From the London Stage to Westminster Abbey: Cultural Mobility of Handel’s Oratorios in Britain, 1732-1784


ACLS Fellowship Program


Continuing Studies


Almost unique among modern genres, the oratorios of Handel trod a path from secular to sacred space. Originally dramatic entertainment for the London stage, they were translated, in the course of a few decades, into sacred music and a British cultural monument. This project examines the transformation in the context of the social and cultural dynamism of Georgian Britain. Linking the genre’s development to English nationalism, it investigates interactions with contemporary audiences from cognitive and psychological perspectives. The absence of visual representation and the dominance of chorus in oratorio performances helped eliminate the audience/performers divide and foster a community spirit hitherto available only in civic and religious rituals.