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George Handel

George Friedrich Handel
Born February 23, 1685
Died April 14, 1759
George Friedrich Handel
George Handel was born in Halle, Germany on February
23, 1685. His father was a 62 year old barber-surgeon. (In
those days,the local barber often performed minor surgery or
dental work.) He hated music so much that he would close the
windows when church bells rang, and even hated to hear the
lullabies that were sung to his son.
Because he felt so strongly about music, Dr. Handel did
not want his son exposed to music at all. Instead he insisted
that he become a lawyer, and began his son’s studies toward
that end at an early age.
Early clavichord
It was the custom in wealthy families to have either a hired
person, or a relative who needed a home, care for the children and
provide for their everyday needs. George was very fortunate to have
his aunt Anna, his young mother’s sister, to care for him. She made
sure that he was exposed to music, and for his seventh birthday,even
bought him a clavichord, hid it in the attic where Dr.Handel could not
hear, and let George play it secretly for a while each day. George
was soon playing melodies he made up himself, as well as tunes he had
heard before.
When George was about 7 or 8,
his father took him along on a
visit to the Duke of Weisenfels.
George was fascinated with the
music in the court chapel. The
organist let him try the huge
pipe organ, and was amazed at
what the small child could do.
When the Duke found out that
Dr. Handel had refused to give
his son lessons, he persuaded
him to let the boy study music
with the chapel organist at
Halle, Friedrich Zachau. By the
age of 11, he was playing the
organ, violin, oboe, and
George became famous for his
operas, as well as other types
of music. He went to England,
and while there, composed a
piece called “An Ode for the
Queen’s Birthday. She was so
impressed that she granted
him a salary of several
hundred pounds per year.
A little later, he composed
“Water Music” for a festival
on the Thames river. The King
liked it so well he paid Handel
a salary for the rest of his
As his style of opera became less popular in England,
he turned to writing oratorios, which were religious
pieces to be sung in church. His most famous is “The
Messiah”, which is still sung today, especially at
Christmas. While composing it, he lived in this house in
Handel began losing his sight, but still continued
to compose and play the organ until his death on
April 14, 1759. He was buried in Westminster
Abbey, in London.
The End