By George! Handel's Music for Royal Occasions
25 January – 18 May 2014
In the 300th anniversary year of the coronation of George I, this exhibition explores Handel and his music for royal occasions.
No composer has been more closely associated with the British monarchy than George Frideric Handel. His anthem Zadok the Priest has been performed at every coronation since that of King George II in 1727, while his Water Music was performed in 2012 on the River Thames for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Handel enjoyed the patronage of three British monarchs during his lifetime: Queen Anne, George I, and George II. Employed by George I in Hanover, Handel had the advantage of knowing the future monarch before he ascended the British throne in 1714.
Interestingly, Handel was not appointed Master of the King's Musick yet was still favoured by George I and his family. While Handel was charged with tutoring the royal princesses and composing music for almost all important royal events, the actual Master was assigned smaller, less significant occasions.
As well as his Royal duties, Handel was also a governor of the Foundling Hospital and he donated an organ to its Chapel, composed an anthem dedicated to the site and conducted annual fundraising concerts of Messiah. In fact, today's charity concerts can trace their roots back to this example of Handel's creative philanthropy.
Exhibits on display include paintings of the Royal Family, musical instruments of the period and the 1727 Order of Service for the Coronation of George II, annotated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Meanwhile, rarely-seen documents from the Westminster Abbey archives give an insight into the organisation of major Royal events.
A collection of autograph manuscripts includes Zadok the Priest, the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, and Lessons for Princess Louisa, which Handel composed to teach the Royal princesses to play the harpsichord.