Introduction

While Italian opera set the standard in the Baroque era, German composer George Frederic Handel quickly gained popularity for his oratorios, which put operatic techniques to work in the service of sacred music. Handel’s Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, and remains popular to this day. Harvard’s Thomas Forrest Kelly (Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music) guides learners through Messiah’s musical highlights, while detailing Handel’s composition process, the preparations and rehearsals, and the premiere performance.

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Learners in this module of First Nights need not have any prior musical experience. In this unit, you will learn the basics of musical form and analysis, the genres and styles used in Messiah, the circumstances of its first performance, and its subsequent history. 

What you'll learn:

  • Get to know some wonderful music
  • Identify genres and subgenres of 18th-century opera and oratorio
  • Understand text-music relationships in the Baroque period
  • Distinguish basic aspects of musical texture and musical form
  • Appreciate cultural context and performance circumstances of Handel’s Messiah

Additional First Nights Modules:

 

Meet The Faculty

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music

Tom Kelly is the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University. Professor Kelly received his B.A. from Chapel Hill; spent two years on a Fulbright in France studying musicology, chant, and organ. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard (1973) with a dissertation on office tropes. He has taught at Wellesley, Smith, Amherst, and at Oberlin, where he directed the Historical Performance Program and served as acting Dean of the Conservatory. He was named a Harvard College Professor in 2000 and the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music in 2001. 

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