Handel and Haydn Society’s new 2021-22 season opens October 8 and Henry Santoro of GBH Radio interviewed David Snead, President and CEO of the Handel and Haydn Society, which performs baroque and classical music. The interview below is edited for clarity.
Henri Santoro: The upcoming season, the company’s 207th season, runs from October of this year through May of next year. And I don’t use that word often, but this season is shaping up to be epic on many levels. So why don’t you tell us why?
Snead: I guess it’s epic on many levels. The first level is the programming directory. We really tried to program works that we thought would bring people back into the venue and make them want to be in concert again, [to] play music that would be uplifting and inspiring.
So you have Beethoven’s sixth and seventh symphony, starting with Vivaldi Four Seasons, the Messiah – this is our 168th consecutive year of playing this. And that’s associated with new works that over the last year or so have really dug us deeper and tried to find voices that have been overlooked in the past. Everything revolves around the celebration of artistic director Harry Christopher’s final season. It’s his 13th year with us and it’s about doing what he does best with H and H.
Santoro: How emotional will it be on May 1 of next year at Symphony Hall in Boston, when the show ends and he takes his leave?
Snead: It will be a good time, Henry, especially since this last piece of Haydn’s creation, which he adores and always wanted to make his last work with H and H, it really showcases the choir. of the orchestra and all their magnificence.
When he told me that this [was] is going to end his reign – it took me a while to get off the ground, but then we said, “Let’s make this something to celebrate.” It’s been 13 years. His mark on H and H is as big or bigger than any other art director in our 207 year history. So, yes, that will be exactly the time.
“We survived the last pandemic in 1918 – that was what we were there for. So it wasn’t our first rodeo.”
Santoro: Over the past year, the company, like many others, has been forced through the pandemic. It was devastating for the artists and the staff. They must be on the edge of their seats right now, waiting to meet in front of an audience.
Snead: Yes, it has been an incredibly difficult season but ultimately successful. We survived the last pandemic in 1918 – we were there for it. So this was not our first rodeo. Of course, the tragedy of the pandemic that the whole world has felt in recent years is something we cannot forget. But I think musicians live to perform in front of a live audience. And while they figured out the reasons for not doing it last year, it’s going to be a good time when we take the stage in October.
Yiming Fu, intern at GBH News, participated in the production of this segment.