A Double Delight

Back in February, just before the full extent of the Covid Crisis became obvious to all, I was in London and managed to visit the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ museum. It had been on my wish list for some while.

Portrait of George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) circa 1756-60.
After Thomas Hudson. Oil on canvas. 80.6 x 72.1 cm. On loan from the The Royal Collection.

It was truly a double delight for me. To be in the space, to walk the rooms and to experience the ambience of an 18th-century London house (annual rent in 1742 was £50) with such music credentials was very special. I am a fan both of the grand, ornate choral works of Handel and the explosive and intricate guitar solos of Hendrix. And, I prefer to visit the past homes of the exceptionally talented and able rather than residences simply gifted down to generation after generation of the same family.

Royal Music – Zadok the Priest. ‘Handel Coronation Anthems’, Arnold Edition published around 1760, part of the Gerard Byrne Collection.

We were lucky with the timing of our visit as in one room a volunteer was sat at the Kirckman harpsichord playing Handel’s ‘Air and Variations’ (The Harmonious Blacksmith). To hear Handel’s music played in his house was a breathtaking treat, sublime.

Kirckman Harpsichord made in 1745 being played by a volunteer. (Sadly I didn’t get his name.)

After experiencing the elegant Georgian rooms, it was, as you would guess, an utter change of gear as you step across from 25 Brook Street to the upper floors of 23 Brook Street and the Swinging Sixties of Jimi Hendrix.

The bedroom decoration has been reconstructed from surviving photographs of Hendrix when he lived at 23, Brook Street.
Original 1960s pieces have been sourced and some surviving originals such as this mirror recreate the classic 60s vibe.

Apart from the decorated bedroom there is a room of Hendrix memorabilia. The first guitar Jimi Hendrix ever played on British soil was Zoot Money’s Wandre ‘Blue Jean’ Model Guitar. It is still strung with the same strings that Jimi played on the day he made London his home in 1966.

Jimi arrived in London for the very first time when he stepped off a plane at Heathrow Airport with Chas Chandler on the morning of 24 September 1966. Jimi was taken straight from the airport to the West London Home of bandleader and keyboardist George Bruno ‘Zoot’ Money, a major figure on the Soho scene at the time. While looking for a guitar to play that evening, Jimi picked this instrument up and started playing it (apparently remarking it had a “nice easy action”), before Chas and Zoot managed to track down something more suitable for Jimi’s first public performance in London.

From the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ display.
The Wandre ‘Blue Jean’ Model Guitar

It is sad to note that it will be 50 years next month since Jimi Hendrix died at his Notting Hill home at the young age of 27. What a terrible loss to the world of music.

There is a little good news though, the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ museum is re-opening this Saturday, 22nd August 2020 – but, of course, now you have to book timed-tickets in advance.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

20 thoughts on “A Double Delight”

    1. Yes, it was a strange yet memorable experience. I, like you, will not be travelling to London at the moment although I see more and more museums and galleries are reopening. It’s the public transport that bothers me.

      1. I gather from others that outside the rush hour (and even inside, on some routes), much transport is pretty empty. We’ll have to see ….

      2. Yes, I think it is variable. My daughter has been down a couple of times when it was about three people per carriage, but her last trip back to London was a Monday lunchtime. The train was very busy and she said all rather unpleasant. A maskless man coughed all the way from Manningtree to Chelmsford, spluttered into his hands and touched multiple surfaces as he left the train. She was quietly horrified.

  1. Wow, I just can’t get past Handel’s hairdo. Well, yes I can, I understand the music and the hair do not have anything to do with each other, and it was the fashion, and so on, but from this, you can see what happens to me when I go to a museum, I get way off track. (I still enjoy myself but maybe drive my companions crazy as they try to cope with the things I seem to want to examine vs what the exhibit is about). Anyway, I love the contrast of the two H’s here and once again, interesting contrast to me the fashion changes underlining how different the times the two lived in.

    1. Yes, it is a place/house of amazing contrasts. Oh yes, visiting places with others is always a little tricky as everybody always wants to look at different stuff. And, I am always trailing at that back taking photos when the others have moved on. Not sure what going to galleries and museums is going to be like in these Covid times.

      1. Yes, I thought that, but I think in some places you have to go round on a prescribe route, with a one-way direction and that is very much not how I make a visit. Oh well, we will have to see how it all works. Anything will be better than nothing.

  2. What an interesting combo! Those stair treads – so worn an neglected now, but I guess they could be brought back to life. Imagine how classy the houses would have looked in Handel’s time, and what might he have thought of Hendrix’s bedroom?

    1. Absolutely, but I think and hope that a musician like Handel would have been and amazed, fascinated and intrigued by Hendrix and the free-styling of 20th-century rock music in general.

      1. All Along the Watchtower is on my “funeral” list (for my head-banging side). Along with Ave Maria for my classic conservative side, and Blood, Sweat and Tears, When I Die for my philosophical side 🙂 Maybe Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven will fit in as well!

      2. Ah, what a delightfully eclectic mix. I just checked and am amazed that Stairway to Heaven is one of the most, if not THE most popular funeral choice. Who’d have thought Led Zeppelin? I won’t be having a funeral, well hopefully not, as I am intending to donate my body to medical research. It’s a family thing both my grandparents ended up with the med students at Cambridge and my father has already signed all his paperwork to go there too. Cheerful topic. 😉

      3. It’s the conversation I often had with Lord Beari of Bow, did you follow him? But I think in the end that wish did not proceed. My grandmother donated hers, and ended up in a common grave (1956). I suppose these days it’s cremation?

      4. Yes, I think you’re right. Cremation with some suitable words, but I don’t think any relatives get any ashes. I know my father didn’t from his parents. We all return to the earth one way or another eventually.

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