SHORT BIO: "Otherworldly” mezzo-soprano Clare McNamara brings her versatility to a wide variety of early and new repertoire throughout the United States and abroad. She has maintained affiliations as a soloist and ensemble member with groups such as Skylark, Handel+Haydn Society, Cut Circle, Lorelei Ensemble, and The Boston Camerata.
Clare’s “astonishing” voice is heavily featured in the recent “pathbreaking” release of Cut Circle’s one-to-a-part compendium of the works of Johannes Ockeghem (Gramophone Magazine); she has joined Cut Circle for multiple European festivals (Utrecht, Regensburg, Antwerp, and Maastricht). She was also recently hailed as “pure-toned” and “as good as they come” (MusicWeb International) for her solo Hildegard chant on the GRAMMY-nominated Skylark album “Seven” (2018). During her nine years with Lorelei, engagements included collaborations with A Far Cry (Kareem Roustom’s Hurry to the Light) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons (Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Debussy’s Nocturnes, and George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song). Clare made her New York soloist debut alongside the St. Thomas Fifth Avenue Choir of Men and Boys (Daniel Hyde) in Handel's Messiah (2017). Since 2019, Clare has been a rostered alto at the Staunton Music Festival in Staunton, VA.
The 2020-2021 season would have blossomed with solo opportunities: The Boston Camerata’s “A Night’s Tale” and “Three Sisters” (Anne Azéma), and Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Israel in Egypt with Handel+Haydn (Harry Christophers). Clare would have debuted with Tenet (Jolle Greenleaf) and Washington Bach. The 2021-2022 season marks a gentle return to performance and studio recording, including Skylark’s choral retelling of “A Christmas Carol” by Benedict Sheehan, and “Sub Rosa” by brothers and author-composer duo Dan and Greg Brown.
Clare rapidly pivoted to digital music creation during the pandemic. She recorded a solo recital and a program of women’s trios for Skylark’s digital subscription platform, Skylark+; she also co-founded a new vocal trio, Ourania. In January, 2021, Clare appeared as the vocal soloist (works by Michelle DiBucci and Gustav Mahler) for the United Nations’ Chamber Music Society’s concert for the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, which was globally broadcast on the UN’s YouTube Channel and on Facebook.
Clare holds an A.B. in Music from Princeton University and an M.M. in Early Music Performance from the Longy School of Music of Bard College.
LONG BIO (pre-pandemic):
Praised for her “lushly evocative mezzo” and “attentive and precise” musicianship, Clare McNamara brings her signature vocal quality and sensitive interpretation to a wide variety of repertoire throughout the United States and abroad. The 2018 recipient of the prestigious St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award, Clare has performed at Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and Tanglewood’s Seiji Ozawa Hall, among other world-renowned venues. Though particularly adept at early and new music, Clare’s unique instrument is suited to many kinds of repertoire and is only growing in versatility.
Recently, Clare made her solo debut at Symphony Hall in Handel+Haydn Society's 2018 performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor, under the baton of Harry Christophers, and returned later in the year as alto soloist in Bach’s Missa Brevis in G major. Boston Classical Review praised her “rich timbre and expressive phrasing,” calling her duet with soprano Sarah Yanovitch the “vocal highlight of the second half.” Clare also made her New York City solo debut as alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah with Daniel Hyde and the Choristers of New York’s St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Clare performed the role of Brängane in the 2017 and 2018 revival performances of Boston Camerata’s medieval pastiche, “Tristan & Iseult.” Other recent soloist credits include the role of Mother in Stephen Paulus' modern church opera "The Three Hermits" (Harvard University Choir) and alto soloist in oratorio with organizations such as Coro Allegro, The Boston Cecilia, and the Tufts University Choirs.
Clare has been a core member of Lorelei Ensemble, Boston’s groundbreaking 9-voice women’s vocal ensemble, since 2011. Lorelei’s recent album “Impermanence” has garnered attention as one of the best classical albums of 2018 (WQXR) and has received glowing reviews from Gramophone Magazine and the BBC. Throughout the years, Clare’s solo turns with Lorelei have been called “gorgeous” (ArtsFuse) and “exquisite” (Boston Musical Intelligencer). In 2017, Clare made her Carnegie Hall debut as part of Lorelei when the ensemble joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Andris Nelsons as the octet of voices featured in George Benjamin’s “The Dream of the Song.” Clare and Lorelei also appeared in Tanglewood's 2016 and 2017 Festival of Contemporary Music for performances of Benjamin's work as well as György Ligeti's "Clocks and Clouds." In the coming season, Lorelei will maintain a busy touring schedule under the new management of David Middleton (A Far Cry), return to the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a concert performance of Suor Angelica, and collaborate with A Fary Cry on a new work by Kareem Roustom based on the stories of the women in “The Odyssey,” slated to premiere in 2019. The ensemble has also been invited to be one of three ensembles featured at the National ACDA Convention in Kansas City in February 2019.
