5 Questions to Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf about GatherNYC

As our realities remain uncertain, leaning into the supportive communities around us can be one of the many ways we can ground back into our bodies. GatherNYC, founded by artist-couple Laura Metcalf (cello) and Rupert Boyd (guitar) in 2018, provides an environment where that mindfulness can be practiced in a way that feels easy, like Sunday morning. With artisanal coffee and pastries in hand, on a literal Sunday morning, a smidge of spoken word accompanies the classical performances that fill the Museum of Arts & Design in Manhattan. Among the sweet melodies is a beat of silence that provides a moment to meditate on the space and experience. The culmination of it all may mimic church because of the communal aspects and ministry of music, but the only religion here is music. We caught up with Metcalf and Boyd to learn how and why GatherNYC was formed.

GatherNYC is such an intimate and, may I say, tasty event. What inspired you to curate this affair, and what helped you keep it alive during the pandemic?

As we approach our 100th GatherNYC concert, we continue to be awed by the creativity, commitment and variety of artists that have graced our stage over the past five years. As performing musicians, we decided to branch out into curating because we wanted to become part of a larger conversation on how music is presented, and how it can meaningfully impact people’s lives. The original inspiration for GatherNYC comes from a series called Chatter, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at which we have both performed numerous times over the past 13 years, and which presents weekly Sunday morning concerts to a large, dedicated and enthusiastic audience. We wanted to create a similarly nourishing community around the celebration of music in New York City, and following Chatter’s model, we offer pre-concert coffee and pastries and a chance for our audience to socialize before our Sunday morning gatherings. Within the hour-long concert experience, we also offer a taste of the spoken word, and a brief celebration of silence.

Just shy of our 50th concert in March 2020, we were really starting to see a GatherNYC community take shape, and when the pandemic hit and our original and beloved venue SubCulture closed permanently, we kept the community engaged through short-format online video premieres. As New York City began a cautious re-opening in 2021, we developed partnerships with a couple of museums, which was an essential step to bringing live music back, as concerts halls were some of the last public spaces to reopen. We first partnered with the Morris-Jumel Mansion in uptown Manhattan for a series of outdoor concerts in Spring 2021, and then, after collaborating with the Museum of Arts and Design in Columbus Circle on a separate curatorial project, we found a permanent home for the series in their intimate theatre.

Are the composers, artists, and wordsmiths you partner with reflections of your own experiences in the music industry? If so, can you take us deeper into the intention behind your selections? 

As performers ourselves, we have always been drawn to music and programming that exists at the boundaries of classical chamber music and the intersection of many genres. In crafting our own programs, we delight in taking the listener on a journey through many different sound worlds — both the familiar (Bach, Debussy), and the less familiar (new commissions and contemporary composers like Marián Budos or Paul Brantley) and the less classical (Beyoncé, Radiohead, etc.). We use this eclecticism as a jumping off point for the curating of our series.

Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf perform at GatherNYC -- Photo by Michael Abramyan

Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf perform at GatherNYC — Photo by Michael Abramyan

A quick glance at any GatherNYC season lineup will show a huge array of styles, instruments and genres, all of which tie back to the loosest definition of classical music, while also expanding that definition further. It is the rare exception that a GatherNYC concert will consist solely of standard repertoire. We specifically look for artists with unique and confident musical voices, who will connect with our audiences in a visceral way. We don’t like to be too heavy handed with exact repertoire, so we choose artists we trust will program in a way that aligns with our intentions.

Many of the artists who grace our stage are musicians we know personally and have admired for some time. It’s not uncommon that artists who perform at GatherNYC one week are off the next, performing at some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world, and we cherish the opportunity for our audience to experience their world-class artistry in our intimate venue.

Another happy byproduct of curating this series is getting to know the storytelling community in New York. Our initial source for storytellers was the organization The Moth, and through those initial connections we’ve been introduced to a vast and talented community of people who bring so much emotional depth to our performances by sharing their heartfelt, personal stories.

Can we talk about the combination of minimalism and depth in how you’ve structured the programming? It engages the five senses. Why curate this experience in this way?

Our GatherNYC experience is carefully designed to last one hour. We are committed to delivering this consistent timing to our audience, and coordinate with our artists to ensure that they stay within that limit. The length is intentionally planned to fit into the fabric of the lives of busy New Yorkers, and it is our hope that it will become an integral
part of their Sundays.

Within the one-hour format, we include two musical sets, interspersed with storytelling and a celebration of silence, and we open the doors half an hour early for pre-concert coffee and pastries. The storytelling performance, which is often personal, heartfelt and uplifting, provides both a different listening experience and a connection to our shared humanity. The two-minute celebration of silence is just that — we invite the audience to sit together for two minutes, and collectively experience silence (or, as is the case in New York City, sometimes the lack thereof). We find that the two minutes that we sit together sets up a deep listening and heightened awareness, and we always feel a special charge in the room during the piece immediately following the silence.

All in all, we want this to be a meaningful experience that goes beyond pure listening; we want people to be nourished by the experience, and become part of the community by returning week after week. So often there are barriers to entry around classical music; by making our experience shorter, during the day, at an affordable price, and able to connect with audiences on multiple levels, we hope that we are beginning to break down those barriers. Also, though we do not curate concerts specifically with kids in mind, we do encourage families to attend and offer free tickets to children under 12.

 What challenges do you face as practicing musicians producing a weekly event of this magnitude and intention?

Well, as of this season, we have actually changed the format just slightly and are holding concerts every other Sunday rather than weekly. While in previous seasons we had around 10 consecutive weekly concerts in both the fall and spring, with several months off in between, this year we are having concerts every other week from October through May. It works out to be the same number of shows throughout the year, but we have found that not taking a break over the winter keeps a momentum with the audience, and there is something to be said about setting up the entire season in the fall and then staying in the swing of it every other week through the end of the spring.

Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf -- Photo by Jiyang Chen

Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf — Photo by Jiyang Chen

The obvious and biggest challenge for us is finding enough hours in the day for both our individual performing, practice, and freelance work, and to also take care of the GatherNYC admin and logistical work that goes into running a series with different artists every show. To add to the mix, we are a married couple and have a four-year old son who certainly keeps us on our toes the rest of the time! While we attend and host every GatherNYC that we can, there are many weeks when one or both of us are out of town, and for those weeks we use guest hosts, but are always disappointed to miss hearing the artists live ourselves after all the work to engage them, and to miss an opportunity to personally connect with our community. Turning it around, it has also given us a true appreciation for just how much effort goes into planning and organizing concerts from the presenters’ side. We are deeply grateful to everyone who invites us to perform on their series, and in general to all who invest their time and efforts creating live music events.

On another note, you recently released a new project, “Songs of Love & Despair,” under your ensemble Boyd Meets Girl. Is there anything on the horizon for you two, either as a duo or individually, that fans can look forward to? 

We are super excited to announce that the wonderful composer Clarice Assad will be writing a double concerto for cello and guitar for us, which we will premiere with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in February 2024! Clarice is a composer we have both admired for a very long time, and we can’t think of a better fit for our first double concerto. After touring the world for 10 years together, and releasing two studio albums, this feels like a really wonderful next step in the life of our duo.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, and is made possible thanks to generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF.

You can support the work of ICIYL with a tax-deductible gift to ACF. For more on ACF, visit the “At ACF” section or