Handel and Messiah
Without Coram, few would have heard of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
In 1749, the Baroque composer and creator of Messiah, offered to stage a concert to pay for the Chapel at the Foundling Hospital. He’d heard about Thomas Coram’s efforts to provide a home for vulnerable, abandoned, children and wanted to help.
The concert took place on 27 May 1749 and included an anthem specially written by Handel called Blessed are they that considereth the poor, known today as the Foundling Hospital Anthem and ended with the Hallelujah Chorus, lifted directly from Messiah – a work that few of his audience would have known. Ladies were instructed not to wear hooped skirts, and men told not to bring their swords, to make more room for the large number of people expected to come.
Sure enough, the event was a huge hit, and the next year Handel was appointed a Governor of the Hospital, donating an organ to the chapel and conducting a performance of Messiah. Tickets sold out and, because wealthy supporters had to be turned away on the night, another concert arranged two weeks later.
Handel continued to stage Messiah every year until his death in 1759. He raised almost £7,000 in all – over a million in today’s money. It was a vital source of income that meant the Hospital could continue to provide a home for vulnerable, abandoned children.
Watch our Handel Birthday Concert 2019 below.
Source: Pugh, Gillian, London’s Forgotten Children: Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital (Stroud: Tempus, 2007)