February 23rd – Interesting day in the history of music. On this day in 1685, George Frederic Handel was born in Halle, Branden (Germany). In 1940 a baby boy was born to the Guthrie family-Woodrow Wilson Guthrie in Okemah, Oklahoma. A dichotomy of back grounds and style, but both of these men have given us such treasures of great music and talen.
George Handel was born to a fairly well-off family, his father was a barber-surgeon. Though in the beginning, Handel’s father discouraged his son’s music, pushing him to study law. Handel had to wait until his father was asleep and then sneak up into the attic to practice his instruments.
A child prodigy, he played violin, harpsichord, and organ. His father died when he was 11 years old and in 1702 he enrolled in the University of Halle to study law. After one year, he left the University and headed north to Hamburg where he played in the opera orchestra.
Moving on Germany, Italy and finally to England, Handel wrote scores for orchestras where ever he lived. In 1741, at the age 56, he was asked to write a score to be performed in Ireland. He decided to compose an oratorio for the performance. It is reported that he worked for 25 days with little or no rest and skipping most of his meals. He gave the world “The Messiah”. He is quoted as saying at the end of this period “I think that God has visited me.”
He was truly inspired by God to have created so masterful and remarkable, a score like this.
Now to the opposite side of the music world. Woody Guthrie young years taught and shaped his life. He said of his early years in Okemah-
“Okemah was one of the singingest, square dancingest, drinkingest, yellingest, preachingest, walkingest, talkingest, laughingest, cryingest, shootingest, fist fightingest, bleedingest, gamblingest, gun, club and razore carryingest of our ranch towns and farm towns, because it blossomed out into one of our first Oil Boom Towns.:
Excerpt from “Pastures of Plenty” by Woody Guthrie, Edited by Harold Leventhal & Dave Marsh.
Many of Guthrie’s have been sung by many vocal artists, some are ingrained in our minds and memories. Perhaps one of the most well-known is “This Land Is My Land”. It is said that he wrote the song after hearing the sentimental patriotic song written by Irving Berlin and sung by Kate Smith, “God Bless America”. His travels all over the United States, time in both the Army and the Merchant Marines gave him a real knowledge of this great land, it’s ribbon of highways and majestic views. For more information about Woody Guthrie, his life and his music, visit his biography page here.
Happy Birthday to two incredibly talented men.