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George Frideric Handel
• George Frideric Handel
was born in Halle,
Germany in 1685. (The
same year as J.S. Bach.)
The town of Halle had a
lot of places to hear
music. Organ recitals
and choir music were at
the churches, town
musicians played brass
instruments for special
occasions and there were
many street musicians.
George’s father was a
was a well known barbersurgeon. People from all
over came to see him for
both medical care and to
get their hair cut. He was
over 60 when George
was born. George’s father
didn’t want him to study
law. He thought music
was a waste of time and
he could never make a
good living. There is
story that tell of George’s
mother and aunt
smuggling a harpsichord
into the attic so George
could practice quietly at
When George was 10 years
old, his father took him on
a trip to the palace of an
important duke. While
Mr. Handel went about
his business, George
found an organ in the
duke’s chapel and began
to play it. The duke was
passing by and could
hardly believe such
beautiful music could be
played by such a young
boy. The duke convinced
Mr. Handel to let George
have music lessons.
George became an
expert organist and
harpsichord player
and began
composing music.
At the age of 18 he
began working
playing the violin in
an opera-house
Operas were the top
entertainment during
Handel’s time. They
were as popular as
movies are today.
People loved to
spend evenings
listening to the great
singers in beautiful
costumes act out a
story. Handel wrote
over 40 operas.
George was invited to go to
England to write and
perform his music. He wrote
many successful operas
there and was even able to
start his own opera
company. After a while
however, people became
tired of the style of opera
Handel wrote. Many of the
opera stars were spoiled
and demanded huge
amounts of money. George
started to loose money and
eventually his opera
company went bankrupt.
George began writing a new kind of music called an oratorio.
An oratorio is a religious work for choir and soloists. Handel
wrote 29 oratorios. His most famous oratorio was written in
1741 and is called The Messiah. It is about the life of Jesus
Christ. Today, The Messiah is some of the most famous
music in all the world.
Handel liked England so much,
he decided to stay there. He lived
there for the rest of his life and
became a citizen. He was very
respected and successful
Handel became the court
composer for the King of England.
One time the king arranged for a
huge party on the Thames river in
London. He asked Handel to write
some music for the occasion. At
the party, the king and his royal
court were floating on the river in
boats. Handel and his orchestra
were also on a boat playing the
special music he had written. He
called it Water Music. The king
loved this music and it is very
famous even today.
In August 1750, on a journey
back from Germany to London,
Handel was seriously injured in a
carriage accident. In 1751, one
eye started to fail. Eventually he
lost his vision entirely and was
blind for the last few years of his
life. In spite of this, he continued
to play the organ and conduct.
Handel died at the age of 74 in
1759. The last performance he
attended was Messiah. Handel
was buried in Westminster
Abbey. More than three
thousand mourners attended his
funeral, which was given full
state honors.
Handel’s statue at gravesite