Handel passes the hat

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Monday, March 20, 2017

Not ALL composers were nice people, and even some of the more famous ones turn out to have been rather nasty, greedy, vindictive and altogether unpleasant specimens of humanity, despite the enduring beauty of their music. But we like to showcase the BETTER side of the species. On today's date in 1739, for example, George Frederick Handel premiered this music, his Organ Concerto in A Major, as a special, added attraction at a benefit concert in London. It was organized "for the benefit and increase of a fund established for the support of decay'd musicians and their families." The previous year Handel had been shocked to learn that the widow and children of one of his favorite performers, the oboist John Christian Kitch, were found wandering impoverished on the streets of London. Handel called a meeting of some of his colleagues at the Crown and Anchor Tavern and started a charitable fund, even enlisting the support of rival composers and musicians who heretofore had not been on very good terms with Herr Handel. Within a year, a series of benefit concerts were organized to raise money for a continuing fund to assist musicians fallen on hard times, and even Handel's enemies had to admit the gruff and frequently abrasive German must have had a good heart after all.