Posts Tagged ‘handel’

dsc02112cIn anticipation of our live Water Music concert on the Thames this coming 17th of July, I’ve been boning up on George Frederic Handel (1685 – 1759), the German baroque composer who spent most of his life here in London. To give you an idea where he fits in, he was an exact contemporary of JS Bach (1685 – 1750) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741).

Handel left his home in Hanover for London in 1710, and stayed. He was employed by Queen Anne and various British aristocrats, notably the fantastically sophisticated 3rd Earl of Burlington. In 1714, his former boss, the Elector of Hanover, became George I, King of England. Awkward. The Water Music of 1717 is seen as a reconciliation piece. It worked.


Handel, late 1720s, by Denner. NPG London.

The composer existed at the heart of London society, leading a highly productive professional life. Along with William Hogarth and other worthies, he was a founding governor of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, playing a key role in its early success. His home still stands in Brook Street, Mayfair, as the Handel House Museum.


Handel lived here from 1723 until his death in 1759

The Best Of…
Like most of us I suspect, I knew what the famous bits of the Water Music * (1717) and the Messiah (1741) sound like. I had also heard the haunting Sarabande in D Minor (1733) without knowing it was by Handel. It featured heavily in Stanley Kubrick’s Georgian masterpiece Barry Lyndon (1975). I also would have not easily recognised Scipio from the three act opera Scipione (1719) which is the regimental slow march of the Grenadier Guards. Zadok the Priest (aka Coronation Anthem No 1) was written in 1727 for the coronation of George II. For obvious reasons there has been no official call for it in recent times. However, lovers of association football will recognise it from Champions League on the television. Never mind. But it is utterly mesmerising. If you’re ever feeling a bit low, The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from the oratario Solomon (1748) should always raise your spirits. Finally (for now), Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749), hitherto for me known only by name. Turns out it’s an easily digestible 22 minute joy.

G.F. Handel. Wow. What a guy.

* Water Music, just the famous bit.

A selection of some of the Handel favourites above will be performed on the 300th anniversary of the Water Music by a live orchestra on the Thames on 17th July. Hosted by the Georgian Dining Academy and London Historians. Tickets are already selling briskly: don’t miss it.


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jimi hendrixIn early July 1968, Jimi Hendrix (1942 Seattle – 1970 London) moved into a rented flat at 23 Brook Street, W1. It had been procured by his then girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, and they moved in together. Clearly delighted, the guitarist described it as the first proper home of his own. The couple had previously lived in various shared digs, no longer suitable for a man who’d become a superstar since moving to London barely two years previously. “For the first time we could wander out from the bedroom without having to get dressed,” said Kathy.

They decorated it themselves with the help of nearby Messrs John Lewis, who sent some men around to measure up. Similarly, cultery, crockery and all manner of domestic accoutrements were obtained from the same Oxford Street emporium.

In a vain quest for privacy, the couple had no doorbell. They valued their private time, which was rare. When not being pestered by the film crews, reporters, photographers, documentary makers, Jimi spent much time in the recording studio and on the road fulfilling a pitiless, brutal concert schedule over which he had little control. But during home time Jimi and Kathy would typically listen to records, loudly: Jimi’s collection was eclectic indeed, encompassing jazz, blues, rock and classical. Jimi also practised guitar and wrote songs, constantly. They drank either Mateus Rose or Lowenbrau. Beer and wine wasn’t easily and widely available in the late 60s except in pubs and clubs. Too lazy to go to the upstairs fridge, they kept the bottles cool on the windowsill. Jimi was also partial to an occasional dram – usually Dimple (is that still going?) – which he’d usually pick up duty-free when on tour.

60s cool. Mateus Rose on the windowsill.

60s cool. Mateus Rose on the windowsill.

Everyone smoked, of course. Benson & Hedges, Rothmans or frequently something menthol such as Cool. Menthol was very ‘in’ at that time. Jimi’s Englishness extended to enjoying milky tea and watching Coronation Street, which he adored, mainly because it seemed so alien to an American.

