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A Letter from Scott Metcalfe

June 4, 2020

Dear friends,

It’s our twelfth week of quarantine and the long cool spring is gradually turning towards summer. When I first turned my thoughts to writing this newsletter, the situation in the US was already dire—so many dead from the coronavirus, so many lives upended, so many livelihoods disrupted or destroyed, and, as always, the burden of hardship falling disproportionately on the disadvantaged and oppressed, on people of color, and on the poor. That was before the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide, worldwide outpouring of grief and anger in protests and demonstrations. At the present moment the concerns of an arts organization are slight in comparison to our desperate need for justice, compassion, and peace. The passion and courage of so many people out in the street demonstrating for righteous change give me hope that better days will come.

As a musical organization, we hope that we can offer some comfort and some spiritual refreshment to anyone who needs it. Since quarantine began here in Massachusetts, we have been delving into our archive of concert video recordings and have posted over two dozen items since mid-March, from a Machaut song to the complete Fauré Requiem performed with A Far Cry, and including a lot of music by Johannes Okeghem. Blue Heron was also invited to contribute recordings to the music and wellness program at the Boston Hope Medical Center, which opened in mid-April at the Boston Convention Center to care for recovering Covid-19 patients.

Our video archive is not bottomless, of course, and we are nearing the end of postable material, so you won’t hear from us as often for the next while. In the meantime, we thought you might like to know what we are up to.

First and foremost, we are working hard to design a 2020-21 season of performances and events in new formats that will be accessible to everyone despite the near certainty that our public concert venues will remain closed to us for a year or more. I am sure that most of you are aware of the evidence showing that singing is an especially effective means of spreading and catching infection. Vocal ensembles thus face particularly severe difficulties in making music in ways that are safe for musicians and listeners alike. After weeks of thinking, with our understanding of the coronavirus evolving all the time, we are near to announcing our plans. Stay tuned for news of what I hope will be a stimulating and engaging season—not the same sort of experiences we have shared for so many years, but new ones to sustain us until concert life is possible once again. We will announce our season by July 1st.

In the meantime, we are beginning to explore new (to us) methods, and will shortly be releasing a performance of a song prepared through the magic of technology. And coming up later in the summer is the release of an LP’s worth of 14th-century music in a collection entitled A 14th-Century Salmagundi. Our Salmagundi will be a digital-only release, in glorious high-resolution sound (24-bit instead of the 16-bit maximum permitted by the CD format—and take it from this non-audiophile musician, there is a real difference!), accompanied by a downloadable or internet-readable booklet in full color.

As we explore options, we have been consulting with the leaders of colleague ensembles here in Boston and elsewhere, sharing ideas and inspirations with Les Délices, Lorelei Ensemble, and Roomful of Teeth, among others. We hope that some collaborative efforts may develop out of the conversations, which have already proven fruitful and encouraging.

This summer Blue Heron will undertake its triennial strategic planning process, at a moment when practically every assumption we have operated under has gone out the window and all arts organizations are facing existential crises. Our team will be called upon to embrace the opportunity to probe deeply into fundamental questions of what we aspire to and how we can realize those aspirations. Thank you to everyone who completed our recent survey: your ideas and responses will contribute to the next Strategic Plan.

As we make our way through these uncharted waters, I am filled with gratitude for all the people of good will, generous hearts, and serious expertise who make up the Blue Heron community: our musicians, staff, board, volunteers, donors, audience members at home and abroad; and everyone who loves the communicative art of music. Thank you!

… Is not music like time
Retold? …
A way of telling that inspires belief?


James Merrill, Mirabell’s Books of Number, Book 6.1

May the world find peace. May you all be well.


Scott Metcalfe
Artistic Director