“Calmly yet sensuously performed, at once flexibly and transparently shaped, these neglected chansons take on a hitherto unsuspected radiance that touches heart and mind alike.” Bestenliste, Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (January 2020)
Weather-Related Cancellations: Concerts presented by Blue Heron will go on regardless of weather, unless the governor declares a State of Emergency. In the event of cancellation, every attempt will be made to update this space, our Facebook page, and phone voicemail (which is (617) 960-7956). If time, technology, and electricity permit, an email to ticket holders (through Vendini) and to our full email list will also be sent.
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: MANY VOICES
During this challenging and uncertain time, we are closely monitoring the COVID-19 public health crisis along with First Church of Cambridge, Congregational, where we perform our subscription series. As of March 12, First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, has made the difficult decision to cancel all gatherings and events at the church, therefore we must postpone our March 28 concert. If you have already purchased tickets for this concert, please hold on to them as we hope to reschedule in early June and will be in touch as soon as we are able to with a new concert date. Please also note that the March 26 concert at Boston College has been canceled due to campus closure.
We are deeply grateful to all members of the Blue Heron community who support our mission in so many meaningful ways. We wish you all good health during this global crisis and look forward to updating you in the weeks ahead on future concerts.
Further updates will be posted here, and sent via email.
Many Voices: Obrecht, Aleotti, Daniel-Lesur, Sanlıkol CANCELED: March 26 Boston College
POSTPONED: March 28 Cambridge
Ockeghem@600, Concert 10: Missa Quinti toni May 2 Milwaukee May 3 Grand Rapids May 15 Cambridge
Songs of Love & Death: Selections from I madrigali a cinque voci by Cipriano de Rore * Debut performances in Continental Europe * May 30 Tage Alter Musik, Regensburg, Germany June 1 Ronse, Belgium
A Week of Music from Blue Heron
As we ride out this pandemic together, we invite you to take a virtual holiday each day this week through video links to past Blue Heron performances.
Il sera par vous conbatu / L’ome armé doibt on doubter
Martin Near, Mark Sprinkle, Jason McStoots
Ockeghem@600, Concert 3
Recorded live in concert on October 17, 2015
For April Fools’ Day, a bit of comic relief: a rendition of the famous tune L’homme armé, followed by the three-voice song Il sera par vous conbatu / L’ome armé.
The origins of L’homme armé are obscure. The tune enjoyed generations of popularity as a cantus firmus in sacred music, but no source exists for the melody or its words apart from its use in polyphony. Often erroneously characterized as a folk song, it is in fact a highly crafted musical product, full of artifice, irregular and rhythmically unpredictable, its fanfare-like fifths evoking the sound of battle trumpets, its text repeats vigorously conveying urgency, its two halves carefully balanced harmonically and melodically. Perhaps it was originally composed as the tenor of a song, now lost.
The anonymous three-voice song Il sera par vous conbatu addresses one Symon le Breton, cheering him on to take up his battle axe against “the dreaded Turk.” Symon, here called Symonet (little Symon, good old Symon), was a chaplain and singer in the Burgundian chapel, which he had joined by 1431. By 1460 or so, when Il sera par vous was likely composed, the aging Symon would undoubtedly have looked with dismay on a call to arms, but in the years after Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Europe rang with cries for a new crusade, and in January 1457 the Burgundian chambre des comptes issued a memorandum instructing the members of the court, including the chapel singers, to prepare for imminent departure:
Item. As regards the chapel, the duke ought to now name those he wishes to take with him so that they can get ready and they and their servants can be fitted out with brigandines or otherwise, according to their means.
-Cited and translated by Alejandro Enrique Planchart in his article “The origins and early history of L’homme armé,” Journal of Musicology 20/3 (2003): 305-57, on p. 324. A brigandine, like a haubregon or hauberk, was a type of body armor.
As Alejandro Planchart pointed out, the poem’s meter requires crocq de [h]ache with an aspirated h, meaning “axe-head” – but the spelling without h seems to allude to a stalk of unaspirated ache or wild celery. Poor old Symon! Fortunately, the crusade never took place. Symon retired in 1464 to a canonicate in the cathedral of Cambrai and died there in November 1473, leaving a number of valuables to his friend Guillaume Du Fay.
This highly important [Peterhouse recording] project, one of the most important early choral projects of our time, has unearthed a series of masterly composers hitherto virtually unknown...Such is the authority of Scott Metcalfe and his singers with this repertoire that they negotiate even the most daringly challenging and unexpected passages with utter confidence, and, as previously, with a delicious blend of expressiveness and seemingly inexorable forward momentum.
D. James Ross, Early Music Review (UK)
a revelation - fresh, dynamic and vibrant...urgent and wondrous music-making of the highest order
Damian Fowler, Gramophone (UK)
fine gradations of dynamics; pungent diction; telling contrasts of ethereal and earthly timbres; tempos that are more lusty than languid; a way of propelling a phrase toward a goal. ... The singing is both precise and fluid, immaculate and alive...
Alex Ross, The New Yorker
A listener then would have been lucky to hear these works brought off with such panache. The program is by turns pensive and lively, and the scholarship required to evoke stylistic accuracy is put totally at the service of performance.
David Allen, The New York Times
I feel privileged to be able to revel in such a subtle shaped set of performances... This is the kind of recording that makes you sit up and pay attention.. There is plenty that is memorable here, and always the anticipation of something juicy to relish just around the corner. You can't ask much more than that from a CD.
Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International
The earthy sensuousness of Blue Heron's singing coupled with the curatorial care behind its programming have clearly earned the trust of audiences
Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe
But Blue Heron’s devotion to this repertory — the ensemble has recorded five albums of music from the Peterhouse Partbooks — is not justified only by its rarity. This is vivid and radiant music. ...
... With two or three singers to a part and women stepping into the shoes of boy choristers, Blue Heron brings a zesty and sensual sound to these works of devotional music.
Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times
Blue Heron is engaged in the exploration of Renaissance and medieval vocal music. Putting the study of original sources in the service of persuasive, vivid and exciting concert presentations, the ensemble is now established as the finest of its type in North America. Led by Scott Metcalfe, Blue Heron offers a home subscription series in Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a catalog of eight exceptional recordings is available on the Blue Heron label, one of which garnered the group the 2018 Gramophone Classical Music Award for Early Music, thereby making Blue Heron the first group from outside Europe to receive the award. Touring engagements have taken the group across the United States as well as to Canada and England. Blue Heron is Renaissance vocal music for the 21st century.