Blue Heron’s explorations of Renaissance and Medieval repertory over its nearly two decades of work have yielded opportunities for concert presenters to offer their audiences programs of exceptional quality and depth. The ensemble is dedicated to learning as much as possible about how the music was performed originally and applying that knowledge in the service of vivid live performance for living, breathing human beings in the present day. It is always striving for emotional engagement with audiences above all. 

Ockeghem@600: The Complete Works of Johannes Ockeghem (c.1420-1497)

A thirteen-concert project over six years to perform all the surviving music of one of the greatest, yet least known composers of the western tradition – two dozen songs, a dozen masses, and four motets. Six of the thirteen have been presented as of November 2017. Various programs are available.

Usually 9-10 performers

Program information and notes

Music for Canterbury Cathedral, from the Peterhouse Partbooks (copied c.1541)

Blue Heron completed its groundbreaking 5-CD Peterhouse Partbooks recording project in 2017, called “one of the most important early choral projects of our time” (Early Music Review (UK)). Touring programs feature highlights from this large, wonderful, and virtually unknown repertoire. The partbooks were copied, for the newly-refounded Canterbury Cathedral, at Magdalen College, Oxford.

13 singers

Machaut & the 14th Century

1. Machaut’s Remede de Fortune

A multimedia presentation. Guillaume de Machaut’s narrative poem Remede de Fortune, presented in a pocket version, including narration, projected images from manuscripts curated by Machaut, all of the music included in the poem, and more!

6 Performers

Program information and notes

2. Songs About Hope

An intoxicating evening of songs about Hope (Esperance), the allegorical character from the world of the Romance of the Rose who sustains a courtly lover through the thousand pains of lovesickness, enables him to persevere, and teaches him to find delight in his suffering.

6 performers

Program information and notes

Madrigals

1. Un Petrarchino cantato

Petrarch’s Canzoniere in 16th-century madrigals by Arcadelt, Willaert, Rore, Wert, Marenzio & others

9-10 performers:
6 singers, 2 instrumentalists and 1-2 actors

Program information

Texts and translations

2. Songs of Love & Death

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. In 2016, the prestigious Noah Greenberg Award was given to Blue Heron and Jessie Ann Owens (UC Davis) to support a world premiere recording of the first book.

8 singers

Program information

Texts and translations

Capturing Music: Writing and Singing Music in the Middle Ages

A special collaboration with Prof. Thomas Forrest Kelly (Harvard University)

A multimedia event in two parts, ideally offered with a dinner break, this unique presentation explores the power of written music in pictures and sound.

In this compelling and lively offering, Prof. Kelly presents, and Blue Heron sings, key moments in the art of music from c. 800 to c. 1400, including Gregorian chant, organa by Leonin and Perotin, and songs by Machaut, Ciconia, Senleches, and Cordier.

The event is a kind of “live action” version of Prof. Kelly’s 2014 book Capturing Music: The Story of Notation which comes with a companion CD recorded by Blue Heron. The book is a “lucid and engrossing account of the emergence of musical notation” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker).

Heidi Waleson wrote about the full two-part event presented in Cambridge in November 2014, in The Wall Street Journal Online:

Toward the end of the evening, Mr. Kelly did a fast-patter notation deconstruction of the scariest-looking manuscript, “En attendant, Esperance conforte” by Jacob Senleches (1380s). But when the tenor Owen McIntosh sang it, accompanied by lute and harp, its visual complexities resolved into extraordinary beauty, with its long melismas and word-painting expressivity harking back to the neumes on those early chants.

Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal Online

A presenter could offer just the first “half” — about 90 minutes in length — ending with renditions of the “Sumer is icumen in” canon, in several versions, and thus offering their audiences “the story of notation” up to about the mid-13th century. The personnel requirements will vary depending on the program chosen.

Program book

For more information…

Contact John Yannis, General Manager · (617) 283-9851 · jy@blueheron.org