The Anacreontic Society was a popular gentlemen's club of amateur musicians in London founded in the mid-18th century. These barristers, doctors, and other professional men named their club after the Greek court poet Anacreon, who lived in the 6th century B.C. and whose poems, "anacreontics", were used to entertain patrons in Teos and Athens. Dubbed "the convivial bard of Greece", Anacreon's songs often celebrated women, wine, and entertaining.
While the society's membership, one observer noted, was dedicated to "wit, harmony, and the god of wine," their primary goal (beyond companionship and talk) was to promote an interest in music. The society presented regular concerts of music, and included among their guests such important musicians as Joseph Haydn, who was the special guest at their concert in January 1791.
There is also evidence of an Anacreontic Society having existed at St Andrews University in the late 18th Century in much the same vein as the Anacreontic Society of London. However, due to the club's informal nature, detailed accounts of the group are sparse.
"To Anacreon in Heaven"
The lyrics of The Anacreontic Song, the first four words of which are "To Anacreon in Heaven" were written by Ralph Tomlinson, who had been president of the society. John Stafford Smith wrote the tune. The lyrics were first published by London's The Vocal Magazine in 1778.
It soon became a popular drinking song on both sides of the Atlantic. But the melody, if not the original lyrics, would acquire even greater fame after Francis Scott Key, an attorney, wrote "Defence of Fort M'Henry" while detained on a British ship during the night of September 13, 1814, as the British forces bombarded the American Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. This song, consisting of Key's text "Defence of Fort M'Henry" and Smith's tune The Anacreontic Song, is today known as The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America.
- Raymond F. Glover The Hymnal 1982 companion, Volume 3 Church Publishing, Inc., 1990
- Martin J. Manning, Herbert Romerstein. Historical dictionary of American propaganda p. 192. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004