A Song for St Nicholas
This composition is from a very weird music book called St Nicholas Songs by Waldo Selden Pratt (1885). 1885 was also the year in which the composer of this score died. His name was Leopold Damrosch, and he was a famous conductor and composer. The rest of the songs are of the putridly sentimental variety. The kind of things that turned grownups on but made kids gag, no doubt.
This song is interesting, however. It's 'based on a true story', as they say. When Handel was a kid, his dad wouldn't have music in the house. He wanted Georg to grow up to be a lawyer. The mind boggles. So Handel, youthful rebel, smuggled a clavichord into the attic and practised while everybody was asleep.
No, I don't know how he got away with it. Either they were very sound sleepers or they thought they had musical mice. Anyway, it's a great story.
What any of this has to do with St Nicholas is anybody's guess. Ah. 'St Nicholas' probably refers to the magazine. Mary Mapes Dodge (of 'Hans Brinker' infamy) edited that magazine, and Margaret Johnson wrote 'poetry' for it.
Yes, yes, I know you want to hear what it sounds like – the song, not the awful cat picture. I have spared no expense. Once Mrs Hoggett helped me change the ink cartridge in my printer and troubleshoot the thing (do printers ever work?), I wrestled a copy downstairs (my clavichord is in the living room, not the attic, Herr Handel) and produced this movie, which is full of exciting CGI effects and a few wrong notes.
You can probably find out more about Handel if you visit his house museum in London. It's called the Handel and Hendrix museum because it is also devoted to Jimi Hendrix, who lived next door to George Frideric, although not in the same century.
Watch it here or on this page.