|Well, it's not actually their birthday, but they're invited to the party.|
Even more remarkably, for much of its history, the group was also entwined with - well, history; the Handel and Haydn chorus sang at the memorial services for John Adams, Thomas Jefferson (at which Daniel Webster spoke) and Abraham Lincoln. The chorus raised funds for the Union Army, and performed at the official celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation (with Ralph Waldo Emerson as orator; Julia Ward Howe, composer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," was singing). In recent decades the Society has had less of a political profile, but has become known as a leader in period performance - arguably the most important development in classical music in the last generation - while also exhibiting a remarkable freedom in its programming, collaborating with artists as varied as Chanticleer, Keith Jarrett (yes, believe it or not), and Mark Morris.
Now, of course, the Society is grappling with how, precisely, to celebrate its remarkable history - a history that, frankly, isn't all that well known in its hometown. The group's first salvo in what looks to be a two-year campaign/party has been to simply get the word out about just how vital an organization it really is. And that vitality is hard to argue with - Handel and Haydn has vibrant community outreach and educational programs, which this year will be organized in tight coordination with the concert season (Handel's Israel in Egypt, for instance, will be the focus of a special outreach to the Jewish community). Partnership programs with the MFA and MIT are likewise gearing up. And new artistic director Harry Christophers promises more recordings (like the lovely one of Mozart's Mass in C Minor which just came out), and there are rumblings of a tour in the works. But right now you can join the party - and become a part of history - by checking out this weekend's performances of "Mozart: A Musical Journey," featuring period violinist Rachel Podger. I'll report back next week on the concert itself, but given Christophers's command of the chorus, and the way he has subtly transformed the H&H orchestra, I expect the results to be dazzling.