Visiting Artists

Visiting Artist Series
Blue Heron

The Williams College Department of Music presents Blue Heron on Monday, November 13 at 8 p.m. in Chapin Hall. A pre-concert talk is offered by Class of 1960 lecturer Prof. Jessie Ann Owens at 7:15 p.m. in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, adjacent to the concert venue. Blue Heron’s music director, Scott Metcalfe, leads a post-concert talk-back along with Prof. Owens in Chapin Hall. These events are free and open to the public.

Blue Heron offer a program titled Songs of Love and Death. These selections from I Madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1542) were composed by Cipriano de Rore (1515/16-1565.) Cipriano de Rore launched his career with the publication of I madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1542). This landmark book of twenty madrigals, many of which set sonnets by Petrarch, changed the course of music history, transforming the madrigal from a light form derived from the chanson into a serious genre that combined sensitivity to the poetry with elaborate polyphony. Equally remarkable was De Rore’s decision to organize the texts into a narrative cycle and the music into a cycle of modes (or keys, more or less). In 2015 the American Musicological Society awarded the Noah Greenberg Prize to the Boston-based vocal ensemble Blue Heron and musicologist Jessie Ann Owens to support a world-premiere recording of the entire book. Blue Heron’s performance at Williams features a selection of madrigals from the book.

About Blue Heron
Blue Heron has been acclaimed by The Boston Globe as “one of the Boston music community’s indispensables” and hailed by Alex Ross in The New Yorker for its “expressive intensity.” Committed to vivid live performance informed by the study of original source materials and historical performance practices, Blue Heron ranges over a wide repertoire, from plainchant to new music, with particular specialities in 15th-century Franco-Flemish and early 16th-century English polyphony. Blue Heron’s first CD, featuring music by Guillaume Du Fay, was released in 2007. In 2010 the ensemble inaugurated a 5-CD series of Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, including many world premiere recordings of works copied c. 1540 for Canterbury Cathedral; the fifth disc, released in March 2017, was recently named Editor’s Pick by Gramophone. Blue Heron’s recordings also include a CD of plainchant and polyphony to accompany Thomas Forrest Kelly’s book Capturing Music: The Story of Notation and the live recording Christmas in Medieval England. Jessie Ann Owens (UC Davis) and Blue Heron won the 2015 Noah Greenberg Award from the American Musicological Society to support a world premiere recording of Cipriano de Rore’s first book of madrigals (1542), to be begun this season.

Founded in 1999, Blue Heron presents a concert series in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has appeared at the Boston Early Music Festival; in New York City at Music Before 1800, The Cloisters (Metropolitan Museum of Art), and the 92nd Street Y; at the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, and Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.; at the Berkeley Early Music Festival; at Yale University; and in San Luis Obispo, Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Providence. This season’s highlights include an October tour to England, with performances at Peterhouse and Trinity College in Cambridge and at Lambeth Palace Library, at the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Blue Heron has been in residence at the Center for Early Music Studies at Boston University and at Boston College, and has enjoyed collaborations with A Far Cry, Dark Horse Consort, Les Délices, Parthenia, Piffaro, and Ensemble Plus Ultra. In 2015 the ensemble embarked on a multi-season project to perform the complete works of Johannes Ockeghem (c. 1420-1497). Titled [email protected], it will wind up around 2021, in time to commemorate the composer’s circa-600th birthday.

Why “Blue Heron”?
Back in 1999 the group thought long and hard about the right name for a new professional vocal ensemble that would specialize in Renaissance music. All the good historical names were already long gone—used over and over again—and anyway we wanted something that would suggest that historical correctness was not the ultimate goal. The group wanted something that was memorable and easily pronounceable; preferably in English, with some local flavor to it. Now, there are Great Blue Herons all over Boston and Massachusetts; they can be seen around ponds everywhere and up and down the Charles River. (In fact, they are found along the entire east coast, from Cape Breton Island to the Gulf of Mexico, and along the entire Pacific coast, too. They are even found as occasional vagrants in Europe.) Someone once mentioned to them a medieval legend which had it that the heron was the only bird that sang in parts – a tale that has been unsubstantiated. In the mean time the group has successfully established the name as a synonym for exquisite song.

Blue Heron is presented by the Williams College Department of Music with the generous support of the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Performing Arts Endowment.

The Performers
Bass-baritone Paul Guttry has performed throughout the USA and internationally with Sequentia, Chanticleer, the Boston Camerata, and New York’s Ensemble for Early Music. A founding member of Blue Heron, he has also appeared in and around Boston as soloist with Emmanuel Music, the Handel & Haydn Society, the Boston Early Music Festival, the Tanglewood Music Center, Cantata Singers, Boston Cecilia, Prism Opera, Boston Revels, Collage, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and Intermezzo. Paul can be heard on all Blue Heron’s recordings, on discs of medieval music by Sequentia, Kurt Weill’s Johnny Johnson and French airs de cour with the Boston Camerata, and on Emmanuel Music’s Bach CDs.

