COVID-19 pandemic: Handel Festival Hall 2021 cancelled

Dear visitors,

Dear friends and supporters of the Handel Festival,

In 2021, after the cancellation of last year's Handel Festival, we wanted to celebrate another great music festival in the birthplace of the composer George Frideric Handel. Our motto was: We will do everything for it. With a lot of strength, energy and creativity, as well as with a great deal of goodwill on the part of all those involved, we have been developing ever new alternatives over the past few months with the aim of staging the 2021 Festival in whatever form it takes. To our great regret, we now have to announce that all attempts have failed and that due to the recent pandemic development with the rapid increase in infected people, it is not possible to hold the Handel Festival 2021 from 28 May to 13 June 2021. This is the second time in a row that the great, internationally renowned music festival has been cancelled.

The cancellation hits us hard emotionally and financially, but it is unavoidable and without alternative. Since mid-March, the incidence figures have been rising explosively, the German Chancellor is not only talking about a third wave, but even about a new pandemic, and the Robert Koch Institute is forecasting not lower, but strongly rising incidence figures for the coming weeks. This is reflected not least in the high incidence values in the city of Halle (Saale), which have been above 200 for several days now.

We are firmly convinced that international music festivals, which also address a supra-regional audience, will not be possible if one looks at the incidence values alone. These do not provide the necessary planning security for major international events to be planned in the long term. Therefore, we are convinced that it will only be possible to hold such internationally oriented major events again once a certain vaccination quota has been reached. This is also one reason why we are not thinking about postponing to late summer and staging small Handel Festivals, because too often last year and this year we have already new arranged and postponed events that we later had to postpone again and finally cancel anyway. However, insofar as the incidence figures have dropped significantly again, this observation does not change the fact that events by predominantly local cultural institutions are possible for a regional audience. We firmly believe that this path offers a first opening scenario. Together with our local partners, we will therefore wait to see whether and, if so, how Handel can be present in the city of Halle for the people of Halle during the originally envisaged festival period. In view of the situation, it is not possible to make any statements about this at the present time. What we firmly believe in, however, and trust the statements of politicians and experts, is that we will again be able to celebrate the Handel Festival in a big way in the early summer of 2022 on the occasion of our 100th anniversary. So let us use the anniversary edition to make a great new start.

With the cancellation of the Handel Festival, we need to say thank you: to the audience who bought many tickets and who, like us, trusted that we would all succeed in staging the Handel Festival in 2021, albeit in a much reduced form.

A very big thank you goes to the musicians. We know that they, too, have been preparing intensively over the last few months for their participation in the 2021 Festival. And we also know that the cancellation is difficult for them not only emotionally, but also financially, sometimes even existentially. Baroque music festivals such as the Handel Festival work with many fantastic specialist musicians, who for the past year have been referred to as "solo self-employed" in Germany. Without these musicians, the artistic quality of baroque music festivals would not even be possible. All the more reason for us to appeal to society and politics to find suitable measures so that these wonderful musicians do not fall through all the funding cracks, so that they can continue to touch us emotionally with their musical performance in the hopefully near future. Please give these people the necessary trust in the development and implementation of funding programmes, which they deserve to the same extent as large commercial enterprises.

We would also like to thank our financial supporters and sponsors, as well as our cultural and media partners, who stood by our side in what was a difficult year for them economically, placed their trust in us and believed in the Handel Festival until the very end.

And last but not least, we would like to thank the staff of the Stiftung Händel-Haus for their great commitment, who reacted flexibly to every new event and who did everything they could until the very end to ensure that the Handel Festival could take place.

With great regret, but nevertheless with warmest regards

Clemens Birnbaum (Director Stiftung Händel-Haus / Director Handel Festival) and Susanne Kriese-Ochs (Associated Director Stiftung Händel-Haus / Administrative Director)