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Make Them Better

It is twelve at night in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg, Germany, in the year of our Lord Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-One. The household of the barber-surgeon Georg and his family is asleep.

All but one member of the family, that is. Georg’s son Frideric is slowly making his way past the door of his parent’s bedroom. He avoids the middle of the hallway (the boards creak) in favor of the less-trod boards to the right. One, two, three steps—his mother and father are still snoring, all is well. Six-year-old Frideric continues to the ladder-cum-stairs leading to the top floor of their modest but comfortable home. Moonlight and starlight light his steps to a small “klavichord,” an instrument that will help inspire the piano. He needs no light to softly, delicately play the piece he has learned by heart.

He must play quietly—father Georg, though kind, remains adamant: “Frideric will study law, not music.”

One year later, a still young Frideric accompanies his parents on a trip to visit relatives. A young gentleman escorts Frideric to an organ.

“Would you like to sit on the stool?” the friend asks. Upon an excited nod from Frideric, Georg lifts his son onto the wide organ bench, commenting to the young gentleman, “Frideric may not know what to do—he’s never studied music, after all, since he will study law…”

Georg’s words fade as his young son exposes the talent that uncounted nights of practice have earned him. A sweet, powerful melody comes from the pipes. Frideric is too small to reach the organ pedals and is unfamiliar with the many buttons (he will later learn they are “stops”) on the sides, but he knows how to make the keys obey his will. Father and friend are left speechless. After the last note, Georg’s relative whispers, “it is a heavenly gift—perhaps you should reconsider. A few music lessons, perhaps…?”

A subdued Georg merely nods.

Frideric, commonly known as Georg Frideric Handel, will grow up to become the composer of many musical works, including the Messiah.

When told by royalty that his music entertained the people, Handel responded, “I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better.”

If every composer, every author, every craftsman, every person had that goal—what a world this would be!

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©2014. Picture courtesy of http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/handel.php

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