This post is part of my ABCs of Homeschooling Through the Holidays series. To see all posts in the series, click here.
Christmas evokes fond memories often enchanted by our senses- sparkling Christmas lights and beautiful decorations, cold snowy evenings with warm fires in the fireplace, the smell of gingerbread and evergreen, and the sounds of Christmas with perhaps at the top of that list one of the most majestic music ever written: Handel’s Messiah. Today I’m happy to share with you a homeschool lesson about Handel’s Messiah that you can use to teach your children about it. (Click here if you would like a Free PDF version of the Handel’s Messiah homeschool lesson plan including a 10-page printable pack.)
Who was Handel?
Georg Friedrich Handel was born in Halle, Germany in 1685. He was an organist and wrote organ concertos. He also wrote vocal music such as anthems, operas, cantatas, songs, and oratorios and instrumental music such as concertos, concerti grossi, and suites. Handel is one of the most famous composers of the Baroque Era ( 1600-1725). He moved to London in 1712 and lived there until his death at age 74 in 1759. Two of his most well-known suites are Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. Listen to these two selections at YouTube:
Messiah is an oratorio, which is similar in structure to an opera, but without the dramatic staging. Messiah is in English and uses a choir, 5 soloists, and an orchestra. It was originally written for Easter and had its debut at Musick Hall in Dublin, Ireland on April 13, 1742. It is now a fixture of the Christmas season. The full story of Messiah is of Jesus’ nativity, passion, resurrection, and ascension.
It’s divided into 3 parts:
- Part I- Prophecies by Isaiah and the Annunciation of the Shepherds
- Part II- The Passion of Christ (ends with the Hallelujah Chorus)
- Part III- Resurrection of the Dead, Glorification of Christ in Heaven
The libretto (lyrics to be sung) was written by a devout believer in Jesus and in Scriptural authority Charles Jennens. Many of the words come from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Each of the three parts are divided into scenes. Each scene contains recitatives (a form of singing similar to speaking to relate the song before it to the song after it), arias (a song sung by a soloist), and choruses. There are also 2 instrumental pieces.
Amazingly, Handel wrote the music to Messiah in 24 days. He signed it SDG, which stands for Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone the glory). The original manuscript of 259 pages is in the British Library.
According to tradition, when Messiah debuted in London in 1743, King George II stood during the Hallelujah Chorus. Since he stood, all others stood. It’s been a tradition to stand during the song ever since.
Listen to these selections from Messiah:
“For Unto Us a Child is Born”
“He Shall Feed His Flock” Hear an example of recitative at the beginning of this recording:
Listen to the entire oratorio performance here:
Remember to head over to pick up your Free PDF version of the Handel’s Messiah homeschool lesson plan including a 10-page printable pack!
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