Today when you hear keyboard music by Handel played, it is usually played on a piano. At the time that this music was performed however pianos had not yet been invented, so keyboard music was generally played on a harpsichord. Do some research on the differences between the two, considering when each instrument was invented, how the sound is produced in each instrument (hitting versus plucking strings), and the different capabilities.

After reviewing the differences between the piano and the harpsichord, listen to recordings of each of these instruments and then discuss the actual differences in sound. Here are some starting points for your class discussion:

What does each of the instruments sound like?
What factors in the instruments make them sound a particular way?
Which sound is most appealing to you?
Do you think Handel would have liked the piano?
Recently musicians have been seeking to perform baroque music on instruments from the era. Why do you think they would do that?

One of Handel’s best known works is the oratorio The Messiah. Pretend that you are watching the very first performance ever of this piece. On the way out, you are stopped to be interviewed by the local television news (…just use your imagination!). What do you tell them about it? You could choose one student to be the reported, and videotape interviews with “audience” members.

These are just some of the ideas found in our great composers music lesson plan product.