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MUSIC AND CHARITY: As part of a series of “Taster” concerts for larger Handel events in 2016 and the Handel Festival at Holy Trinity for 2017, St Peter’s Singers with organist David Houlder give a special early evening recital at Holy Trinity under the auspices of Arts at Trinity on Saturday evening 23 May at 5.30 pm. The concert lasts just on the hour and comprises two works by the great man – The Ode for the Birthday of Queen and, importantly, the Foundling Hospital Anthem [Blessed are they that consider the poor and needy]. The significance of the Foundling Hospital Anthem written by Handel in 1749 is that it marked the very beginning of a special relationship between the composer and the Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted young Children to give the institution founded by Captain Thomas Coram its full title.
This connection gave purpose and a sense of serious endeavour to the final decade of Handel’s long life. He was a highly charitable individual with a real sense of duty to the community in which he lived and worked. Having no family of his own, he took very especial care to extend a generosity of spirit to those who worked with the disadvantaged young people in the London of his day. His interest and commitment extended, too, to adult musicians who had become unable to work owing to illness and he was instrumental with Maurice Greene and other leading London luminaries in founding the Society for decay’d Musicians that was to become in a later manifestation The Royal Society of Musicians – a wonderful support for musicians who had fallen on hard times or been smitten by illness, especially debilitating indisposition that rendered them incapable of work.
We can discover much about Handel’s concert-giving in the fine Foundling Hospital Chapel – especially his Messiah presentations from 1750 onwards –through study of the composer’s carefully kept ledgers that keep a very precise record of the exependiture and tell us which soloists were employed for what performance/s. The “word books”, as the concert programmes were called, give us valuable hints as to the “selection” deployed at any one time by the creator of Messiah. Scholars seem pretty certain that Handel never gave the work in its entirety on any particular occasion.
In our own lifetime, the late Sir Malcolm Sargent exercised a similar commitment to charitable endeavour – not least as a result of having lost his young daughter Pamela to polio at an early age. Clic Sargent, founded as the Malcolm Sargent Cancer Fund for Children by his former secretary Sylvia Darley is now one of the leading cancer charities of the 21st century.