The Handel and Haydn Society: Bringing Music to Life for 200 Years Exhibition Opens at BPL
Archives tell the story of 200 years of music history
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For Immediate Release
March 17, 2015
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The exhibition The Handel and Haydn Society: Bringing Music to Life for 200 Years opens at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square in the Cheverus Room on Tuesday, March 24, and runs through Saturday, September 5. The bicentennial exhibition explores Handel and Haydn Society’s long musical history and features original artifacts drawn from H+H’s private archives and the Boston Public Library’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, including photographs, program books, newspaper clippings, and other materials dating back to the early 1800s.

“This exhibition is a must-see for classical music fans and admirers of the Handel and Haydn Society. But all visitors with interests in Boston and American history will find a great deal here that is appealing, illuminating, and fun,” said Handel and Haydn Society’s Executive Director and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard. “It’s perfect for families.”

Historical timelines overlaid with archival material are included in the exhibition, which is enhanced by a smartphone app and iPad stations that include music and interactive demonstrations. The “Hearing History” station simulates what a performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus may have sounded like at the first Handel and Haydn performance in 1815. The smartphone app allows visitors to access additional material from the Handel and Haydn archives, including digitized photos, and conduct a historic walking tour. The opening date of the exhibition coincides with the 200th anniversary of H+H’s founding and “Handel and Haydn Society Day” in the City of Boston. A corresponding symposium held by the Music Critics Association of North America titled “The Handel and Haydn Society: Past, Present, and Future” takes place on Friday, March 27, from 1-3 p.m. in the Abbey Room at the Boston Public Library.

“The exhibition tells the story of a significant period in Boston’s cultural and musical history and enables our audiences to experience timeless music in new and creative ways,” said Beth Prindle, Manager of Exhibitions & Programming at Boston Public Library.

A portion of the Handel and Haydn Society’s archival collection of books, scores, and archives was gifted to the Boston Public Library in 1975 to be preserved as part of the permanent research collection. The collection ranges from early imprints of Handel's music and copies of the Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music to the holographs of commissioned works. The archives includes copies of bills and disbursements dating back to 1815, printers' plates for tickets, programs from 1815-1912, membership lists and by-laws. A finding aid to the Handel and Haydn Archives is available online.

The Handel and Haydn Society: Bringing Music to Life for 200 Years was developed by Tamar Agulian, who worked in collaboration with Handel and Haydn Society’s staff members, including Christopher Hogwood Historically Informed Performance Fellow Teresa M. Neff, archivist Michelle Chiles, and Director of Bicentennial and Community Engagement Emily Yoder Reed. The exhibition is presented in partnership with the Freedom Trail Foundation and the MIT Museum, and is made possible with funding from the Adams Arts Program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Plymouth Rock Foundation.

The exhibition is open during regular Boston Public Library hours and is located on the third floor of the BPL’s McKim building. The best entrance to use is the Dartmouth Street entrance via the McKim building, which faces Copley Square.


Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit



Founded in Boston in 1815, the Handel and Haydn Society (H+H) is considered America’s oldest continuously performing arts organization. H+H celebrates its Bicentennial in 2015 with a series of special concerts and initiatives to honor 200 years of music making. Under Artistic Director Harry Christophers’ leadership, H+H’s Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus present live and recorded historically informed performances of this repertoire in ways that stimulate the musical and cultural life of the Greater Boston community and beyond. As a 21st-century performing arts organization, H+H’s primary roles are to perform and educate, and to serve as a resource center and community partner. The Karen S. and George D. Levy Education Program, established in 1985, annually reaches 10,000 children throughout Boston and eastern Massachusetts.

Image Caption: Handel and Haydn Society Records, MS 5084. Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library. Courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library.

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