On Wednesday 17th July 1717, George Frideric Handel gave his first performances of the famous Water Music suites on the River Thames, between Whitehall Palace and Chelsea. Musicians played on board barges for King George I, members of the court and an enthralled public.
This grand waterborne concert may have been organised by politicians as a spectacular public relations exercise for the new Hanovarian monarch, who could speak little English. The eighteenth century was a heady age of discovery, enlightenment and industrial expansion and Handal was at the forefront of the baroque musical revolution, penning scores for the theatre, church and state.
The staging of the Water Music was truly an assault on the senses, with elaborately decorated barges, flickering illuminations and the sounds of the instruments booming across the water. It has been suggested popular segments of the music are played somewhere in the world continuously, such is the power of the score. In 1987, a live performance was held on nearby Wroxham Broad.
Water, music and light combined after dusk can often produce magical scenes, including along Hoveton’s public Riverside Walk (pictured).