First Heard: ‘Water Music’

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I don’t envy Royalty very often – I’ve never had a lust for power, and most of the job just looks tedious and stuffy to me.

But I would love to be able to say, “I’m going to be boating on the Thames – write some music for me to listen to, would you?” — and listen to George Frideric Handel’s Water Music played for me by an orchestra in a boat following mine while I relaxed, sipping wine and eating tempting dainties.

Warer Music painting by Edouard Hamman

And 302 years ago, on July 17, 1717, King George I of England did take that cruise on the Thames, listening for the first time to this glorious music.

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To hear Handel’s Water Music, click

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Happily — thanks to Thomas Edison and all the inventive people who came before and after him — in this modern age, we commoners can listen to Water Music played by the best musicians in the world at the push of a button, or a click on the keyboard:


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Though written in a completely different context, Shakespeare’s ending words in Sonnet 29 do express my thanks for Handel’s great gift to all of us:

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

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lake-water

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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6 Responses to First Heard: ‘Water Music’

  1. I agree I would never want that job. I like to be left alone. Although the clothes and formalities are pretty intriguing.

    • Getting dressed seems to be such a chore. When I get fully dressed in formal Highland attire for a social occasion, it is a bigger deal than just climbing into a tuxedo. Takes a while to get all the belts, buckles, brooches, and accessories in their proper places without sagging or being askew. I hate to think what it might be like to face that, and more, on a daily basis.

      On the other hand, Royals have lots of help getting dressed. Teenage composer and musician Lorde captured my feelings about Royals quite well.

  2. Another commissioned piece by the Royal Family was the music composed for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. The King told composer Edward Elgar that he thought Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 would make a fine tune for the coronation ceremony.

    Elgar approached lyricist A. C. Benson about writing words for his melody. Benson came up with Land of Hope and Glory. England has no official national anthem, although God Save the Queen (or King) has been the de facto national anthem. Land of Hope and Glory has also been used as the anthem.

    This is English singer Dame Vera Lynn, who sang so many stirring wartime songs as a very young woman. She was 45 years old when she recorded this version of the anthem, and was at the peak of her vocal powers.

  3. wordcloud9 says:

    There have been several marvelous composers who have given great music to UK Royal occasions. William Walton for one, composer of the coronation anthems ‘Crown Imperial’ and ‘Orb and Sceptre.’ Walton also composed the fantastic score for the 1942 film which was released in the U.S as ‘Spitfire’ but was originally titled ‘The First of the Few’ when it was released in Britain.

  4. wordcloud9 says:

    Having to stand around while someone else dresses you is not as much fun as some might think. I performed in several plays requiring period costume, so I speak from experience.

    Hoop skirts are the worst, and nearly caused me serious injury during a dress rehearsal when I couldn’t see that the stairs where I was to make my exit from a raised stage had been moved temporarily by stage hands making an adjustment. They forgot to tell ME of this minor little change. I fell flat on my face from 15 feet up, and the sound of my body hitting the hollow stage was like a mortar shell in a war movie. That none of my parts were broken still seems miraculous to me, but I was bruised from head to foot.

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