Learning about Handel in a Junior High School Music Class

Here are a few concepts for a lesson plan about George Friderick Handel.

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. Have the students research differences between the instruments, looking at the time when each instrument was invented, and the methods of sound production in each instrument.

You can then find recordings of the two instruments and listen for the differences in sound. Here are some starting points for your class discussion:

How would you describe the sound of each instrument?
What factors in the instruments make them sound a particular way?
Which instruments sound do you prefer?
Do you think Handel would have liked the piano?
In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in playing baroque and classical music on original instruments. Why do you think this is so?

One of Handel’s best known works is the oratorio The Messiah. Imagine that you are in the audience of that first performance of the Messiah. 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.

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