer [q. v.], and was engaged as violinist in the orchestras at Covent Garden, the Haymarket, and the Concerts of Ancient Music (wherein he was also principal viola). In 1803 he retired from the musical profession to join a brewery with his father, but on its failure he resumed his original profession, and, besides teaching, led the bands of the English Opera House, the Lent oratorios, the Philharmonic concerts, and Drury Lane till 1821. It was his boast that he had made the latter orchestra an entirely English concern. In 1821 he opened a pianoforte factory in Berners Street, to further a patent for an improved mechanism for ‘touch,’ and he invented a metronome which ‘gave simultaneously a visible and an audible beating of every possible division of time’ (Quart. Mus. Mag. and Rev. iii. 303). He composed a successful ballet, ‘Laurette,’ produced at the King's Theatre. He was highly esteemed by his orchestral colleagues. He died at Dublin on 27 Nov. 1823. About 1810 he married Ann Stanton Bagnold, and had issue,

Henry Thomas Smart (1813–1879), organist and composer, who was born in London on 26 Oct. 1813, was educated at Highgate, and while a boy frequently visited Robson's organ factory, where he learnt the elements of his ultimately profound knowledge of organ construction and practical mechanics. He subsequently was articled to a solicitor, but soon abandoned law for music, and built himself a set of organ pedals for his piano. In 1831 he became organist at Blackburn, Lancashire, and four years later wrote his first important composition, an anthem for the three-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, which was performed at Blackburn parish church on 4 Oct. 1835. Leaving Lancashire on being appointed organist to St. Philip's, Regent Street, London, he started as a teacher of music, and became critic for the ‘Atlas’ newspaper. In March 1844 he was appointed organist to St. Luke's, Old Street, E.C., a post he held twenty-one years; and later to St. Pancras Church, where he remained fourteen years. All his life Smart suffered from a weakness of the eyes which ultimately became total blindness, when his numerous compositions had to be dictated to an amanuensis. He designed, among many organs, those in the City and St. Andrew's halls in Glasgow, and the town-hall at Leeds. In 1878 he went to Dublin to examine and report on the organ in Christ Church Cathedral. He died in London on 6 July 1879, and was buried at Hampstead. A civil list pension of 100l. a year was granted to Smart, but not gazetted until two days after his death. His portrait was painted by William Bradley [q. v.]

As an organist Henry Thomas Smart was esteemed, and is said to have possessed great skill in extemporisation. His compositions were numerous, and in many cases extremely popular. He wrote an opera, ‘Berta,’ produced at the Haymarket with scant success in 1855; and left ‘Undine’ and ‘The Surrender of Calais’ unfinished. Of his church music, a service in F has enjoyed a great vogue; he also wrote other services in G (about 1850); in G for ‘The Practical Choirmaster,’ 1870; and an evening service in B flat for the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy, 1870. His anthems include ‘O God the King of Glory,’ ‘Sing to the Lord,’ and ‘Thou hast been our Refuge,’ written for the fourth and sixth annual festivals of the London Church Choir Association, 1876 and 1878. Smart wrote upwards of eighty part-songs, of which the following may be mentioned either for their popularity or merit: ‘Shepherd's Lament,’ and ‘Nature's Praise;’ about forty vocal trios, fifty duets, and 167 songs, of which ‘Estelle’ was often sung by Madame Dolby; ‘The Lady of the Sea’ (1862); ‘The Abbess.’

A cantata, ‘The Bride of Dunkerron’ (text by F. Enoch), which brought him much fame, was produced at the Birmingham Festival, 1864; he also wrote ‘King René's Daughter,’ ‘Jacob,’ and ‘The Fisher-maidens.’ His organ works are perhaps the most popular (in the best sense) of all his works. The list includes: ‘A series of Organ Pieces,’ and many pieces written for the ‘Organist's Quarterly.’ Smart edited ‘A Choral Book,’ 1856, and ‘A Presbyterian Hymnal,’ 1875.

[Information from Mrs. Henry Joachim; Cox's Mus. Recoll. i. 80 et seq.; R. H. Legge's Annals of the Norwich Festivals; Illustrated London News, 16 March 1867; Musical World, xii.; Times, 10 Sept. 1864; a list of H. T. Smart's

works, compiled from the Brit. Mus. Cat., is in Dr. Spark's Life of Henry Smart, 1881; Quart. Mus. Mag. and Review, iii. 303, and v. 561; Georgian Era, iv.; Dict. of Music, 1824; Burial Reg. Hampstead Cemetery.]

R. H. L.