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By Mike Stedham

As far as we know, King George I of England never cruised down the Coosa River listening to Jimmy Buffett on his iPod. But the monarch did understand the universal pleasure of listening to stirring music while enjoying a nice summer boat ride. He also had the power and the money to make it happen. So on the evening of July 17, 1717, the king gathered a few of his closest friends on the royal barge and floated from Whitehall to Chelsea listening to a new piece of music written for the occasion by his old friend George Frederick Handel. Here’s how the local newspaper, The Daily Courant, described the event: 44 Longleaf Style Summer 2010

“A City Company’s Barge was employ’d for the Musick, wherein were 50 instruments of all sorts, who play’d all the Way from Lambeth the finest Symphonies, compos’d express for this Occasion, by Mr. Hendel; which his Majesty liked so well, that he caus’d it to be plaid over three times in going and returning.” It was a three-hour boat ride, according to the newspaper, followed by a lavish supper when the party landed at Chelsea. The orchestra continued to play throughout the meal and all the way back home.

Another contemporary account of the evening, this one from the Prussian ambassador to England, said the instruments on the barge included trumpets, horns, oboes, bassoons, flutes, violins and basses – an entire Baroque orchestra minus the harpsichord, which has never been much of a nautical instrument. Thus was born “Handel’s Water Music,” one of the most enduring pieces of music ever written. It’s a great piece of Baroque traveling music. Handel was a master of strong

Longlead Summer 2010  
Longlead Summer 2010  

The Summer 2010 issue of Longleaf