Why did Handel dance the hornpipe? Examining English Hornpipes Through The Lens of Handel’s Water Music
Level of Education of Students Involved
Arts and Sciences
Many scholars consider the famous hornpipe movements in Handel’s Water Music as a nod to water on which the piece was first premiered. However, it is unlikely that the typical assumption that Handel wrote a hornpipe because of its association with sailors is correct. Research shows that correlation did not come until much later in the 1700s. Why then does Handel write not just one but two hornpipes into his Water Music; are they even associated with the dance they receive their name from? As I researched the hornpipe movements of Handel’s Water Music from a historical, cultural, and analytical perspective, I noticed that there are a number of elements that come from the hornpipe genre and the hornpipes of Purcell, the English composer of whose shoes Handel was eager to fill. The meter, syncopation, and form of this piece connect it to a number of other examples of hornpipe from the same time period and the impact Handel wanted his music to have on English audiences. While scholars such as Madeline Inglehearn have researched the specifics of the hornpipe dance and Christopher Hogwood, Paul Lang, and Donald Burrows have examined Water Music and more broadly Handel’s biography, none of them give the hornpipes their full credit as an emblem of Handel’s ambition in the English court. In my research, I set the story straight on the “Hornpipe” and “Alla Hornpipe” , their relation to King George I, his country, and the favor Handel hoped to win through their performance.
Bowen, Carolina, "Why did Handel dance the hornpipe? Examining English Hornpipes Through The Lens of Handel’s Water Music" (2023). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 1184.