Music for the Foundling Hospital

The Foundling Hospital was a charity founded in 1739 by Thomas Coram, a retired sea-captain, in order to provide shelter and education for poor deserted infants.

In order to attract funding from its predominantly middle-class benefactors, it developed multiple attractions that drew Londoners to visit the building, view the art collection initially built up by Hogarth, attend fashionable sermons in the chapel, where they could view the children and listen to Handel’s music.

The chapel was officially opened 1753, but it had been used for money-raising concerts since 1749, where Handel offered performance of vocal and instrumental music, and the specially composed Foundling Hospital Anthem.

Thus began Handel’s long association with the hospital. In 1750 his presented them with an organ and gave a performance of his oratorio Messiah, that had been composed in 1741 and performed in Dublin in 1742, to mark the occasion. The concert was so successful that it was repeated a few days later. Tickets sold at half a guinea each, and the proceeds of the two performances amounted to £969.7.0 altogether. This compares extremely well with the charity concert given by the Edinburgh Music Society on behalf of the Infirmary there.

Performance of that oratorio then became an annual tradition until 1777. All in all, over the years, Handel earned £6725.10.0 for the hospital with his music. The Governors gratefully gave a memorial concert 1759 after his death.


Handel’s Anthem for the Foundling Hospital

Extracts from track 8 of record 421.654-2
(London: The Decca Record Company Ltd, 1989)
Simon Preston, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford & the Academy of Ancient Music on authentic instruments (verse anthem)

Blessed are they that considereth [sic] the poor and needy: the Lord will deliver them in time of trouble, the Lord preserve them and comfort them.
(Psalm 41 : 1-2)

Blessed are they that considereth the poor and needy: they deliver the poor that crieth, the fatherless and him that hath none to help him.
(Psalm 72 : 12)




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The keyboard of the organ presented by Handel to the Foundling Hospital and first played by him for the performance of Messiah in 1750 had 3 manuals, with 5 octaves on the lower two manuals, and 3½ octaves in the upper manual. By 1765, it was already in need of repair, and was replaced by a new one, built by Thomas Parker.




Mc LURE, RUTH K. Coram’s Children: The London Foundling Hospital in the Eighteenth Century. New Haven & London: Yale U P, 1981.