Last week saw the 250th anniversary of the death of one of the world’s greatest composers George Frideric Handel.
Handel was German, born in Halle in 1685, but loved England, spending most of his life in London and finally becoming a British subject by Act of Parliament in 1727. His royal patrons included King George ll, Queen Caroline and Queen Anne. Handel composed the ‘Water Music’ for King George l which was famously performed by a baroque orchestra on a barge rowed alongside the King on a trip up the River Thames. The King liked it so much that it was performed once up the Thames and twice on the return journey.
For 36 years of his life in England, Handel lived at 25 Brook Street, W1, where he composed works such as Music for the Royal Fireworks and The Messiah. The house contains furniture, paintings, his death mask, manuscripts and an exhibition marking his 250 anniversary.
A lovely little London quirk is to be found when looking up outside the house at the first floor windows, where two Blue Plaques - 20 feet or so apart - mark the homes of illustrious figures from history. One commemorates George Handel (1685-1759) the other Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) who lived next door from 1968 to 1969.
Hendrix, upon learning that Handel had lived next door 250 years beforehand, went to a local record shop and bought some works including The Messiah and The Water Music. Handel expert Roger Sydenham, who is shortly about to retrace Handel’s footsteps during his 4 years in Italy, observes the similarity that “just as Handel had come to London and sought patrons, Hendrix too was seeking a different kind of patronage – with the record labels”.
Brook Street was a good choice for Hendrix, being close to a number of West End venues like the Marquee Club and the Speakeasy where he could find gigs to play. 250 years earlier Handel was well situated too for the theatres where his works were performed such The Queen’s Theatre on Haymarket and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Perhaps it’s not that unusual at all for London’s great cultural & historic melting pot.
Ask your tour guide to drop by The Handel House Museum (£5.00 adults, £2.00 children).