‘I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH’ …. Handel | Sunday Observer


19 July, 2020

From Halle to Hamburge, Florence, Venice, Rome and finally from Italy to London where he breathed his last. He was laid to rest with the epitaph ‘I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH’ from his glorious score MESSIAH.

This is where his journey stopped while the spirit of Handel beckoned us. After a swim and late breakfast, Parveen and I decided to join some friends who were planning to go shopping. We were not inclined to spend a glowing summer morn inside scruffy shops. After a while we separated to take a stroll down Oxford Street while enjoying the light breeze that kissed our faces and blew our hair in all directions. After an hour or more, we reached the end of Oxford Street and proceeded along Brook Street not knowing where it would take us. I was a little weary and decided to turn back when strains of beautiful classical music filled the air softly. Rather surprised to find ourselves almost face to face with Handel House Museum, we stood still for over twenty minutes until the playing of MESSIAH ceased.

It was such a lingering memory. The Museum was a hive of activity as we observed, music classes, orchestral practice, lectures and book-reading. We also saw the preciously preserved Harpsichord that Handel played and scored upon with its carvings, looking spectacularly marvellous.

The shining keyboard that produced the Messiah along with Judas Maccabaeus, Zadok the Priest, Arrival of Queen of Sheba and Harpsichord Suite No. 2 in E. He had also scored a few ballet suites along with Faithful Shepherd.

After this encounter, whenever I am in London, Handel House Museum is always in my schedule. It was no different this time too; probably my fifth or sixth time or many more because each day is different and exciting with something new to indulge in. The wind blowing away my hair in the early summer along with a dash of cold I never found it irritating and on the contrary the caress was warm and soothing.

As famous as its owner, Handel House at 25, Brook Street was built in 1723 and is a typical Georgian town house with five floors with Handel as first occupant. His Composition Room and Music Room were based on the last floor while the rest of the House divided into several units as the composer found it easy to reach. However, the 18th century kitchens were in the basement while the ground floor had a back parlour that Handel used as a study room facing Brook Street. Put together, all may sound complicated with no central heating during his time but the set up was neatly arranged that the composer found life comfortable and serene to work upon his music.

Brook Street was both commercial and residential with shops and coffee houses scattered and within easy reach. His neighbours were a mixture of middleclass traders and people of quality.

His time was spent on composing and performing, and attending to religious services at St. George’s Hanover Square.

He may not be England’s most popular son but he is certainly her beloved son.

That’s Handel.

Handel was a governor to the Foundling Hospital, an orphanage and was the founder of the Fund for Decay’d Musicians, now known as the Royal Society of Musicians. Handel’s bedroom and bathroom were the most private rooms in the house. It was pleasant to walk around the interior that led to every room because of the neatness and maintenance, impeccably everything in place. One really does not need a guide for information. What mattered most was his immortal music.

George Frideric Handel can be termed as the Poet of the organ. From the unpromising beginnings flourished the greatest instrumentalist of the day and it happened quickly; thanks to his mother’s encouragement. When the Duke of Sax-Weissenfels heard the young Handel play the organ at one of the Sunday services, he filled his pocket with gold coins and insisted that he was allowed to study music. After studying law for a while in Halle, he was appointed as the organist at the Cathedral of Moritzburg and there was no looking back for Handel.

He was self-taught in harmony, counterpoint, form and whole of the mystery of music that he kept discovering along the way. Each day was a challenge that unravelled the mystery of composing, re-writing scores towards perfection.

Therefore, he excelled in opera, oratorio, concerti gross, instrumental that made him unassailably the most powerful musician in England of his time. Known to be hypercritical of everything he wrote and played with such inevitability and apparently effortless flowing melody, became his signature in classical music. The inexhaustible variety of ideas and ideals were the high points of his musical creation.

When Handel was at the height of his power when he ruled the musical world, a cruel blow knocked him down. He became blind and a few quack surgeons who attempted to save his sight, failed. Yet, he continued to play the organ and conduct one of the wonders of London where people flocked to see him.

His blindness aroused pity and that too helped. When SAMSON was presented, tenor, John Beard stood next to him and sang.

‘Total eclipse – no sun; no moon.
All dark, amidst the blaze of noon,

There was an audible gulp from the audience. Despite his request for a private burial, Handel was buried in Westminster Abbey, with 3,000 people attending.

The monument he requested to be erected in his memory shows him at his working table with the score of MESSIAH open at, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’.

Among all his great compositions, God took first place with the great Messiah and The Faithful Shepherd. (This score was culled from a cross section of Handel’s works) In his over-blown orchestration of Messiah, with the authentic brigade hopping up and down, others were on the edges of their seats during the big choruses.

Oh’ Lord my God,
when I in Awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
the universe displayed.
Then sing my soul.
My Saviour God to Thee
How great Thou art,
How great Thou art…….