Once again, the new year begins in New York City with the Green Mountain Project, a presentation of the Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610) by Claudio Monteverdi, this year at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Times Square. I attended this presentation two years ago, and followed the Green Mountain Project last year when they presented a different vespers service drawn from Monteverdi’s 1640 publication, Selva morale e spirituale, together with compatible works by Gabrielli and Cozzoloni, at a church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
But this year it was back to Times Square for a magnificent performance tonight that will be repeated tomorrow night and then transported north to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for Saturday night.
Scott Metcalfe, well known to the early music community as the director of Blue Heron, an excellent vocal group based in Boston, has served as musical director for the Green Mountain Project, whose chief organizer and artistic director is the soprano Jolle Greenleaf, who was very much present with fabulous solo singing tonight.
It is hard to describe the incredible impact of this performance. The large church was packed with a silent, intent audience, hanging on every note. The musicians, swaying with the music, seemed totally absorbed and excited to be participating. And it is truly an event when this piece — perhaps the longest and most intricate piece of sacred music of the 17th century — is performed. The standing ovation at the end was definitely earned – by Monteverdi, and by the participating singers and instrumentalists of the Green Mountain Project.
At the heart of the Green Mountain Project is Greenleaf’s TENET, an early music vocal group with instrumental participants that gives a series of concerts each year in New York. On their website, TENETnyc.com, one can obtain the recording of their Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 performance from January 2010, as well as the recording made last year of the Vespers of 1640 – a new release that I haven’t heard yet, but that I have just ordered with fond memories of last year’s presentation.