New Foundling anthem composed, over 260 years after Handel’s original

Composer Luke Styles marks the musical legacy of London’s Foundling Hospital

Published: January 6, 2016 at 11:48 am

The composer-in-residence at the Foundling Museum, Luke Styles, has created a Foundling Museum Anthem, inspired by Handel’s original anthem for the Foundling Hospital, composed in 1749.


For inspiration, Styles has dipped into the museum archives to find poetry and writings by foundlings (abandoned children) and their mothers who stayed at the hospital.

The new work, consisting of six movements, will be performed in February by early music ensemble La Nuova Musica, alongside children from the nearby Argyle Primary School.

The Foundling Museum Anthem incorporates sections of text taken from 18th-century legislation including the 1739 Royal Charter that aimed to curb the problems of cheap gin drinking and family breakdown – scenes famously depicted by the artist (and hospital governor) William Hogarth in his illustration Gin Lane.

Over ten months, Styles worked with children from the primary school, running composing workshops and incorporating the children’s ideas into his work.

Styles’s anthem brings together elements from Handel’s time and contemporary musical styles. ‘Composing this work allowed me to delve into the rich emotional history of the Foundling Hospital and to explore the musical style of the Baroque… and to experiment with new musical aesthetics,’ he says.

In May 1749, Handel approached the hospital with an offer of conducting a benefit concert in the chapel. For his Foundling Hospital Anthem he borrowed from his other pieces, including the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Messiah. His support resulted in him becoming a hospital governor.


The Foundling Museum Anthem will be performed on Monday 8 February, in a special promenade throughout the museum. Click here to find out more.

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