Boston Singer’s Relief Fund celebrated the fifth anniversary of the organization’s founding, as splendid contingents from Blue Heron, Boston Baroque, Handel & Haydn Society, and Emmanuel Music came together to present a varied and interesting program Saturday afternoon at Emmanuel Church. It is easy to take the amazing Boston musical community for granted, and among our richest treasures are the free-lance instrumental and choral musicians who sing in or play for some of the many fine performing groups here.
Instrumentalists have the Boston Musicians’ Local Union in times of need, but singers’ unions are not so well-constituted either locally or nationally. Established just a few years ago the Boston Singer’s Relief Fund, aims to help those who face “job loss, illness, catastrophic acts of nature, or other events such as vandalism or theft, and who have insufficient resources with which to handle such situations.”
Members of the estimable Blue Heron group led off, with four early anthems of DuFay, del Melle, Pevernage and Wilder, the highlight of which for me was del Melle’s “Rossignolet qui chante,” a charming anthem which was beautifully sung and which almost sounded “modern” here and there—a fascinating discovery. Scott Metcalfe, director of Blue Heron, played the medieval fiddle in the DuFay piece, and five outstanding singers made a superb quintet. Two Bach arias from Cantatas 189 and 44 followed, with Peggy Pearson’s supple oboe and the tenor Colin Doyle sounding especially beautiful in BWV 189. All these players represented Emmanuel Music and the Bach Institute program, which is a collaboration of Emmanuel Music, Winsor Music, Oberlin Conservatory and College. Judging from the results we heard, this is an interesting and successful venture.
Representing Boston Baroque, Andrew Garland’s rich, sturdy baritone was next, offering “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” from Messiah. Trumpeter Robinson Pyle negotiated the shoals of that aria perfectly, with the ever-versatile and gifted organist John Finney. Garland moved from the balcony to the chancel and sang the plangent “Betrachte Meine Seele,” from the St John Passion. This is a young man to hear, and two better arias to highlight contrasting strong and then subtle vocal writing could not have been better programmed or sung. Dianne Pettipaw, Guiomar Turgeon and Lynn Nowels provided a lush, subtle sound world for this aria, one of the great moments in the St John Passion.
Murray Kidd spoke of the work of the Boston Singers Relief Fund, and the Handel & Haydn was next represented in a group of anthems sung by a quartet of Erika Vogel, Katherine Growdon, Patrick Waters and Jacob Cooper. Listening to this fine group, it occurred to me how versatile all these outstanding musicians and their colleagues truly are, moving here and there as asked to sing solos or ensemble repertoire.
Ryan Turner, Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music, concluded the program as the 35-strong The Singers’ Voice Choir 2015 offered Brett Johnson’s interesting and beautiful “When You Said,” from Psalm 27. The choir sounded as though they had been singing together for years, and this was a sumptuous reading of an extremely effective piece which I hope to hear again very soon.
Walking out into the wintry night on Newbury St., I felt grateful to live in a city with such astounding talent, and gratified to see it being supported by people who realize how truly blessed we are with this amazing wealth of local musicians. I would urge every possible individual and group to support this organization.