Handel House Museum review
I'm at an age now where I don't mind listening to a bit of classical music every now and then, so I actually know who Handel is, believe it or not -- he's the guy who wrote the theme tune music for Champions League football. Or was that Puccini? I can never remember. He did the music for Coronation Street anyway, or the coronation music -- something like that.
Handel is technically a German but the English still love him because he used to live in London whilst he was writing music for George II. We even buried him in Westminster Abbey for chrissakes — that is how much we love the bloke. He comes in at No.3 in our all-time list of favourite German musicians (behind David Hasselhoff and the Scorpions).
All of his tunes seem to be very jaunty and jolly, so I'm guessing that he was a fat fella who liked his drink. It is very happy music -- you can put it on and the sun will come out. If your kids are fighting then play them a bit of Handel and five minutes later they'll be hugging each other like nothing happened.
When you get inside the front door of the Handel House Museum you are pointed straight up the stairs to the first room -- the rehearsal room. There is no audio guide or anything like that — you just walk around the rooms reading the little plastic cards that they've got dotted around the tables.
The rehearsal room is home to a huge harpsichord but it was all quiet today, and that's why I'm going to have my first little moan -- I was looking forward to hearing some actual music. It sounds daft, but parts of the house are quieter than a library. I only heard one solitary song the whole time I was there, and that was only coming out of one room. Why don't they have his music blasting out everywhere? From every room and every corridor? That seems like a total no-brainer to me. One of the rooms has got a couple of personal CD players inside which you can stick on your head and listen to, but that's it really -- it's all hush hush on the headphones so no one can hear. If you've ever heard Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks then you'll know it needs to be played loud. You need to throw open the windows and blast it across Mayfair. People come here because they love Handel, and they want to hear a few of his tunes shaking the floorboards. It's like going to the Van Gogh museum and not seeing any of his pictures.
Maybe you'll get lucky and hear some live music coming from the rehearsal room, because they put on a lot of concerts in the house (check out their website for the dates). I think you're better off coming to a concert, if I'm honest, because there's not much else to see.
The house looks very much like it would have done in his day, with creaky wooden floorboards and a few oil paintings and drawings on the walls, but none of them look original to the house -- they just depict people that he would have known. There is hardly any period furniture either — just a few fireplaces and wooden shutters on the windows. The only room that is properly furnished is his bedroom at the top, which has got a plush red bed and chamber pot. There are hardly any personal possessions either, just a few music scores.
The information boards are certainly detailed enough and well worth a read, but if you came here to see how he lived then you're going to go home disappointed. I would have liked to have seen a Georgian kitchen with a roaring fireplace and hunks of bread and bloody meat on the table, and a tin bath downstairs where he had a wash (like they do in the Charles Dickens Museum). Even if the objects are all replicas it doesn't matter, because it would bring a bit of life to the place. It's too darn quiet.
Jimi Hendrix used to live in the flat next door (you can see a blue plaque on the wall outside), but if you're hoping to learn something about him then forget it -- there is absolutely nothing about him anywhere.
Somebody needs to buy this place a radio and a few Handel CDs, so they can stick them on and liven the place up a bit -- maybe I'll get them some for Christmas.
I’ve been here more than once…
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