Blue Heron at the Cloisters on Sunday, March 25.
When we picture ancient Greek statues, we see alabaster marble, solemn and immaculate, but writings from the time and—perhaps more to the point— archaeological investigations using ultraviolet light indicate that those statues were actually painted in bold, even garish colors that, to modern eyes, look far more kitschy than noble. As interesting as the historical re-creations are, it's hard not to miss the mythologized statues we know better.
I admit I thought of those statues when I first read about Blue Heron, a Boston-based ensemble committed to performing fifteenth- and sixteenth-century choral music with the guidance of historical documents on how they were performed when first composed: not a capella but rather with a few brass instruments thrown into the mix. Did I really want to hear Josquin's pure vocal sonorities tarnished by an early trombone? Perish the thought.
But my instinctive flinch was premature (not to mention ignorant, but let's move on from that). Of course the instruments are still performing fifteenth- and sixteenth-century music, not the anachronistic slides and dissonant bleats I was hearing in my head, and they complemented the choir's voices beautifully. Set in the re-created Fuentidueña Chapel, Blue Heron's concert was not the unbearably academic, awkward program I had secretly, foolishly feared but rather a lovely musical revelation, taking what I adore about the familiar repertory and giving it new resonance.