The Handel and Haydn Society (H&H), America’s oldest continuously performing arts organization, comes to Cal Performances for two nights of early classical music. On Friday, April 26 at 8:00 p.m., the Society performs a mixed bill of Baroque works, including Vivaldi’s ever-popular The Four Seasons. The following night, at 7:00 p.m., the Society performs Handel’s 1751 oratorio Jephtha. H&H premiered this work in the US in 1867, and it has not been performed since. With Berkeley as its first stop on its West Coast tour, Cal Performances concertgoers will be the first audience to hear this work performed in the US in nearly 150 years.
The Handel and Haydn Society was founded in 1814 in Boston by a group of merchants who wanted to improve the quality of music in the city. Originally a chorus, the modern group features both an orchestra and choir that play both Baroque and Classical period pieces. The iconic group has a history of performing the American premieres of some of the most popular classical works including Handel’s Messiah in 1818, a cornerstone in their annual repertoire, Verdi’s Requiem in 1878 and Bach’s Mass in 1892. The ensemble has also commemorated some vital moments in history including the end of the Civil War and the Chicago fire. The Handel and Haydn Society has performed for many important dignitaries such as President James Monroe, Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, and Queen Elizabeth II.
The modern Handel and Haydn Society has strived to give historically informed performances of vocal and instrumental authenticity by using period instruments specific to the piece that is being played. The group started touring internationally in 1996 and traveled to many esteemed venues such as the Edinburgh Festival, The Proms, and the Haydn Festival in Austria. H&H won its first Grammy Award in 2003 for their recording of Sir Jon Tavener’s Lamentation and Praises with the San Francisco choral ensemble Chanticleer. The ensemble’s current Music Director, Harry Christopher, has been with the group since 2006 and will continue until 2015. Handel and Haydn will celebrate its bicentennial next year starting with their 161st performance of Handel’s Messiah in December 2014 and ending with Messiah in December 2015. The group has a subscription series in their Symphony and Jordan Halls and reaches an annual audience of over 35,000, the largest audience of such historically performed performance in North America.
The Handel and Haydn Society is committed to musical education and has provided outreach opportunities to children in eastern Massachusetts. In 1994, the Vocal Apprenticeship Program (VAP) was started to provide in-depth training for talented young vocalists whose family lack the financial resources to pursue private instruction. They also organize Collaborative Youth Concerts that bring singers from different high schools together in performance alongside the Handel and Hayden Society musicians. The Society also sponsors a financial award given to high school graduates of the VAP program who intend to continue onto a professional musical career.
Tickets for the Handel and Hayden Society on April 26 at 8:00 p.m. and April 27 at 7:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church are priced at $52.00 and are subject to change. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at www.calperformances.org; and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets. For more information about discounts, go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php or call (510) 642-9988.