Clare is now in her sixth season as an active member of the performing roster of the prestigious Handel+Haydn Society in Boston, appearing this season in several concerts, including The Great Bach Concertos and Cantatas, Mozart’s Requiem, and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, which will be performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur in March 2019. Clare is proud to be singing in the H+H “Every Voice” program for the second year in a row. This community and social justice-oriented concert is curated by countertenor Reggie Mobley features young members of the H+H Vocal Arts Program Choir alongside members of the H+H orchestra and chorus and features repertoire from the baroque to the American spiritual.
Also a core member of the GRAMMY-nominated Skylark Vocal Ensemble since 2012, Clare has appeared with the ensemble in various performances, including a Rachmaninoff Vespers at Spivey Hall at Clayton State University (Morrow, GA) and a Spring 2017 tour of Poulenc’s notoriously difficult choral cantata Figure Humaine. Last season, Clare traveled to London with Skylark to perform their GRAMMY-nominated “Seven Words from the Cross” at the 2018 Holy Week Festival hosted by the British ensemble Tenebrae.
Internationally, Clare has performed frequently with Cut Circle, an American early music group dedicated to recapturing the gritty, intense experience of singing early music. Clare recently joined Cut Circle as part of the Utrecht Early Music concert series in Utrecht, Delft, Zwolle, Maastricht, and Amsterdam, and will also perform with the group in Berkeley and Stanford, CA in collaboration with San Francisco Early Music Society and Stanford Live in February 2019. Clare made her European debut with Cut Circle performing at the Musica Sacra Festival in Maastricht, Netherlands, and has also joined the group at the AMUZ/Laus Polyphoniae 2015 Festival-Conference in Antwerp, Belgium, and the Tage Alter Music Festival in Regensburg, Germany. Recently, Clare and her fellow musicians served as professional science guinea pigs at the Max-Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt Germany, donning electro-encephalogram helmets designed to measure activity in the singer’s brain. Clare is working with Cut Circle on an ongoing recording project of Ockeghem’s songs and music from the Leuven Chansonnier.
Clare joined Staunton Music Festival’s summer festival for Mozart’s Requiem in summer 2018 and returns for the entirety of the August 2019 festival. In addition, Clare maintains ensemble affiliations with the Boston Camerata, The Thirteen, Peregrine Consort, Colla Parte, Tapestry, and other groups throughout the United States.
In the recording studio, Clare provided solo vocals for “On the Nature of Things” commissioned by the internationally-recognized modern dance troupe Pilobolus Dance Theatre from composers Michelle DiBucci and Ed Bilous; Pilobolus maintains this work as a regular centerpiece of their active performance repertoire. With Skylark Vocal Ensemble, she is a featured soloist on two highly acclaimed new albums: Winter’s Night and the twice-GRAMMY-nominated Seven Words from the Cross (Sono Luminus: Best Choral Performance, Best Immersive Audio Album). Reviewing Seven Words from the Cross, BBC Record Review wrote, “The ensemble is excellent, the solos beautifully taken, and the whole sequence is thoughtfully designed and luminously recorded.” Along with Skylark, Clare can also be heard on “forgotten dreams” and “Crossing Over” (Sono Luminus). She has been a part of three Lorelei recordings: “Impermanence,” which features all-female recordings of Dufay and other Renaissance polyphony; “live.know.love”; and “Reconstructed”, which features new Americana pieces.
In recent years, Clare has developed a fascination with the music of Hildegard von Bingen. She routinely prepares transcriptions of her work and provides performance coaching in order to align performances with the nuances of the original neumatic notation. In addition to frequently performing Hildegard with Lorelei, Skylark, and Staunton, Clare has sung the role of Humilitas in her Ordo Virtutum (Ensemble Musica Humana).
Clare has degrees from Princeton University and The Longy School of Music. She currently resides in Boston.