Brandeis prof. wins Grammy award

March 23, 2015

Jason McStoots, a Brandeis music lecturer, is a tenor vocalist and was part of an ensemble with the Boston Early Music Festival. This year, the ensemble won the Grammy for Best Opera Performance for their album “Charpentier: La Descente D’Orphée aux Enfers.”

McStoots grew up singing in church and school choir. However, he was not seriously exposed to classical music until he went to college. In his first year, he performed Bach’s “Magnificat.” “That experience has stayed with me and inspired my love of baroque music. At this point in my career, I basically specialize in Early Music. A simple way to describe that would be music before Mozart,” he explained in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot.

Almost 10 years ago, McStoots began singing with the Boston Early Music Festival when he heard that the festival had a chorus member drop out. “After an audition, I was asked to sing in the chorus for that production and the following festival was also given a solo role in Lully’s ‘Psyché,’ which was my first Grammy nomination, BEMF’s third nomination,” he said. According to McStoots, the BEMF is a regular annual concert season presenting its own concerts and bringing in outside groups as well as a biennial international music festival that brings the most influential performers of baroque, renaissance and medieval music together. It highlights the efforts of musicians involved in Historically Informed Performance, which a movement of music historians and performers that approaches the performance of ancient music in its historical context.

BEMF recorded “La Descente” in Bremen, Germany. “We had performed the work many times before we recorded it, so it was like returning to an old friend. Speaking of friends, one of the best parts of my work with BEMF, besides the impeccable music-making, is the fact that we are a regular corps of performers who have been together very consistently over the last eight years and have become close friends,” said McStoots fondly. “The piece itself is hauntingly beautiful, but I can’t honestly say I expected it to win. Who knows why people like what they like, but I am very happy it did win.”

As with every Grammy winner, McStoots is extremely thrilled about the honor. What makes him the happiest is that the win will bring more attention to BEMF and its beautiful work. People who may never have experienced the beauty of music from the French baroque era will hear these gorgeous sounds.

Besides BEMF, McStoots also sings regularly with a renaissance vocal ensemble called Blue Heron and with the NYC early music ensemble TENET. McStoot’s future plans include exploring the music of Bach and a series of concerts leading up to 2020 delving into the music of Johannes Ockeghem. This year’s BEMF will feature the three operas of Claudio Monteverdi.

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