Harry Christophers Returns To Symphony Hall For His 13th And Final Season With Handel and Haydn Society

Harry Christophers is returning to Boston once again this holiday season, but this time, what will admittedly be an emotional performance for his 13th and final season as artistic director of Grammy-winning Handel and Haydn Society. The classical Messiah concert with its famous “Hallelujah” chorus debuted in town back in 1854 and has become an annual tradition (not to mention one of Boston’s longest running holiday hallmarks) ever since.

“I am coming to Boston on Saturday and it is the first time I have been over since the end of January 2020,” Christophers said to us earlier this week on a Zoom call. “We lost a year and I can’t wait to be back with them all and just make music again. Thirteen years is a long time to be in charge of an orchestra chorus. It has been fantastic; I have loved it.”

Photo Credit: Chris Lee

Photo Credit: Sam Brewer

Christophers admits Messiah has always been an emotional performance for him. “I absolutely adore it, particularly in Symphony Hall,” he said. “This performance is going to be pretty special with a few tears, I am sure. I am well known as a Handel expert, but hadn’t conducted much Haydn until I came to H&H. It has been brilliant. I am coming over from Europe and it’s a whole different atmosphere over here. In Europe, we don’t sort of have that home in a phenomenal concert hall. We migrate around from venue to venue but with H&H, we have a home at Symphony Hall and I get to perform in that phenomenal building.”

What is it about Messiah that makes the performance so special? “First and foremost, it’s a fantastic piece and people know it,” Christophers said. “It’s very well balanced and you don’t have to be of any faith to enjoy it. It tests our emotions just listening to it. It will make you laugh and cry and ultimately, at the very end, it will give you hope for the future. With the past year and a half we have had and with everything going on in the world, it is music to give you hope.”

Photo Credit: Sam Brewer

Photo Credit: Michael Blanchard

Over his 13 years with H&H, Christophers admits what has pleased him the most “is seeing a wider variety of people coming to the concerts. Classical music is for everyone. When people come to concerts, they love the fact they feel a sort of empathy with the people on stage and it’s difficult to put into words unless you are there. Yet somehow we try to make sure there is a communication in the way we perform and physically get into the music and particularly, the way the singers communicate with the audience. H&H really does communicate with the audience. You get the feedback from the audience saying they feel like they are part of it all. Part of me believes in that passionately. If performers don’t give of themselves and show their humility and their being one with the music, the audience may as well sit and listen to a CD. What’s the point of coming to live music unless you are physically and emotionally inspired?”

The Messiah concerts will be held on Friday, November 26 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, November 27 and Sunday, November 28 at 3 p.m. at Symphony Hall in Boston.