Handel's London home to be fully restored
Exhibitions will shed new light on the great composer and his next-door neighbour, rock legend Jimi Hendrix
The London home of the composer George Frideric Handel is to be fully restored, and will host a series of exhibitions. The latter will shed new light on both the great composer and his next-door neighbour of two centuries later, rock legend Jimi Hendrix.
The museum Handel & Hendrix in London cares for and presents to the public the homes of two of the greatest musicians ever to have lived in London.
Handel lived at 25 Brook Street from 1723 until his death in 1759. During these 36 years, Handel wrote and rehearsed his greatest works, including Messiah and its ever-popular ‘Hallelujah chorus’. His coronation anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’ was also written in Brook Street: it has since accompanied the coronation of every British monarch since George II, for whom it was written in 1727.
A little over two centuries later, in 1968, Jimi Hendrix moved into an adjoining flat at number 23. Although he only lived there for just under a year, the Brook Street flat was an important London base for Hendrix, who was at the peak of his powers at the time. He told his girlfriend Katy Etchingham, who found the flat, that 23 Brook Street was ‘my first real home of my own’.
Handel & Hendrix in London has set forth on a £3 million project to open all of Handel’s house to the public for the first time. It will restore the basement and ground floor – until recently a luxury goods shop – and refurbish the upper floors, which were first opened to the public in 2001.
Dubbed the Hallelujah Project, the construction work will faithfully recreate Handel’s basement kitchen, with all the original fixtures and fittings in place. These were carefully detailed on an inventory made shortly after the composer’s death. The project will also restore the ground floor parlours where Handel would receive his guests and aristocratic patrons – and where his assistant, J.C. Smith, would sell tickets and subscriptions to new works. The front façade of 25 Brook Street will also be restored, so that visitors can finally enter Handel’s home through his front door.
Inside, other changes will include:
- Historic rooms presented as they might have been in the 1740s, when the composer was in a new burst of creative energy and commercial success writing dramatic oratorios
- New exhibitions about Handel’s music and the musicians he worked with and a mixed reality audiovisual display about the writing of Messiah in the very room in which it was composed
- Live music performed in the rooms in which it was written and, often, first heard
Another exhibition will look at London’s vibrant cultural scene in the 18th century and 1960s, exploring why the capital was a magnet for both Handel and Hendrix and how they shaped and changed the city they made their home.
Currently closed to the public, Handel & Hendrix in London will re-open on 18 May 2023, 300 years after Handel first moved in. Tickets will go on sale in March.
All pictures credit Handel & Hendrix in London
Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.