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Monday, December 3, 2012

Handel Biography, Part 1

The Story of a Little Boy
Who Practiced in an Attic

When we read about the great composers we learn that they come from all kinds of families.

Bach's parents were poor. Mendelssohn's were rich. Schubert's father was a schoolmaster. Mozart's father was a violinist.

The story which you are to read in this book and then write out in your own words is about a boy whose parents were neither well-to-do nor well known.

His name is George Frederick Handel. In Germany where Handel was born his name was Georg Friedrich Händel (pronounced Gay-org Freed-riesh Hayn-del). But the great composer spent so much of his life in England that people now use the English form of his name.


Look at this strange old house where the great master was born.

Handel was born in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685.

The father was a surgeon and barber, a strange combination. We know that he did not like music, and that he was unwilling for his son to study it. Of the mother we know little. But we do know that she loved her little George Frederick, and helped him as far as she could.

The father was so determined that his son should not study music that he refused to let him go to school. He feared, no doubt, that the boy would soon learn to read notes.

But with the mother it was quite different. She observed the little boy's love of music.

In the Handel home there was a big roomy attic; the ceiling was low, and the windows had thick panes; the walls and floors were built of heavy timber, and silence reigned there.


"Here," said Mother Handel, "my little boy can play the harpsichord to his heart's content and no one will be the wiser." You can imagine the surprise when the stern barber-surgeon stalked into the attic, followed by the family, holding high the lantern.

After that it may have been agreed that the boy should practice a little; not, however, that he might become a musician. "No, indeed," we may imagine Father Handel exclaiming, "my son shall be a famous lawyer."

One day when little George was seven years old his father set out by coach to visit another son, who was in the service of the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. The little boy begged his father to let him go on the journey. "No," he replied, "you are too young to go so far."

However, when the coach set out George Frederick set out too on foot to follow, and he would not be sent home again.


He kept on trudging along as fast as his little feet would go. Every one hoped he would get tired and go back, but finally the father had to order the coach to stop and take him in. Thus did he show that determination which helped him all his life.

Coming in two days: Part 2.

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