George Frideric Handel: Watermusic

During my senior year of high school, my best friend was named Gary Endicott. Gary had been on the swim team and he was a year older than I. He spent his freshman year going to the local community college, and so we hung out together. We had a number of common interests and were both terminally shy around girls. Thus we spent many a long, drunken hour commiserating with each other.

Gary’s father worked for a meat wholesaler and the family lived in a small house at the corner of a large farm that had belonged to Gary’s grandfather. Gary’s mother worked at home for the local photo studio hand colorizing high school portraits using tiny tubes of oil paints. It seemed like every time I went by the house, Gary’s mom would pull out the picture of some local beauty and say “You should ask her out.” Gary would groan, “Aw, mom,” and we’d invariably go out, get drunk and commiserate some more.

Mr. Endicott liked to make Martinis using Gilbey’s gin, and he’d often offer us one with a twinkle in his eye. He once told us that in high school he and his buddies had wired their shop teacher’s chair up to the electrical outlet. They’d gotten expelled for that. I liked Mr. Endicott: he smoked El Producto cigars, encouraged us to do so, and always had a joke to tell.

Gary was good in math, and because I was reading a lot of literature and philosophy my senior year, he would ask me to help him with the mandatory English classes he had to take. Maybe interpret a poem or edit a term paper he’d written. Often we ended up in a bar over the state line in Michigan, where the drinking age was 18. We’d discuss literature or philosophy and lust after the local lass.

Gary would always be game to go out when I’d call on weekends. Even better, he equally game for some new intellectual pursuit and I once dragged him out to see Fellini’s “Roma.” For weeks afterwards, we would walk around reenacting scenes from the film in fake Italian accents and get into shouting matches in bars pretending we were actors in the film.

On a couple of occasions, when his parents were away, we had small drinking parties at his house or at his deceased grandfather’s barn. One night we entered his grandfather’s house and went through all the papers, calendars, and objects left behind from a hardscrabble Methodist farm life. Another time, drunk out of our minds, we jumped around in the hay loft of the barn, and cat-walked along the beams about 15 feet above the floor. I don’t know how we managed to keep from falling and impaling ourselves on some piece of farm equipment.

Once, when his Gary’s parents were out of town, we stayed over at his house. In the living room sat an old console hi-fi record player. I went through the records on the shelf and discovered a boxed set of the Time Life “Great Works of Classical Music.” I noticed a copy of Handel’s Water Music. The piece was not totally unfamiliar to me since the great trumpet flourish from it, marked “Alla Hornpipe,” often got played on the local classical call-in request show. I was surprised however: Gary’s parents never talked about classical music. However, they owned classical records while my parents did not. I asked him if I could borrow the set, and Gary let me.

The fanfare turned out to be just one short movement out of twenty written. They have been arranged into three suites, and the “Alla Hornpipe” appears in Suite Number II in D major. Handel wrote the music for King George I as a way of displaying the monarch’s munificence to the populace. He was a very unpopular king, being German and speaking no English. The king listened from his royal barge while 50 musicians conducted by Handel performed on another. The pieces in the suites are based on popular dance forms of the time period-bourees, minuets, gavottes, etc.

Handel was a great innovator in music, not by breaking off in a new direction all his own, but by mastering, building upon and synthesizing the different musical traditions of the day. Born in Germany, he did his musical apprenticeship in Hamburg. In his twenties, he moved to Italy where he became close friends with Domenico Scarlatti. There he learned and quickly mastered the Italian style of opera. He was invited to London to premiere his opera “Rinaldo” and was invited to stay, eventually becoming the court composer. There he transformed English music and became one of the greatest composers of vocal music of all times.

Download MP3 of Watermusic or Buy CD at Amazon


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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