Bridget Cunningham ARCM MMus BA Hons

Bridget CunninghamFinzi Trust Travel Scholarship 2007

Conductor and Harpsichordist

Thanks to the inspiration from my Finzi Trust Scholarship, I spend my time conducting, performing and researching Baroque music as an Early Music Specialist and Opera conductor and have just finished conducting an orchestral recording of Handel with Sophie Bevan, Mary Bevan and Ben Bevan, London Early Opera and Grammy winning producer Chris Alder.

I have always enjoyed playing Handel's music, the keyboard repertoire, operas, oratorios and cantatas and I really wanted to delve a lot deeper and look into the reasons why Handel went to Dublin, what he did there and what else was going on musically at the time in Ireland. In the 18th century, Dublin was a musical melting pot where everyone attended charitable concerts, often 'to be seen'. Very little was previously known about Handel's reasons for leaving London in 1741 and about what he did in Dublin for nine months apart from perform the premiere of Messiah. The rich tapestry of Irish baroque music also needed further exploration as records have been lost, information has been changed so I really wanted to go over and spend time in libraries and collections to see what I could find.

When I was awarded this Finzi Trust Travel Scholarship in 2007, I was absolutely thrilled as this allowed me to travel to Ireland and give myself the time to pour over manuscripts, journals, newspapers and find out as much as I could about 18th century musical life in Ireland. The more I found out, the more I realised the extent of what still remains to be discovered and put into musical and historical context. I organised a few harpsichord recitals whilst I was there which were picked up by Irish Radio stations and I performed music by Handel, Carter Roseingrave and other Irish music from the time. This inspired me to record my first solo harpsichord album entitled 'Handel in Ireland' which I am grateful has received tremendous reviews and was voted Album of the Month and has had great coverage. It was recently featured on an hour long Radio show for Radio Stephansdom, Austria's National Radio Station with Angela Hewitt's recordings of Handel on the piano.

As I found so much orchestral material in Ireland, I then set up an Opera company called London Early Opera, who are leading exponents of baroque research and work with historians, editors and other musicologists. I am currently fundraising to record some of the finest orchestral music Handel conducted from the harpsichord whilst he was in Ireland.

This scholarship really allowed me to open up many new doors and it was fascinating how one thing and one idea spiralled into another. It was an amazing opportunity to be allowed to be creative and follow up ideas and gain fresh inspiration so I am eternally grateful to the Finzi Trust for allowing me to make this happen. For future events please see: