Handel's Messiah is one of the most popular choral pieces in Western music. It has been recorded hundreds of times and contains a tune that is as instantly recognisable as any in music. Yet few people know the extraordinary story of how this much-loved piece came to public attention - or how it helped save the lives of tens of thousands of children.
Historian Amanda Vickery and BBC Radio 3 presenter Tom Service present this one-hour drama documentary which recreates the first performance of Messiah at London's Foundling Hospital in 1750 and tells the heart-rending story of how this special fundraising concert helped maintain the hospital and heralded a golden age of philanthropy.
Exploring historical documents and artefacts, Amanda Vickery examines the plight of women in Georgian London, particularly how the attitudes of the time led mothers to abandon their babies at the hospital. Tom Service looks at the momentous trials and tribulations faced by Handel in London and discovers how the composer became involved with the Foundling Hospital alongside another philanthropist of the day, the artist William Hogarth.