He is the author of the highly popular book First Nights: Five Performance Premieres (Yale University Press, translated into Korean and Chinese). This lively book takes readers back to the first performances of five famous musical compositions: Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo in 1607, Handel’s Messiah in 1742, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in 1824, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique in 1830, and Stravinsky’s Sacre du printemps in 1913.
His other books include First Nights at the Opera (Yale, 2006); Capturing Music (Norton, 2015); and Early Music: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, translated into German and Hungarian). His book The Beneventan Chant (Cambridge) was awarded the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society for the most distinguished work of musicological scholarship of 1989.
He is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres of the French Republic and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy in Rome. He received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005. He is an honorary citizen of the city of Benevento (Italy).
Professor Kelly served as President of the Board of Apollo’s Fire during 1993-1995 and currently serves as one of AF’s national Board members.