Handel's Messiah and Baroque Oratorio

Masterpieces of western music

Join Harvard University faculty in this online course to discover Handel’s Messiah and explore five other masterpieces of western music in the Baroque era.

Featuring faculty from:
3 weeks
3-5 hours a week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Start Handel's Messiah today.

What You'll Learn

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.

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.

The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. In this course participants will:

  • 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

Your Instructor

Thomas is the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University. He received his B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill, and his Ph.D. from Harvard. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary citizen of the city of Benvento, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et Lettres of the French Republic.

Ways to take this course

When you enroll in this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.

A Verified Certificate costs $149 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate. 

Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.

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