It's the birthday of composer George Handel, who wrote the great oratorio Messiah, born in Halle, Germany (1685). His dad wanted him to be a lawyer, not a musician, so as a child he waited till his father went to sleep, then snuck up to the attic and secretly practiced his instruments.
A duke who heard Handel, aged seven, play the organ was so impressed that he handed the boy fistfuls of gold coins. Handel's dad repealed the music ban and the boy was able to study with the town's church organist. He was a child prodigy, and his tutor announced when Handel was 11 that it was time to turn professional. So he went to Berlin.
In 1741, he was asked to do a benefit in Dublin. He decided to write a new oratorio for the performance, and he worked on it zealously, often neglecting to eat or sleep. In 25 days, he'd created the score for the Messiah, which was composed of 50 separate pieces. When he was finished he said, "I think God has visited me."
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