September 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to our 20th Anniversary Season!

We’re so delighted to celebrate another season of wonderful music, including a collaboration with the Richter Ensemble, the return of our unfortunately-canceled “A Springboard to the Sublime” concert, and a world premiere by composer Julian Grant! We also had a chance to sit down with violist Jenny Stirling, who has been a longtime member of Sarasa both on the stage and in our outreach presentations across Massachusetts.

Be sure to browse through our 2018-19 season, and be sure to consider purchasing a subscription, and save up to 25% on tickets when you buy in advance.

Sarasa rehearsing before their concert in July at the Big Barn in Putney, VT

Sarasa rehearsing before their concert in July at the Big Barn in Putney, VT

ATTENTION: New Venue Alert!

For those who have been coming to our concerts for the past few years, you may notice we will not be performing at the Friends Meeting House this season. Instead, we will be holding our Cambridge concerts in the beautiful Harvard-Epworth Church, located at 1555 Massachusetts Ave., across from the Cambridge Common. Also, for our October 20th performance, we will be performing at the Christ Church in Cambridge, located just across the Common from Harvard-Epworth at Zero Garden Street.

Here is a link to the Church websites:

If you ever have any questions about our new venues, please don’t hesitate to email us at, and we will be happy to assist you!

20th Anniversary: A Photo Retrospective

Assistant Artistic Director Jennifer Morsches has been combing through collections from photographs taken over the years from various Sarasa events. Over the course of this season, we will be sharing some of these memorable photos with you. Here is an early group shot of Sarasa players from 2000.

Left to right: Emily Van Evera, Brian Brooks, Richard Earle, Suzanne Cleverdon, Timothy Merton, Claire Jolivet and Jenny Stirling (seated)

Left to right: Emily Van Evera, Brian Brooks, Richard Earle, Suzanne Cleverdon, Timothy Merton, Claire Jolivet and Jenny Stirling (seated)

Interview with Jenny Stirling, Viola

Jennifer sat down with Jenny and talked about her time with Sarasa, her experiences doing outreach, and even some tasty cooking ideas!

1. How did you come to first play with Sarasa?

For a few years I’d been hearing about Timothy Merton through various mutual friends. We first met at Phillips Exeter Academy where we were both teaching. Tim invited me to play a Concert with his newly formed ensemble, Sarasa. It was a meeting of kindred spirits on many levels; 20 years on, friendships and musical collaborations with folks from the early days of Sarasa are still going strong! 

2. Can you share a special anecdote about the ensemble over the years?

Playing with Sarasa convinced me to further explore period instrument practice...something I had dabbled with in grad school, at SUNY, Stony Brook. Little did we suspect that one of my Stony Brook friends, Jennifer Morsches, would later become Tim’s wife.  Those rich Sarasa friendships were epitomized when several of us gathered en masse last summer to perform a rowdy ceremonial fanfare -ushering in bride and groom as they ziplined across a Vermont pond to embark on married life!

3. What made you choose the viola as an instrument?

I originally trained as a violinist. Being rather shy and preferring a less-in-the-limelight role, I always loved playing second to fine first violinists, weaving in and out of musical textures, shaping and supporting melodies with harmony, and just occasionally emerging.  I had always assumed I was too small to play the viola, and it wasn’t until I was nearly 30 that I discovered I could manage the instrument. I still teach a lot of violin...for me it’s the best of both worlds. 

4. Is there one composer who seems to understand the voice of the viola the best?

It’s interesting to me that Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Dvorak, Schubert, Mendelssohn and many other of ‘the greats’ played and wrote so well for viola! Benjamin Britten had a particular affinity for the instrument. Some say viola -due to its dark sonority- was the instrument of the 21st century, but I say it’s the instrument of great composers.  I confess though, that I’m still eagerly awaiting the discovery of JS Bach’s suites for solo viola!

5. We understand you are an excellent chef!  Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share with the Sarasa Family?

I would hardly call myself a chef, but I sure know how to cut an onion finely, and fast.  If you sautée lots of onions with generous amounts of olive oil, sea salt and pepper (for a good long while until caramelized), add water just to cover, fresh thyme and a couple of bay leafs, simmer, then reseason...YUM!Some in our audience might know that in addition to his role in Sarasa, Tim Merton is a maple syrup farmer.  So... another recipe I love are “Sarascotti”... make your favorite biscotti recipe substituting maple syrup (Merton's syrup) for the sugar...YUM YUM!

6. In your experiences at the teenage lock-up facilities in the Boston metro area, what are some of the strongest impressions you have had during the Sarasa Outreach Presentations?

When I first played at the detention centers, I questioned whether our visits truly could have much impact, but my perspective has changed enormously. There’s not been one visit when our music has not visibly stirred our outreach audiences. Sometimes it’s only one person, but often it’s many more than that. In our over-busy, rich lives, we forget to pause, and we even easily take beauty for granted. For people who are incarcerated, the power of a beautiful moment can come into greater relief. I remember my father telling me about hearing music in the Egyptian desert during World War II, after months of hearing nothing. He described his experience in such vivid detail to me decades later...deprivation resulted in profound memory and appreciation. In the detention centers I often find myself thinking (despite the noble efforts of those who work there) how austere the environment is. Active, caring  attention and funding are desperately needed to reform the penal system in the USA.  Meanwhile, if Sarasa touches the heart of anyone, helps access memories, sparks imagination, touches sacred inner space, or just brings simple joy for a few moments, well. That's a very positive thing.

7.  Could you tell us a little about your teaching philosophy?

Teaching is my never ceases to delight and fascinate me. When meeting a new student, I first ask them to play for me.  Then, I ask why they play, what they think they’re good at, what they enjoy about playing, and if they could wake up tomorrow and be able to do three things with more ease, what those would be.  A lot is revealed in that short time. My job is to help students realize their dreams -not by teaching them pieces of music, but instead by helping them discover how to play their instruments with efficient ease...kinesthetically, musically and pleasurably. Free of physical tension and emotional apprehension, armed with understanding, control and courage, most players have tremendous fun playing at any level they choose.