His dad wanted him to be a lawyer; he wanted to be a composer. At age six, George Frideric Handel played the church organ after a Sunday morning worship service, a duke heard him and was so impressed that he encouraged Handel’s father to give him a formal music education. He wrote his first composition at age twelve.
While almost facing debtor’s prison, two significant events changed Handel’s life: three Dublin charities commissioned him to compose a work and a friend gave him a libretto for an oratorio on the life of Christ, with the words taken from the Bible.
On August 22, 1741, Handel began composing and in just 24 days, sometimes hardly even taking time to eat, had written 260 pages of music. Simply titled Messiah, this glorious piece of work was finished on September 14, 1741.
At the Dublin benefit in 1742, 142 persons were released from debtor’s prison. A year later, the king was in attendance, and as the choir sang the “Hallelujah Chorus” he rose to his feet and the whole audience followed his lead. This tradition continues to this day.
He died on April 13, 1759, eight days after finishing his last performance of Messiah, which he performed thirty times. His statue at Westminster Abbey shows him holding the manuscript of Messiah, opened to “I Know My Redeemer Liveth.”
Partially rewritten and excerpted from The One Year Book of Christian History.