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COMFORT ZONE

Handel and Haydn Society hires Reggie Mobley to diversify its season: ‘People are getting bored hearing the same composers’

Reggie Mobley has a new job with Handel and Haydn Society.
Reggie Mobley has a new job with Handel and Haydn Society.Liz Linder

At a time when most arts organizations are canceling programs, cutting salaries, and furloughing employees, Handel and Haydn Society is expanding and looking to the future. Reggie Mobley has been named the organization’s first-ever programming consultant, effective immediately.

Mobley, a Boston-based countertenor who has long been a vocal advocate for “un-whitewashing” classical music, will continue to direct the orchestra’s annual “Every Voice” concert series, which celebrates music by underrepresented composers with free community concerts. In his new role, Mobley will help build diversity into H+H subscription concerts, starting with the 2021-22 season.

“We want to start bringing this music into Symphony Hall ... and standing it next to the same three or four composers that we do every year,” Mobley said via phone from his home in Jamaica Plain. “It’s not just the point of saying that H+H is ‘woker’ than every other early music ensemble. ... This is important for the life and the longevity of ensembles in classical music itself. People are getting bored hearing the same composers cycle in and out, when there are so many more that deserve attention.”

H+H president and CEO David Snead and vice president of artistic planning Ira Pedlikin recruited Mobley for the role after last fall’s Every Voice concert. “We wanted to freshen up our programming, and bring the audience a broader range of works, particularly by composers of color, and women,” Snead said.

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For ensembles that specialize in older works, it takes some creativity and research to add repertoire by underrepresented composers. H+H mostly plays music from the Baroque through Brahms, but the group has already made encouraging first steps: It performed a piece by the Afro-French composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges in 2017. A piece by Clara Schumann is scheduled to open the 2020-21 season this fall. Mobley aims to reach even further beyond the Western European canon with his new role. “We’re hoping to grant a few more angles of what was being done, and how it was being done, from the vantage points of these other composers who have been forgotten for so long,” Mobley said.

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