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By Celina Colby / July 23, 12:00 AM
Boston Accent: Musical Milestone


Congratulations to the innovative Boston-based music group the Handel and Haydn Society on its bicentennial! For 200 years the organization has maintained a loyal following playing Baroque and classical hits. Its resident conductor Ian Watson puts it simply: “Classical music has a universal message. It brings people together.”  
    A group of like-minded musical friends started the organization as a way of merging old and new music to educate and entertain. Handel, a composer at the turn of the 17th century, represented the “old,” while Haydn, although recently deceased in 1809, represented the “new.” Handel and Haydn was the first group in America to perform Haydn’s The Creation and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, among others. One of the most important facets of the group is its use of period instruments. The performers prefer to use the instruments that the original composers intended.  
    H&H has many engaging activities planned to celebrate its bicentennial, culminating at the Summer Arts Weekend with a live performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in Copley Square on July 26. Watson conducts. “I’m aiming at everyone joining together in a common understanding of what it means to be human,” he says. Handel and Haydn are in good company, sharing the Summer Arts stage with well-known acts like Blue Man Group, Bettye LaVette and Aaron Neville. An exhibit of historical objects and music at the Boston Public Library also illustrates the history of Handel and Haydn. Tours are offered every week through August 28.
    Watson has been working with H&H since 2008 and assumed the post of resident conductor in 2014. Despite starting his musical career in London and Belgium, Watson has grown to love our historic city. Of Boston he states, “It’s a small but very vibrant and diverse musical community.” In addition to conducting for H&H, Watson has worked on movie scores, including those of the Academy Award-winning films Amadeus and The Madness of King George.
    Attendees of the July 26 concert should expect more than a performance. “A concert is really a special event,” says Watson. “There’s a sort of communion, an understanding when everyone is experiencing the same thing.” H&H chose Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for its themes of brotherhood and friendship. Summer Arts Weekend is about people coming together to celebrate good music and the glorious days of summer. “It’s very much a world piece. I think that was a very appropriate choice to bring the people of Boston together.”

Photo: James Doyle

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