The historic bells of Gloucester Cathedral will ring out America’s national anthem - The Star-Spangled Banner - this week, in honour of the Englishman who composed it.
On American Independence Day - Thursday, July 4th, the 7th century Cathedral will play the historic tune at 11am, 12.45pm and 2pm for Americans and Brits alike to remember the origin of the world famous music.
It was composed by John Stafford Smith, who was born in the city of Gloucester in 1750. His father was the cathedral organist, he was baptised there, attended the cathedral school and was also a chorister.
John composed the Anacreontic Song for a London gentlemen’s club, with the rousing and popular tune making its way across the Atlantic Ocean where it was set to the words of Francis Scott Key’s famous poem, Defence of Fort McHenry, set during the War of 1812.
To this day, the famous stars and stripes flag of the USA hangs next to the Union Flag.
The bells will serve as a taster for regular performances of the iconic tune in 2020, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to America.
Visitors and group tours to Gloucester will be able to get involved in the international commemorations and learn more about the historic connections between the UK and the US though a new tour package called ‘Whitefield’s Gloucester & The Star-Spangled Banner’. It involves number of activities including:
A truly profound experience as you enjoy an organ recital performance of the American national anthem. Gloucester Cathedral is the birthplace of John Stafford Smith (1750 – 1836) who is best known for writing the music for The Star-Spangled Banner. His father was the cathedral organist, he was baptised there, attended the cathedral school and was also a chorister. John composed the Anacreontic Song for a London gentlemen’s club, with the rousing and popular tune making its way across the Atlantic Ocean where it was set to the words of Francis Scott Key’s famous poem, Defence of Fort McHenry, set during the War of 1812.
A 60-minute tour of one of Europe’s most impressive medieval buildings. Gloucester Cathedral has been an important centre of Christian worship since 678-9 AD. This ancient church has witnessed some of the most important events in British history: the commissioning of the Domesday Book, the burial of Edward II, and the coronation of nine-year old Henry III all took place here. The exquisite fan-vaulted cloisters are popular with filmmakers having served as locations for the Harry Potter franchise, Mary Queen of Scots, Wolf Hall and the upcoming The Spanish Princess.
A fascinating, 60-minute guided tour where you will explore over 2,000 years of the city’s history. The walk will take in medieval churches, a magnificent Tudor galleried coaching inn, literary connections with Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter. You will also learn about Robert Raikes, a pioneer of the Sunday School movement, and Bishop John Hooper, who was burnt at the stake by Queen Mary.
A 1-hour tour of the recently restored St Mary de Crypt Church, an impressive 15th Century chapel. Visit the Tudor school room where one of the founders of Methodism and the Evangelical movement, George Whitefield was educated; and the pulpit where he preached his first sermon. Whitefield was a master orator and his lifelong friend, Benjamin Franklin, calculated that his voice could be heard by up to 30,000 people at a time as he preached in the early America colonies.
The Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester said: “Gloucester Cathedral has a unique connection with the United States. We are proud that John Stafford Smith, the son of one of our former Organists wrote the music that became America’s famous National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. To this day an American flag hangs inside the building over the monument commemorating this historic bond. We look forward to working with Visit Britain and Marketing Gloucester to welcome US visitors to our Cathedral and City.”
Councillor Steve Morgan, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure at Gloucester City Council, said: “The people of Gloucester are justifiably proud of our long, rich and varied history and especially our connections to the United States. Such elements of history help to bring us together and strengthen our special relationship. It is gratifying to see several of our top class attractions working together with the support of Visit Britain and Marketing Gloucester to develop an offer aimed specifically at the important US market.”
You'll be the first to hear the latest Mayflower news, events, and more.