The Handel and Haydn Society, celebrating its 200th anniversary season, has some institutional news: It has undertaken a $12 million capital campaign, and over the last two years, during the campaign’s “quiet phase,” the Society has already raised $9 million toward its goal.
“It’s an exciting time for H&H,” said executive director Marie-Hélène Bernard in a phone interview. “When we realized just how ambitious and how exciting our upcoming plans were, we realized this was also an opportunity to grow our endowment, and to invest in other artistic and strategic initiatives.”
Funds raised by the campaign, said Bernard, will allow H&H to expand its local presence and community education programs, to increase its regional, national, and international touring, and to broaden its performance repertoire. For the recently ended 2014 fiscal year, H&H’s budget was $4.3 million. The Society’s endowment currently stands at over $6 million, a number that will grow substantially if the new campaign reaches its goals.
H&H hopes that its larger endowment can support numerous initiatives, including those aimed at audience development and diversification. Its artistic plans for the coming years include an expansion of its repertoire through commissions of new music for voice and period instruments, and through forays into staged or semi-staged Baroque and classical opera. It also hopes to continue its recent emphasis on recordings, a commitment that has deepened since the arrival of artistic director Harry Christophers.
Over the last few years the Society has also expanded its geographic reach, with performances in Portland, Maine; Burlington, Vt.; and Montreal, as well as a West Coast tour. Next season, H&H will return to the West Coast, with more touring to follow in the seasons ahead. Bernard said the organization has been invited to tour in Europe and Asia as well.
Locally, H&H has been supplementing its mainstage series with community chamber music programs, and a new residency this season at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The education initiatives H&H hopes to expand include its Vocal Arts Program, with its five youth choral ensembles, and its program that sends musicians directly into local high schools. “The vast majority of high schools in Boston do not have any choral music,” said Bernard. “In the coming years, we’d like to reach out to all of them.”
The size of H&H’s newly announced campaign is not large by the standards of the city’s bigger arts institutions, but it represents an ambitious step within the niche field of early music performance. H&H believes it to be the largest campaign undertaken by an early music group in the US. “We are hoping to give confidence to the early music field that it’s possible to dream of building larger campaigns,” said Bernard.
The new campaign has already broken H&H’s own internal records, specifically by attracting three separate $1 million gifts, the largest the organization has received in its history. “We had some incredible lead gifts that started out the process,” said campaign co-chair Todd Estabrook. “They allowed us to become visible to funders who would not have ordinarily contributed to a capital campaign for us. It’s been very gratifying to see the confidence in the Society and our mission.”Jeremy Eichler can be reached at email@example.com.