There are many occasions when professional choral singers have the opportunity to sing the great liturgical works of classical composers like Mozart, Schubert, and Haydn. However it is rare to find yourself in a scenario where you’re surrounded by the best musicians you know, as far as the eye can see. This is always the case with the Handel + Haydn Society, a group that champions the precise, historically informed performance and recording of masterworks by composers who span the timeline from Bach to Beethoven.
The first time I recorded an album for commercial release with the H+H Chorus was Haydn’s Creation in 2015. I remember being in awe, sitting on the grand wooden stage of Boston Symphony Hall, staring out at the 16 Greek and Roman statues circling the second balcony before our performance began. I had never seen so many microphones in my life.
One trademark of Harry Christophers (Artistic Director of H+H) is his careful attention to the detailed delivery of text. He forces you to really spit out the text in a way you never have before. “”Sing as you speak!”” he says in a charming, somehow wise British accent. Although I’m fairly certain that if I spoke Latin in this way to an ancient Roman they would have me committed, I buy in. The results speak (or sing) for themselves.
A former voice teacher and mentor always used to warn me not to become another one of those “”Boston choral singers.” Try as I might, I can’t quite imagine myself any other way.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of 11 performances and counting. There is no word for it other than “devastating.” I commend the leadership of groups like EMA, who are helping freelance artists in their time of need.