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Leonard Burkat

revised by Pamela Fox

The earliest choral singing in Boston was the first settlers’ congregational psalm singing, which continued through later times of controversy over the relative virtues of the old style and the cultivated new style promoted in the singing schools. Church and community choirs were formed throughout New England from the 1750s. The work of George K. Jackson, who in 1812 organized a concert of Handel’s music, was instrumental in broadening the musical repertory of Boston’s churches.

The Handel and Haydn Society was formed for the purpose of ‘cultivating and improving a correct taste in the performance of sacred music, and also to introduce into more general practice the works of Handel, Haydn, and other eminent composers’. It gave its first concert on 25 December 1815 and served as the prototype for similar organizations in other cities. At Christmas 1818 the society gave its first performance of the complete Messiah; on 16 February 1819...