Handel and Haydn Society Ends its 199th Season with Handel Samson

Handel and Haydn Society presents Handel’s mighty Samson oratorio

A dramatic climax to H+H’s 199th season, Artistic Director Harry Christophers, the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus, and acclaimed singers perform the choral masterwork first premiered in the US by H+H in 1845

Tenor Joshua Ellicott, soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers, bass-baritones Matthew Brook and Dashon Burton lead a distinguished cast of soloists

 Performances are Friday, May 2, at 7.30pm and Sunday, May 4, at 3 pm at Symphony Hall

April 8, 2014 (Boston, MA) —  H+H Artistic Director Harry Christophers is joined by an international cast of outstanding singers and the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus to close the season with George Frideric Handel’s dramatic oratorio, Samson.

Based on the well-known Biblical story of the imprisoned strongman who falls powerless after his wife Dalila cuts off his hair, Samson is one of Handel’s greatest vocal works. Composed within a month after the completion of Messiah, the three-act oratorio has also maintained a long life in the repertoire since its 1742 premiere. Popular selections include the soprano aria “Let the bright Seraphim,” the tenor aria “Total eclipse,” and the Act I chorus “Awake the trumpet’s lofty sound.”  

“For me, it is simply one of the most complete works by this great man, for Handel responds to an exquisite libretto with a score full of elaborate instrumental coloring and sumptuous vocal writing,” says Artistic Director Harry Christophers.

H+H gave the American premiere of Samson on January 26, 1845. A.U. Hayter, organist for H+H, suggested the oratorio and updated Handel’s original orchestration by adding other instruments. The performance was a tremendous success, and was repeated several times throughout the 19th century.

For this particular performance of Samson, listeners will become reacquainted with singers who have given memorable past H+H performances. British tenor Joshua Ellicott, who will perform the title role, was the Evangelist in critically praised performances of the Bach St. Matthew Passion in 2012. In addition, young American soprano Joélle Harvey (Dalila) and mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Micah) last appeared with the Handel and Haydn Society in last season’s Handel Jephtha.

A frequent performer with H+H, bass-baritone Matthew Brook (Manoah) returns after acclaimed performances as Jesus in H+H’s 2012 Bach St. Matthew Passion. Bass-baritone and Grammy winner Dashon Burton will make his H+H debut with Handel Samson in the role of Harapha.

Related to this performance of Samson, the Handel and Haydn Society is proud to continue a creative partnership with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Under the instruction of MassArt faculty members, junior class students in the Illustration department created works of visual art inspired by Handel’s dramatic oratorio. Twelve works will be on display at Symphony Hall’s Cabot-Cahners Room during the concerts.

The performance will be recorded for fall broadcast on 99.5 WCRB.



Handel Samson

Friday, May 2, 7.30pm and Sunday, May 4, 3pm at Symphony Hall

Harry Christophers, conductor

Joshua Ellicott, tenor (Samson)

Joélle Harvey, soprano (Dalila, Wife of Samson)

Catherine Wyn-Rogers, mezzo-soprano (Micah, Friend to Samson)

Matthew Brook, bass-baritone (Manoah, Father to Samson)

Dashon Burton, bass-baritone (Harapha, a Giant)

Stefan Reed, tenor (Messenger)

Teresa Wakim, soprano (Israelitish woman)

Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus

Samson, HWV 57

Tickets from $20. See below for purchasing information.


Tickets are available through Handel and Haydn Society Box Office: by phone at 617 266 3605; online at handelandhaydn.org; or in person at the Handel and Haydn Society offices, Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston (M–F, 10am–6pm). Student rush is available starting 90 minutes before the performance: $15 cash only with valid ID, best available seats subject to availability. Groups of 10 or more receive a 20% discount.



Pre-Concert Conversation

Led by Teresa Neff, Historically Informed Performance Fellow

Friday, May 2, 6.30pm and Sunday, May 4, 2pm at the Cabot-Cahners  Room, Symphony Hall

Free with concert tickets


Sunday, May 4, post-concert

Lucca Back Bay, 116 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

$35 admission

Handel and Haydn celebrates the 2013–2014 Season with a gathering of musicians, staff, and patrons for an evening of wine and hors d’oeuvres. This year’s Ovation! will pay special tribute to H+H Associate Conductor and Chorusmaster John Finney who leaves at the end of the season. 




Harry Christophers, CBE, is in his fifth season as Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society. Appointed in 2008, he began his tenure with the 2009–2010 Season and has conducted Handel and Haydn each season since September 2006, when he led a sold-out performance in the Esterházy Palace at the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria. Christophers and H+H have since embarked on an ambitious artistic journey towards H+H’s 2015 Bicentennial with a showcase of works premiered in the United States by the Handel and Haydn Society since 1815, education programming, community outreach activities and partnerships, and the release of a series of recordings on the CORO label.

