Parallel lives, shared stories, and transatlantic musical traditions intertwine in this revelatory choral drama. Set 250 years ago, Crossing the Deep is an immersive concert experience exploring the connections between sacred music written by Classical composers in Europe, like Handel, and Negro spirituals written by enslaved Africans in America to help them cope with the brutal conditions of their bondage. The profound stories told by these traditions—often using the same texts—resonate with each other, underscoring their common humanity. At the same time, their juxtaposition illuminates how the stories diverge, prompting important questions about struggle, oppression, faith, and hope. Join us for this one-of-a-kind emotional journey, a tribute to the universal power of music.
A Message from the Co-Creators
Welcome to Crossing the Deep.
The idea for today’s concert came to us two years ago, as H+H was exploring allegations that George Frideric Handel, composer of such beloved works as Messiah, had owned stock in companies that participated in the slave trade. We learned that this stock had been given to Handel by the Duke of Chandos as payment for commissions and other work, and in almost all cases he divested himself of the stock very quickly.
Regardless, the larger truth is that slavery was a major part of the economy of 18th century Britain and other countries of the time, as well as their colonies – including, of course, this one.
As musicians, we believed H+H should respond to this truth through music. Thus today’s concert was born. By presenting Handel’s Bible-based Chandos Anthems alongside choral spirituals also based on Biblical texts, we want to shine a lens on what’s happening today. We hope this performance causes you to think.
It’s too easy to say “Shame on you, Handel.” For we are all Handel. Just look into where and how your favorite sport shoe brand fabricates its shoes? Or where your super market shellfish is farmed. Think about how you impact your society - instead of debating it.
And while the anthems of Handel and the Negro Spirituals share the same biblical roots, the resulting narratives reflect different depths of despair. While the Anthem’s find glory in God, there is no denying the spirituals find barely a glimmer of hope in a hopeless situation.
We reflect and stand by our mission statement.
The mission of the Handel and Haydn Society is to inspire the intellect, touch the heart, elevate the soul, and connect us all with our shared humanity through transformative experiences with Baroque and Classical music.
Slavery still exists today.
We want to be better.
We invite you to hang around after the concert for a period for questions and answers.
— Dr. Anthony Trecek-King and Reginald Mobley
Quotes from the Press
“One of the most important concerts in H+H’s illustrious history.”
— The Boston Musical Intelligencer
“Rather than sit back and relax, Crossing the Deep asked listeners to sit back and reflect.”
— The Boston Globe
“Individual ornaments flashed on top of the music’s unified texture, like eddies in a powerful river.”
— The Boston Globe
“The electrifying combination, as enlightening as it was unexpected, should dispel forever the notion that period music performed on period instruments is merely a museum outing.”
— The Boston Musical Intelligencer
Quotes from our Audience
"I applaud H+H for having the integrity to present this program."
"The concert was transformative and we would return in a heartbeat to hear it again!"
"I hope you will publish a video of the work, and also make the narrator's words available in print. I would love to share both with others. I am not wealthy, but I would be willing to make an additional donation to support that, and/or in support of a tour."
"It was so powerful. My brain is still trying to take it all in. Please do more of this type of performance in the future."
"It was an emotional and aesthetic experience that I don't think I will ever forget."
"The program managed to transfix the attention of my 12-year-old (no small feat!), and we were both incredibly moved by the performances, the setting, and the premise of the concert itself. It was our first H+H experience, but surely not our last!"
The lockup for Crossing the Deep comes in three colors:
- Purple - for use in contexts where full color is available, when used over a light-colored background
- Black - for use in contexts where only grayscale color is available and to be used over a light-colored background
- White - for use in both color and grayscale contexts, when used over a dark-colored background
About the Handel and Haydn Society
Boston’s Grammy-winning Handel and Haydn Society is dedicated to performing Baroque and Classical music with a freshness, a vitality, and a creativity that inspires all ages. H+H has been captivating audiences for 208 consecutive seasons (the most of any performing arts organization in the United States). Today, H+H’s Orchestra and Chorus delight more than 50,000 listeners annually with a nine-week subscription series at Boston Symphony Hall and other leading venues. Through the Karen S. and George D. Levy Education Program, H+H supports seven youth choirs of singers in grades 2-12 and provides thousands of complimentary tickets to students and communities throughout Boston, ensuring the joy of music is accessible to all. H+H’s numerous free community concerts include an annual commemoration of the original 1863 Emancipation Proclamation concert on December 31. H+H has released 16 CDs on the Coro label and has toured nationally and internationally. In all these ways, H+H fulfills its mission to inspire the intellect, touch the heart, elevate the soul, and connect us with our shared humanity through transformative experiences with Baroque and Classical music.