Reginald Mobley set to diversify Handel and Haydn programming
On March 31, the Handel and Haydn Society announced Reginald Mobley will pioneer the new role of programming consultant, a position created to diversify the historic organization’s programming and to broaden their audience. Mobley forged Handel and Haydn’s “Every Voice” community concert series and plans to bring the same energy and diverse programming to the regular season.
“I’ll present music of black composers or I’ll present women in Boston, but there are so many composers that are female or black or queer that have existed long before we really thought of race or sexuality as a social construct,” says Mobley of his work on the “Every Voice” concerts. “What it does is gives a sense of belonging … to all of these various communities that have always felt unwelcome or left out of classical music or ‘high art.’”
While researching music to bring into these concerts, which are held for free in community gathering spots like the First Church in Roxbury, Mobley realized diverse music could easily be incorporated into the main program as well. The Handel and Haydn team came to the same conclusion and brought Mobley on to spearhead that effort. He will continue directing the “Every Voice” concerts, and the newly diversified Symphony Hall concerts for H&H will debut during the 2021-2022 season.
As an example of a forgotten talent, Mobley offers Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a black composer who worked at the same time as Mozart and was equally accomplished with next to no historical fame.
“Even tying back into the ensemble’s long main focus of those bewigged white men, they’re not all straight themselves. As we understand it, we believe now that Handel himself was queer,” says Mobley. “Our history in music and our history in general isn’t as white and as straight as we’ve allowed ourselves to understand.”
The Handel and Haydn Society is the oldest continuously operating arts organization in the United States. They’ve been performing baroque music on period instruments in Boston since 1815. That an organization this entrenched in history and classical tradition can consciously and without damaging their mission bring diverse artists into their repertoire illustrates the diversity that has always existed and can be highlighted everywhere.
Mobley says, “Things are changing and it’s time for everything to change. I’m happy that an early music ensemble that has ties to the past is able to see that we should be the ones to change, leading the charge.”