Christophers is known internationally as founder and conductor of the UK-based choir and period-instrument ensemble The Sixteen. He has directed The Sixteen throughout Europe, America, and the Far East, gaining a distinguished reputation for his work in Renaissance, Baroque, and 20th- and 21st- century music. In 2000, he instituted the “Choral Pilgrimage,” a tour of British cathedrals from York to Canterbury. He has recorded 120 titles, for which he has won numerous awards, including a Grand Prix du Disque for Handel Messiah, numerous Preise der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik (German Record Critics Awards), the coveted Gramophone Award for Early Music, and the prestigious Classical Brit Award (2005) for his disc entitled Renaissance. In 2009, he received one of classical music’s highest accolades, the Classic FM Gramophone Awards Artist of the Year Award; The Sixteen also won the Baroque Vocal Award for Handel Coronation Anthems, a CD that received a 2010 Grammy Award nomination as well. In 2014, the Sixteen was also awarded a Grammy nomination for Palestrina, Vol. 3. Christophers is Principal Guest Conductor of the Granada Symphony Orchestra and a regular guest conductor with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. In October 2008, he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Leicester. He is an Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and also of the Royal Welsh Academy for Music and Drama, and was awarded a CBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honors


Tenor Joshua Ellicott last appeared with the Handel and Haydn Society in 2012 in critically acclaimed performances of the Evangelist in Bach St. Matthew Passion. Born in Manchester, England, Ellicott has built a varied career with interests ranging from early music to contemporary repertoire and from recitals and concerts through to opera, performed with some of the finest ensembles and musicians.

Recent concert performances include Third Squire (Wagner’s Parsifal) at the 2013 BBC Proms with the Hallé Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder, a Monteverdi Vespers tour under Emmanuelle Haim, a Viennese gala concert with the Hallé under David Parry, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Andres (Berg’s Wozzeck) with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen, Schubert’s Mass in E-flat with Daniel Harding at the St. Denis Festival, Mozart Requiem in Japan with Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Handel L’ Allegro with the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, Handel’s Theodora with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with the Gabrieli Consort under Paul McCreesh, and Handel’s Saul with The Sixteen.

Future plans include recitals at the Leeds and Oxford Lieder Festivals, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with the King’s Consort, and Bach’s Easter Oratorio with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra.


Soprano Joélle Harvey last appeared with the Handel and Haydn Society in last season’s Handel Jephtha. Recognized as one of the most promising young talents of her generation, she is the recipient of a First Prize Award in 2011 from the Gerda Lissner Foundation Vocal Competition, a 2009 Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation, and a 2010 Encouragement Award (in honor of Norma Newton) from the George London Foundation Vocal Competition. Recent and future highlights include her debut with Covent Garden Opera in Cavalli’s Ormindo, performances with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Mozart’s La finta giardiniera and the Dallas Opera in Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers, as well as appearances on the concert stage with the New York Phiharmonic (Handel’s Messiah), San Francisco Symphony (Beethoven’s Mass in C), and the Milwaukee Symphony (Schubert’s Mass No. 6).

Additional engagements of note include Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro on tour with the Glyndebourne Festival, Carmina Burana and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe with the San Francisco Symphony, Handel’s Messiah and Bach Mass in B Minor with The English Concert, and Michal in Handel’s Saul with The Sixteen. A native of Bolivar, New York, Harvey appears on CORO’s recording of Handel’s Saul, conducted by Harry Christophers and released in 2012.


Mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers last appeared with the Handel and Haydn Society in Handel Jephtha last season. Wyn-Rogers works extensively in recital and oratorio, appearing with the major British orchestras and choral societies. She is equally renowned for her performances with period-instrument orchestras. Her recent engagements have included appearances with the London Philharmonia, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Orchestra, the European Union Youth Orchestra, and her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Wyn-Rogers appears regularly on the opera stage with the English National Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Bavarian State Opera. Recent engagements have included Wagner’s Das Rheingold in Munich, Britten’s Peter Grimes in Tokyo, and Deborah Warner’s staged production of Messiah for the Opéra de Lyon. She will make her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in Richard Strauss’ Arabella and for the Glyndebourne Festival with Britten’s Rape of Lucretia.

Wyn-Rogers’ numerous recordings include Handel’s Samson with The Sixteen under Harry Christophers, Mozart’s Vespers with Trevor Pinnock for Deutsche Grammophon, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with Roger Norrington for Decca, and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius for EMI.


A frequent performer with H+H, bass-baritone Matthew Brook returns after critically acclaimed performances of Jesus in H+H’s 2012 Bach St. Matthew Passion. He has appeared as a soloist throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the Far East, and has sung extensively as a recitalist and concert artist. He has also performed at many of Europe’s top festivals, including The Edinburgh Festival and the BBC Proms.

Matthew Brook leapt to fame with his 2007 Gramophone Award winning recording of Handel’s Messiah with the Dunedin Consort, followed by equally critically acclaimed recordings of Handel’s Acis and Galatea and the St. Matthew Passion. Recent and future highlights include recordings of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Rameau’s Anacréon with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, as well as performances of Bach’s St. John Passion with the Monteverdi Choir and St. Matthew Passion with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony with the Hallé, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with the King’s Consort, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and the world premiere of Barry Guy’s Time Passing with Camerata Zurich. 


Praised for his “nobility and rich tone” (The New York Times) and his “enormous, thrilling voice seemingly capable … [of] raising the dead” (The Wall Street Journal), bass-baritone and Grammy winner Dashon Burton makes his H+H debut with Handel Samson.

For the 2013–2014 season, Burton also made his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen led by Franz Welser-Möst. He performed with the Charlotte Symphony for the Bach St. Matthew Passion and returned to Carnegie Hall twice with the Oratorio Society of New York for Handel’s Messiah, as well as Arvo Pärt’s Passion with Ensemble ACJW.

Burton appears frequently with Trinity Church Wall Street and music director Julian Wachner, with whom he has sung Bach’s St. John Passion and Handel’s Messiah at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. In addition to his work in early music, Mr. Burton is an avid performer of new music and has premiered works by Edie Hill and William Brittelle. He is a founding member of Roomful of Teeth (under the direction of Brad Wells), an ensemble devoted to new compositions and winners of the 2013 Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.