News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 25, 2020 and Island Ad-Vantages, June 25, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, June 25, 2020
Blue Hill Bach announces virtual festival

Blue Hill Bach will go online for its annual summer festival of Baroque music.

“The Blue Hill Bach board of directors has been watching closely how other organizations are grappling with cancellations forced by COVID-19,” the organization’s founder and executive director Marcia Gronewold Sly said in a news release, “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 canceling altogether, we’re taking the plunge to produce a series of ‘virtual’ events.”

The virtual festival will be kicked off in early July 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. Café Director Grant Herreid will lead a panel discussion about the historical context of the piece.

Other events 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.

“What makes Blue Hill Bach special is the synergy of the place, the people, and local involvement,” said Artistic Director Stephen Hammer. “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.”

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. 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.

This year’s virtual events are offered free of charge. Festival schedule, information:, 613-5454.