Handel and Haydn Society Releases Christmas Album
The Handel and Haydn Society (H&H) has announced the release of its first studio recording with CORO. The disc, which is a co-production with WGBH and was recorded at their studios in Boston in January, will feature an eclectic selection of Christmas music including traditional carols using American tunes and Christmas motets by Charles Ives and contemporary American composer, James Bassi. The disc also features two carols by the "father of American choral music," Bostonian William Billings, and the popular Carol of the Bells by Ukranian composer Mykola Leontovich with its instantly recognisable four-note ostinato motif.
Artistic Director Harry Christophers comments: "When putting together this collection of music for Christmas, I canvassed many eminent people in the US, and in particular Boston, as to which carols were the most popular. I was surprised to find that It came upon the midnight clear ranked amongst the top three, beautiful though it is. When I came to rehearse it, I expressed my surprise to the singers only for them to respond 'but Harry, this isn't the tune we know!' That was also their reaction to O little town of Bethlehem, the words of which incidentally were written by Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts. I had also asked notable organists and choirmasters what were the most frequently performed Christmas anthems only to be told that they were undoubtedly works by Rutter and Howells. Thus what I have presented is a sort of survey of the most popular carols sung in the US, occasionally alongside their English counterparts, as well as a selection of American and English anthems for the festive season."
Founded in 1815, H&H, a Grammy Award winner, is considered the oldest continuously performing arts organization in the U.S. and has given the American premieres of major works including Handel's Messiah and Jephtha; Bach's St. Matthew Passion; and works by Haydn, Mozart, and many others. H&H and CORO launched their first collaboration with a trilogy including Mozart's Mass in C Minor (2010), Mozart's Requiem (2011), and Mozart's Coronation Mass (2012). In September of this year they released a new recording of Haydn symphonies (No. 6 and No. 82) and the Violin Concerto in G major featuring violinist Aisslinn Nosky. Handel and Haydn celebrates its Bicentennial in 2015, and future plans include live recordings of Handel's Messiah and Haydn's Creation, which H&H premiered in the U.S. in 1818 and 1819, respectively.
"The Handel and Haydn Society honors the great American choral tradition with a unique selection of carols, including the beloved Joy to the World. From its first concert on Christmas Eve 1815 to its 160 year holiday tradition of Handel's Messiah, H&H holds a special place in the heart of many Americans at Christmas time. We hope this release will comfort and inspire many listeners around the world, especially as we prepare for the Bicentennial of H&H," said Executive Director and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard.
- Appointed Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society (H&H) in 2008, Harry Christophers began his tenure with the 2009-2010 Season and has conducted H&H each season since September 2006, when he led a sold-out performance in the Esterházy Palace at the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria. Christophers and H&H have since embarked on an ambitious artistic journey towards the organisation's 2015 Bicentennial with a showcase of works premiered in the United States by H&H since 1815, education programming, community outreach activities and partnerships, and the release of a series of recordings on the CORO label. Christophers is known internationally as founder and conductor of the UK-based choir and period instrument ensemble The Sixteen. He has directed The Sixteen throughout Europe, America, and the Far East, gaining a distinguished reputation for his work in Renaissance, baroque, and 20th- and 21st-century music. In 2000, he instituted The Choral Pilgrimage, a tour of British cathedrals from York to Canterbury. He has recorded over 120 titles for which he has won numerous awards, including a Grand Prix du Disque for Handel Messiah, numerous Preise der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik (German Record Critics Awards), the coveted Gramophone Award for Early Music, and the prestigious Classical Brit Award (2005) for his disc entitled Renaissance. In 2009 he received one of classical music's highest accolades, the Classic FM Gramophone Awards Artist of the Year Award; The Sixteen also won the Baroque Vocal Award for Handel Coronation Anthems, a CD that also received a 2010 Grammy Award nomination. Harry Christophers is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Granada Symphony Orchestra and a regular guest conductor with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. In October 2008, Christophers was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Leicester. He is an Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and also of the Royal Welsh Academy for Music and Drama and was awarded a CBE in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours.
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