Handel has always been my favorite composer. Some classical composers seem to have no depth. Others are too deep for their own good. Other composers lived such dark lives you can feel it in their music. But Handel. He just has the perfect balance of it all. At least, that's my not so very professional opinion.
When I was a girl, my father took me to a concert of Handel's Messiah. The music completely reached my soul. I still get goosebumps when I remember the first time I stood with the audience as the beginning notes of the Hallelujah chorus began to play.
This piece of music has always held a special place in my heart. Since I was born again, my love for The Messiah has only grown. Every word and every note shows the beauty of Jesus and the perfectly crafted plan of our great God.
Many years ago I started doing research into music. Specifically studying what music means to a Christian and what God's standard for music is. This is not a discussion on that topic. While I was studying and praying and searching, I came across lots of research that showed how music affects the brain, even down the the core of its development and the connecting of synapses.
Kaitlin was in Kindergarten or first grade at the time. She has always had trouble focusing on one thing at a time so I decided to try out the theory. I had her listen to Handel's Water Music while doing her lessons. I am here to tell you the difference was phenomenal. Still today, many of my kids will pop on ear buds and listen to Water Music or Music for the Royal Fireworks while doing independent work. The big difference is now it is on the iPod instead of on a CD walk man.
Allen and I discussed this topic all those years ago and he has little idea what goes on in the day to day running of our home school. But when Addison was just a few days old he remembered what I had shared with him and asked me to play classical music for Addison while he was sleeping. He hoped that doing so would maximize his brain development. Since Handel is my favorite composer and my research so many years ago had shown the Water Music to be the absolutely best for brain function we started playing it every time Addison went into his bassinet.
What we found was that if we forgot to turn the music on he didn't sleep as well. He didn't fuss but he would stay awake and kind of chat to himself or squirm around in his bed the whole time. We had suspected this for some time but when we went to New York in July our theory proved out. We remembered the speakers but forgot the power cord. Duh! We also discovered that Addison has a definite preference for Handel over other composers.
Since he was a newborn I have done endless research into Down Syndrome therapies and treatments for brain injured children. One of the things I found was that this theory of music still holds strong. In fact, I have read of people using classical music in conjunction with repetition to teach concepts that are often difficult for children with Ds to learn, such as math facts. Which was really exciting because we had already decided to try this out with Addison for teaching math facts, the books of the Bible, scripture, phonics and other things that require a lot of memory work. In our journey with Ds I am always excited to see support for something we "thought up" because that makes me think the Lord really put it on our hearts and it will be very beneficial to our boy. He's too young to know if what we are doing now will have any lasting impact but I do find encouragement in knowing that he is alert and bright eyed and right on par with his peers who do not have Ds.
But going back to Handel, one of the things I've always wanted to do was to take the kids to hear the Messiah. Classical music definitely not being something Allen enjoys, and the cost being great, it is not something we have ever gotten around to doing. Each December, though, the kids and I pick a day that Allen is on travel and get up before the sunrise. We make our tea and coffee and listen to The Messiah in its entirety. This is such a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and stay focused on what the season is about. I love to hear the youngers walking around singing various parts of the opera. So hilarious and inspiring at the same time.
At the beginning of November the kids switched their iPods over to Christmas music and we switched Addison's sleepy music over to The Messiah. I thought it would be a nice change for him. We also decided to take the family to hear the concert this Christmas season.
The day dawned absolutely frigid! It never even got above freezing and the wind was blowing insanely. Many of the kids were sick with a cold. In fact, we didn't even go to church. But we already had bought the tickets in advance so Allen decided we would go anyway. I am so glad we did! It was a wonderful blessing.
(Aunt Donna, don't you think he looks just like Gregory in this picture?) The concert was during his nap time and we joked that since he was used to listening to The Messiah when he sleeps Henry would fall asleep and miss the whole thing. Actually, Aedan was feeling so badly, he did zonk out on Allen's shoulder.
He woke up for the music, though.
But Addison! He was falling asleep on my shoulder before the music started.
But when the orchestra played the first notes he popped up his head up like nobody's business and listened with complete uninterrupted fascination for the entire concert.
That was something beautiful to behold. But I don't know what touched my heart more. To see Addison's amazement at the music or to look up during the Hallelujah Chorus and see nine heads turned and nine sets of eyes staring while nine faces smiled because what was most important to them was to see the reaction of our little guy.