Composer Study: George Frideric Handel
As we approached the holidays, I knew we’d soon be hearing strains of Handel’s Messiah. I wanted my children to recognize it when they heard it, so last month we focused on George Frideric Handel for our composer study. Handel must have had a rich faith. His settings of the Scriptures in Messiah are beautiful, and once you become familiar with the music, it’s almost impossible to read the book of Isaiah without his melodies running through your head. He also had a heart for the orphans of London, where the German-born composer chose to live much of his life, and Messiah, which he wrote in just twenty-four days, was performed annually at a benefit concert to support the Foundling Hospital (orphanage).
The main thing we listened to was Hallelujah Handel by Classical Kids, which tells the story of Handel and an orphan boy. Ian was fascinated by the story, as he has been with all the Classical Kids CDs. They’re really the core of our composer study this year. Here are a few other things we listened to (in order of relative interest to my kids):
- “When the Angels Play” (Harp Concerto in B♭) from Beethoven’s Wig 3: Many More Sing Along Symphonies
- My Name is Handel: The Story of Handel’s Water Music from Maestro Classics
- Classics for Kids episodes on Handel
- The Story of Handel (This series is pretty much straight biography with a lot of music in the background. I find them interesting, but my kids don’t. I just put them on for myself while the kids play and figure at least they’re hearing the music.
Video Resources (for children)
Two Little Einsteins episodes have music by Handel: “Annie, Get Your Microphone” and “Rocket the Bug” (both feature Water Music).
Books and Other Reading
The book Hallelujah Handel tells the same story as the Classical Kids CD, but from a totally different perspective. I enjoyed it just as much, especially the illustrations. Ian and I both enjoyed Handel (from the Famous Children series), and he got a kick out of Handel and the Famous Sword Swallower of Halle, which weaves biographical information around a fascinating incident from Handel’s hometown.
And for grown-ups (or older children):
I found a couple interesting videos on YouTube: Handel’s Messiah: The Biblical Message Behind the Musical Masterpiece and Musical Contexts: All About Handel. Also, if your library has videos available from Films On Demand like ours, there are three documentaries on Handel.
I opted not to attend a performance of Messiah this year, but hopefully as the children get older we’ll have a chance to enjoy it together. One year I’d like to go through the Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader, which I discovered a few years ago and am looking forward to using someday when everyone will understand.