Blue Hill, Maine – Blue Hill Bach will go online for its annual summer festival of Baroque music to reach music-lovers who are barred from attending live events, yet craving the stimulation, sense of connection, and comfort that music provides.
“The Blue Hill Bach board of directors has been watching closely how other organizations are grappling with cancellations forced by Covid-19,” says the organization’s founder and executive director, Marcia Gronewold Sly, “and we’ve followed the state’s guidelines for gatherings, with our fingers crossed that we’d be able to produce small-scale live performances this summer. Ultimately, we decided that even if we could do it, the risks to our musicians and audience members were just too great. Rather than cancelling altogether, we’re taking the plunge to produce a series of ‘virtual’ events.”
The virtual festival will be kicked off on July 22 by posts of last summer’s performances of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, with Vivaldi’s sonnets read by Blue Hill’s own Noel Paul Stookey and images by Brooklin photographer Dick Leighton. The festival’s centerpiece will be previews of two of the major pieces— J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Gay and Pepusch’s The Beggar’s Opera—planned for this year’s festival and now scheduled for the summer of 2021. Festival Music Director John Finney will explore the history of the “Passion chorale,” which appears in the Christmas Oratorio, with some fun facts and videos featuring Blue Hill Bach soloists, orchestra, and chorus. An online “Baroque Café” will present excerpts from The Beggar’s Opera, with members of the Blue Hill Bach ensemble singing the roles of scallywags, robbers, and prostitutes. Artistic Director Stephen Hammer will lead a panel discussion with Grant Herreid, who created the abbreviated edition of The Beggar’s Opera, New Surry Theatre Artistic Director Lori Sitzabee, who will talk about The Threepenny Opera and its relationship to The Beggar’s Opera, and music historian Natasha Roule, who will discuss the historical context of the piece.
Other events will include recorded and live-streamed lecture-demonstrations, links to performances by members of the Blue Hill Bach ensemble, and a master class for string players. Says Hammer, “What makes Blue Hill Bach special is the synergy of the place, the people, and local involvement. It’s impossible to extract any one element and still evoke the excitement of Blue Hill Bach, but we hope that through the magic of digital technology, we’ll be able to stay in touch, let our audience get to know our artists in new and different ways, and explore aspects of Bach and Baroque music you may not have experienced before.”
Blue Hill Bach was founded in 2011 with the mission of presenting historically informed performances, recordings, and educational programs that explore vocal and instrumental music of the Baroque and other repertoire that demonstrates the place of Baroque music in the span of music history. Blue Hill Bach draws upon musicians from Maine, greater New England, and across the U.S. who are specialists in Baroque performance practice. Players in the ensemble perform on original period instruments or replicas, creating a sound that is faithful to the composers’ intent. The Blue Hill Bach chorus includes professional singers, members of the local community, and students from area high schools and colleges.
In 2013, Blue Hill Bach created the Young Artist Fellowship, which provides an opportunity for a young artist who shows extraordinary promise as a Baroque musician to work closely with professional musicians and administrators in an intensive and collegial performance atmosphere. This year Blue Hill Bach has awarded the fellowship to baritone Chris Andaloro, a student at Boston College, who will play a key role in managing the technological aspects of the virtual festival.
All of this year’s virtual events will be offered to the public free of charge. For a festival schedule and more information, go to www.bluehillbach.org or phone (207) 613-5454.