Two centuries of Handel & Haydn highlights

Facing page: In an undated photo, WBZ-TV tapes a Handel and Haydn Society performance. This page: Grant Llewellyn (far left) and Harry Christophers in undated photos.
Stu Rosner
Grant Llewellyn.

View Handel and Haydn Society timeline in an interactive graphic.

March 24, 1815: The Handel and Haydn Society is founded in Boston, choosing as its namesakes Handel to represent tradition and Haydn to signify innovation.

Dec. 25, 1815: The society gives its first public performance at King’s Chapel.

Dec. 25, 1818: H&H offers the American debut of Handel’s “Messiah,” the first of many landmark premieres.


Feb. 16, 1819: The society offers the first public performance in America of Haydn’s “Creation.”

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Aug. 2, 1826: H&H participates in a memorial service for John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at Faneuil Hall.

Sept. 3, 1827: Lowell Mason, one of America’s most prominent hymn composers and educators, is elected H&H president.

Nov. 20, 1852: The society participates in the dedication of Boston Music Hall, an acclaimed venue that was later transformed into the Orpheum.

Feb. 5, 1853: H&H gives the local premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; “We never heard a symphony that at first hearing seemed more clear,” Dwight’s Journal of Music stated in a preview.


Jan. 1, 1863: The society participates in a Boston celebration of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation.

June 1, 1865: H&H performs at a Boston memorial service for Abraham Lincoln.

Oct. 21, 1900: The society presents its first concert in the new Symphony Hall.

Oct. 29, 1955: H&H releases its first commercial recording, Handel’s “Messiah,” one of three versions made by the society to date.

1961: The society makes its television debut on the program “Accent on Music.”


December 1963: H&H presents the world’s first complete televised performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”

1972: Music director Thomas Dunn introduces historically informed performance methods, reducing the chorus for “Messiah” to 30 singers.

June 30, 1986: The arrival of new artistic director Christopher Hogwood starts the orchestra’s transition to period instruments.

July 1, 2001: Grant Llewellyn is appointed music director.

July 2006: Roger Norrington, a historical-performance expert, is named artistic adviser.

Sept. 25, 2008: Harry Christophers, renowned for his work with English ensemble the Sixteen, is appointed artistic director. His tenure began in 2009.

Oct. 10, 2014: H&H initiates its bicentennial season with a concert, a new recording of “Messiah,” and a handsome book detailing the society’s history in essays and photos.

Steve Smith can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nightafternight.