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Saturday 12 Jul 2014

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Westminster Abbey Messiah for 250th anniversary of Handel's death

In partnership with Westminster Abbey, BBC Radio 3 is to stage a performance of Handel's most celebrated work, Messiah, on the day of the 250th anniversary of the composer's death and in the place where he is buried.

This live broadcast event on Tuesday 14 April 2009 will be a highlight in Radio 3's year-long celebrations for Handel, which will be at their most intense during Easter week, when Handel's life and work will be featured in almost of all the Radio 3's existing strands (full details to be announced).

The Choir of Westminster Abbey is joined by period-instrument orchestra St James's Baroque and soloists Ailish Tynan, Sarah Connolly, Paul Agnew and Jonathan Lemalu.

The performance will be conducted by James O'Donnell, the Abbey's Organist and Master of the Choristers, and broadcast live on Radio 3 and across Europe via the European Broadcasting Union.

Handel has a special association with Westminster Abbey. The German-born composer made London his home for over 40 years and composed his celebrated Coronation Anthems for the Coronation of George II in 1727. Zadok The Priest, the most famous of the four anthems, has been sung at every coronation since.

Handel is buried in Poets' Corner in the south transept of the Abbey, where an imposing monument bears a life-size statue of the composer by the sculptor Louis-Fran├žois Roubiliac.

Unveiled in 1762, it is thought to be an exact likeness as the face was modelled from a death mask. Directly in front of him is the score of I Know That My Redeemer Liveth from Messiah.

Handel's funeral was attended by about 3,000 people and the choirs of the Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral and the Chapels Royal sang at the service.

Above the monument a tablet records the Handel festival or "Commemoration" of 1784. This series of concerts of Handel's music was given by a vast number of singers and instrumentalists and established a fashion for large-scale performances of Handel's choral works throughout the 19th century and much of the 20th.

Radio 3's Handel celebrations begin on air on 8 January 2009 with the first opera in the first complete Handel opera cycle on Radio 3.

All 42 of his operas will be broadcast every Thursday afternoon at 2.00pm for the entire year (except during the BBC Proms season).

Celebrations continue with a Handel Composer Of The Week from Monday 12 January.

Notes to Editors

For full details of this event, including box information, please see

For full details of Radio 3's Composers Of The Year, please see


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