Handel Commemoration

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Interior View of Westminster Abbey on the Commemoration of Handel, Taken from the Manager's Box, Edward Edwards, ca. 1790. Yale Center for British Art

The Handel festival or "Commemoration" took place in Westminster Abbey in 1784, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of George Frideric Handel in 1759.

The commemoration was organized by John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich[1] and the Concerts of Antient Music and took the form of a series of concerts of Handel’s music, given in the Abbey by vast numbers of singers and instrumentalists.

Above Handel's own monument in the Abbey, there is a small additional tablet to record the commemoration. An account of the commemoration was published by Charles Burney in the following year (1785).

The commemoration established a fashion for large-scale performances of Handel’s choral works throughout the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. E.D. Mackerness (in A Social History of English Music) described it as "the most important single event in the history of English music".


  • E.D. Mackerness, A Social History of English Music, London, 1964.
  • H. Diack Johnstone, A Ringside Seat at the Handel Commemoration. Musical Times, Vol. 125, No. 1701 (Nov., 1984), pp. 632–633+635-636
  • William Weber, The 1784 Handel Commemoration as Political Ritual. Journal of British Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Jan., 1989), pp. 43–69
  • Pierre Dubois, Reviews of the Handel Commemoration of 1784: Discourse and Reception. ESSE-8: LONDON 2006
  1. ^ William Weber. "4th Earl of Sandwich". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.  (subscription required)

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