Acclaimed as a “lovely, tender high tenor” by The New York Times, Owen McIntosh enjoys a diverse career of chamber music and solo performance ranging from bluegrass to reggae, heavy metal to art song, and opera to oratorio. A native of remote Northern California, Mr. McIntosh has shared the stage with the country’s finest ensembles, including Apollo’s Fire, Blue Heron, Boston Baroque, Carmel Bach Festival, Les Canards Chantants, New Vintage Baroque, Staunton Music Festival, TENET, Trident Ensemble, True Concord, San Diego Bach Collegium, and the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street. Recent solo engagements include Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with Boston Baroque, Haydn’s L’isola disabitata with the American Classical Orchestra, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with Apollo’s Fire, the Green Mountain Project, and True Concord, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria with Opera Omnia and Boston Baroque, and the Evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion with Tucson Chamber Artists.

Reviewers describe Jason McStoots as having an “alluring tenor voice” (ArtsFuse) and as “the consummate artist, wielding not just a sweet tone but also incredible technique and impeccable pronunciation” (Cleveland Plain Dealer). In 2015 he won a Grammy in Opera with the Boston Early Music Festival for the music of Charpentier. A respected interpreter of early music whose solo appearances include Les plaisirs de Versailles (Charpentier), Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Vespers of 1610 (Monteverdi), Abduction from the Seraglio (Mozart), Christmas Oratorio, St. Mark Passion (Bach), Dido and Aeneas (Purcell), and Messiah (Handel), he has appeared with Boston Lyric Opera, Emmanuel Music, Pacific MusicWorks, TENET, San Juan Symphony, Bach Ensemble, Casals Festival, Seattle Early Music Guild, Tragicomedia, and Tanglewood Music Center. He is a core member of Blue Heron and can be heard on all Blue Heron recordings. Other recording credits include Lully’s Pysché, Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Blow’s Venus and Adonis, and Charpentier’s Acteon with BEMF (CPO), Fischer Vespers (Toccata Classics), and Awakenings with Coro Allegro (Navona).

Scott Metcalfe has gained wide recognition as one of North America’s leading specialists in music from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries and beyond. Musical and artistic director of Blue Heron, he was music director of New York City’s Green Mountain Project (Jolle Greenleaf, artistic director) from 2010-2016 and has been guest director of TENET (New York), the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), Emmanuel Music (Boston), the Tudor Choir and Seattle Baroque, Pacific Baroque Orchestra (Vancouver, BC), Quire Cleveland, the Dryden Ensemble (Princeton, NJ), and Early Music America’s Young Performers Festival Ensemble. Metcalfe also enjoys a career as a baroque violinist, playing with Les Délices (dir. Debra Nagy), Montreal Baroque (dir. Eric Milnes), and other ensembles, and directing the baroque orchestra at Oberlin Conservatory. He taught vocal ensemble repertoire and performance practice at Boston University from 2006-2015, is teaching a class in vocal ensemble performance at Harvard University this year, and is at work on a new edition of the songs of Gilles Binchois. He holds degrees from Brown University and Harvard University.

Countertenor Martin Near enjoys a varied career exploring his twin passions for early music and new music. Mr. Near recently sang in the solo quartet of Arvo Pärt’s Passio with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, was the countertenor soloist in the premiere performance of Dominick DiOrio’s Stabat mater with Juventas New Music Ensemble, sang the role of Hamor in Handel’s Jephtha with Boston Cecilia, and was noted for his “fine work” in Buxtehude’s Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn with Boston Baroque. He has been a member of Blue Heron since 2001 and appears on all of the group’s recordings. He also sings regularly with Emmanuel Music, Boston Baroque, and the Handel & Haydn Society, and was Music Director of Exsultemus from 2009 to 2012.

Soprano Margot Rood, hailed for her “luminosity and grace” by The New York Times, performs a wide range of repertoire. Recent and upcoming solo appearances include those with Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society, Seraphic Fire, Lorelei Ensemble, Les Délices, A Far Cry, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Blue Heron, The Thirteen, Cape Symphony, Bach Collegium San Diego, and Grand Harmonie, as well as onstage with the Boston Early Music Festival, Monadnock Music, St. Petersburg Opera, and Green Mountain Opera Festival. Ms. Rood is the recipient of numerous awards, including the St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award, the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellowship at Emmanuel Music, and third place in The American Prize competition in art song and oratorio. Her new music venture, Mélange, with percussionist Caleb Herron, makes its debut in Baltimore this season. She has been invited for performances and masterclasses by composers at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, McGill University, and Keene State College. Her debut solo recording with composer Heather Gilligan, Living in Light, is now available from Albany Records. Ms. Rood holds degrees from the University of Michigan and McGill University.

Praised for his “elegant style” (The Boston Globe), Sumner Thompson is highly sought after as both baritone and tenor. His appearances on the operatic stage include roles in the Boston Early Music Festival’s productions of Conradi’s Ariadne (2003) and Lully’s Psyché (2007) and several European tours with Contemporary Opera Denmark as Orfeo in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. He has performed across North America as a soloist with the Handel & Haydn Society, Concerto Palatino, Tafelmusik, Apollo’s Fire, Les Boréades (Montreal), Les Voix Baroques, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the King’s Noyse, Mercury Baroque, and the symphony orchestras of Charlotte, Memphis, and Phoenix. Recent highlights include Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and a new Vespers of 1640 with the Green Mountain Project, Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri with Les Voix Baroques and Houston’s Mercury Baroque, Mozart’s Requiem at St. Thomas Church in New York City, a tour of Japan with Joshua Rifkin and the Cambridge Concentus, a return to the Carmel Bach Festival, and Britten’s War Requiem with the New England Philharmonic and several guest choruses.


Blue Heron is presented by the Williams College Department of Music with the generous support of the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Performing Arts Endowment.