Jimi and Kathy split up in April 1969. He moved his stuff out gradually between then and October. They had spent less than a year at 23 Brook Street. A year later Hendrix was dead.

Legacy: Jimi’s Place
Almost 45 years later – this Wednesday – the rooms of Jimi Hendrix’s London flat open to the public as a permanent attraction. It comprises three rooms: an exhibition space; a recreation of Jimi and Kathy’s bedroom; and a small room between them to represent Jimi’s record collection. It has become part of the Handel House Museum which next door at Number 25*, was the composer’s home for over 30 years in the 18th Century. The combined attractions of these musical superstars are now known as Handel and Hendrix in London.


The process started when a blue plaque was affixed to Number 23 in the late 90s. More recently, with Heritage Fund support, a long lease was acquired on the upper storeys of the building and the work began to create a permanent London memorial to a man whom many consider the greatest rock guitarist who ever lived.

* Hendrix himself thought that he’d moved into the same building as that occupied by Handel. On the strength of this he bought his own copies of the Messiah and Water Music.

52 and 54 Brook Street.

23 and 25 Brook Street.

Bohemian but tidy. As a result of his time in the US army, Jimi was a very tidy person, according to Kathy.

Bohemian but tidy. As a result of his time in the US army, Jimi was a very tidy person, according to Kathy.





One of Jimi’s acoustic guitars.

Where would the late 60s have been without velvet? Plus some of Jimi's guitar strings.

Where would the late 60s have been without velvet? Plus some of Jimi’s guitar strings.




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alison balsomThe Globe Theatre, Sam Wanamaker‘s magnificent replica Elizabethan theatre on Bankside. I last attended a production here in 2005. The reason I remember this is because – just as now – the Ashes were on and I recall during the interval having to catch up on the score from Old Trafford.

Yesterday evening we were transported not backwards in time from Shakespeare’s London, but forward to the London of the 1690s, during the reign of William and Mary: Wren’s London, a London fizzing with  religious tension, the Catholic James II only recently having been shown the exit. The streets, houses, palaces and the Thames, of course, are the scenes for a brand new production by Samuel Adamson: Gabriel.

Gabriel is a large ensemble musical play. It is a play rather than a musical, really, because although there are songs, they are relatively few. It is, nonetheless, a play about music: Purcell’s music; baroque music; specifically music for trumpet. Along with the violin players, cellists, woodwind tooters and kettle drummer, the cast includes at least four trumpets, led by virtuosa Alison Balsom.

Early on, two of the comic characters – a fictitious, sickly Royal prince and an alcoholic trumpeter – assert that the trumpet can only be used for rousing, martial-like music. From here the production comprises a series of scenes and stories which serve to disprove this clearly simple-headed thesis, through the music of Purcell. These pieces are in turn rousing, sad, funny, tragic, bawdy. All are wonderfully done. The writing, acting, music and performing are all rock-solid and delivered with great confidence and panache, a wonderful achievement for the opening weekend. A special mention must be made for the costumes and, in particular, wigs. Fantastically over the top, yet realistic for the time. The leading ladies’ frocks are particularly stunning.

There is good swearing, boasting, joshing and violence from our friends, the Watermen who live up to their historic stereotype. There is some near total nudity (socks), unfortunately only male. A trumpet comes in handy in these circumstances. Another scene features a wonderfully written and delivered diatribe against lovers of the English Opera amid much farting (delivered, of course, via trumpet special FX) and giggling.

Just wonderful. Congratulations to all concerned.

More about the play, including interviews etc, and booking, here.

Gabriel runs until 18 August.
Until the 20 July, London Historians members can book tickets for just £10, saving up to £29, an astounding discount. If you’re a Member reading this, email admin@londonhistorians.org for the promotion code. And if you’re not? Go anyway, or join us in the tent.

globe theatre

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