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Handel and Haydn Society kicks off 199th season

Boston's Handel and Haydn Society is this country's oldest oratorio society, and an institutional member of the Haydn Society of North America. I had the great pleasure of hearing them perform J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor on Sunday, Sept. 29, inaugurating their 199th season. I do not intend to give a review of the concert here, but rather to congratulate H & H and its artistic and music director Harry Christophers, CBE, for their outstanding performance of this monumental work, and wish them luck and good fortune in their upcoming season.

As always, they have an ambitious season ahead of them, including nine subscription concerts and two special performances. Christophers will lead five of the subscription concerts, including the annual holiday Messiah performances the weekend of November 29-December 1, Handel's Samson May 2 and 4, plus special (non-subscription) performances of Acis & Galatea May 15-18 at the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre, with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Other leaders this season will be John Finney, Grant Llewellyn, Scott Metcalfe, Richard Egarr, and concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky. Haydn works featured this season are the Sinfonia Concertante (Nov. 1 & 3), Symphony No. 104, and the Trumpet Concerto featuring Alison Balsom, keyed bugle (both Jan. 24 & 26). For a complete listing of Handel and Haydn Society concerts and repertoire, and for information about purchasing tickets, visit their web site

While it was indeed wonderful to celebrate the beginning of its 199th season, the celebration was bittersweet. The Handel and Haydn Society dedicated this first concert to the memory of two of the orchestral musicians—timpanist John Grimes and principal horn Richard Menaul—who recently passed away. Both men were respected performers and teachers in the Boston area, and will be missed. It was a great privilege for me to hear these two fine musicians in rehearsals and performances during my tenure as Research Fellow in 2008-2009, and on a number of occasions since. Sitting and listening to them taught me so much about what these instruments could do. Mr. Grimes is one of the most creative musicians I have ever heard. And while I didn't know Mr. Menaul personally, a former student of mine who had been studying with him often told me how kind, selfless, and wonderful he was as a teacher and mentor. Endowment funds honoring the memory of both of these gentlemen have been set up by the Handel and Haydn Society. On behalf of the Haydn Society of North America, I offer my words of respect and admiration for these two fine musicians, and to the orchestra they so expertly served for so many years. 

—Michael E. Ruhling