George Frederic Handel was born on this day in 1685 in Halle, Germany. He showed an early interest in the study of music, but his father felt it a worthless career choice and insisted there be no musical instruments in the house. However, when genius is born, God always has other plans. God’s choice for Handel was to create music which would praise Him and inspire others to follow His ways. Handel’s mother encouraged her son and he studied music in secret. By the time he was ten years old, he had composed music for the oboe, organ and violin.
At his father’s insistence, Handel went to law school to pursuit a degree. That didn’t last long and soon he was back at creating music and practicing various instruments. His early career began in the opera house, playing harpsichord and organ. That led him to compose his own operas and soon he was gaining popularity. He decided to expand his skill by moving to Italy where he continued to compose operas. When Italian operas died in popularity, Handel moved to London to make it his permanent home. At that time he turned to writing oratorios and cantatas.
The most famous of his compositions, was The Messiah. This could’ve been precisely what God had in mind for Handel’s life. In a review of the performance before King George II, in Dublin in April of 1742 it was said,
“Few can be failed to be moved by Handel’s Messiah oratorio, culminating in the Hallelujah Chorus. It was even said to have brought a king to his feet.”
Handel suffered with several health issues throughout his life, including bouts of depression and anxiety. He always maintained a positive attitude in spite of it and seemed to laugh even during times of great stress. He suffered a stroke when he was 52 and lost movement in his right arm. He made a speedy recovery, and was soon playing the organ again. Six years later he suffered another stroke, but recovered from that one as well. For the last nine years of his life he was completely blind, but that didn’t deter him either. He continued to pursuit his music until his death. He never married or fathered children, so his entire estate was willed to his servants and various charities. Even in death, Handel cared about others and made sure they were provided for.
With the season of Lent upon us, we will be hearing many variations of the wonderful Messiah Oratorio. When we do, we should thank God for creating such a talent in this man, destined to spread God’s Word through his music.
“Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived… I would uncover my head and kneel down on his tomb.”
Ludwig Van Beethoven