Handel And Hendrix In London: A Q&A with Martin Wyatt

Two musical legends who have left behind significant legacies have been brought together following the permanent opening of a London flat where Jimi Hendrix lived.

Composer Handel and Jimi Hendrix's homes are now open to the public. Tickets to visit are available through See Tickets. We speak to Martin Wyatt of Handel & Hendrix in London to get the background.

Why and when was the decision made to restore and recreate Jimi Hendrix’s flat?

It has always been the intention of Handel House to open the Hendrix flat to the public on a permanent basis, in the same way that we opened Handel’s House in 2001. We recognise the importance of Hendrix’s contribution to music.

In 2010 during the run of the exhibition Hendrix in Britain we opened the flat for two weeks. It was enormously successful, so we knew there was an audience interested in visiting.

Since then we have had to plan and raise funds for the project (not easy in the current financial environment). The work required to make the flat accessible, and to reconstruct the look of it when Hendrix lived here in 1968/69, has taken just over a year.  We are on track to achieve our opening date of 10 February 2016.

What would you like people to take away from their visits to both the Handel and Hendrix properties? Would you encourage people who may not necessarily know much about either to come and visit?

I think it is important that people understand the worlds in which Handel and Hendrix lived and worked.  Both of their biographies have accrued some pretty wild and inaccurate stories over the years. Our main purpose is to unpick some of the myths and legends and try to get to the truth of their day-to-day lives and their extraordinary creativity.

I hope that anyone with a general interest in music, whether they already know or love Handel or Hendrix will find something interesting here.

Can you draw any parallels between the two artists?

Yes I think there are some very definite parallels between Handel and Hendrix. This is something that we have been exploring for many years now.  Even their basic stories overlap – two immigrants who come to London at key moments in their careers, make their names in the capital, and change forever the face of their musical worlds.

As well as this they share a tradition of exuberant performance styles. They were both amazing improvisers on their chosen instruments – Handel on harpsichord and organ, and Hendrix on guitar.

For people that may not know very much about Handel, how would you summarise his importance and ongoing musical influences?

As mentioned, Handel changed the face of music in England (and indeed across Europe) forever. As well as writing more than 40 operas, which are gradually making their way back into the repertoire, he created a new musical form called ‘oratorio’ which has stood the test of time.

He also composed one of the most famous and immediately recognisable pieces of music ever written. The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from his oratorio Messiah is a piece of music that has become synonymous with moments of revelation and success.  And his Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest, which has played a part in every British coronation since George II in 1727, has become an instantly recognisable piece of grand ceremonial music.

Much of Handel’s music was ignored for nearly 250 years. It is gradually being rediscovered for a whole new generation.

A lot is already known about the life of Jimi Hendrix, what do you think that the Brook Street flat can add to this?

What we will be focusing on here is a very specific time in Hendrix’s life. When he has passed the initial whirlwind success in London, and is becoming a more established artist. His third (and as it turned out last) studio album Electric Ladyland was released while he was at Brook Street, and he is on the cusp of moving on to the next stage of his career.

And beside this scrutiny of the performer and composer, we will give a unique glimpse into his daily private life. Drinking cups of milky tea, shopping for soft furnishings in John Lewis, jamming into the small hours with a group of friends, watching Coronation Street. These are not the usual Hendrix stories that most people are used to, I think.

Handel & Hendrix in London tickets are on sale now with See Tickets 

*Title image (c) Justin Barton

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