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Press Releases

Press Releases

  • Chamber Choir Performs with Hans Zimmer Live on Tour!

    HOUSTON, TX -- This past Friday, July 14, members of the Houston Chamber Choir performed with Hans Zimmer Live on Tour at the Smart Financial Center in Houston. The concert featured popular movie scores composed by Zimmer, including music from The Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dark Knight, and Interstellar. It was a memorable evening for all involved. Chamber Choir soprano Kelli Lawless exclaimed on social media, “When you get to sing Lion King with the composer, Hans Zimmer, AND Lebo M., the original vocalist...I was barely holding it together! Thank you, Houston Chamber Choir for amazing opportunities like this one!!”

    Sixteen members from the Chamber Choir performed with the Hans Zimmer Live team, including Hans Zimmer himself. According to the Choir members, Zimmer was very impressed with the quality of their sound, and even gave the Houston Chamber Choir a “shout-out” during the show, telling the audience that they were going to love the Choir’s singing!

    Hans Zimmer Live is touring once again after an incredibly successful European tour in 2016, expanding this year into a world tour. More information and additional tour dates and locations can be found on their website, http://www.hanszimmerlive.com/.

    The Houston Chamber Choir is looking forward to their upcoming 2017-2018 season, Revolutionary Sounds: Pioneers and Visionaries. Highlights include a concert of Brahms and Barber with renowned pianist and Shepherd School of Music professor Brian Connelly, exploring the music of the Renaissance with guest conductor Alexander Blachly, an evening of story-telling featuring David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion, and a celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday with his daughter, special guest Jamie Bernstein. More ticket and season information can be found on the Houston Chamber Choir website, http://HoustonChamberChoir.org.

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  • The Chamber Choir Makes a Fifth Recording!

             

    The Houston Chamber Choir is thrilled to announce their plans to record the complete choral works of Maurice Duruflé this June! I sat down with our Artistic Director and Founder, Robert Simpson, to discuss this exciting recording project. 


    Briefly describe the choral works of Duruflé and the process of making a recording.

    The choral works of Duruflé, like the organ works of Duruflé, are very small in number, but were extensively revised and written and rewritten until he was completely satisfied. He was someone who rethought and re-configured music right up to the time he had to let go of it, and as a result the music has a sense of being very natural and every note in place. It sings beautifully because he had…the experiences as a boy of becoming very familiar with Gregorian chant…chant influences everything that he wrote and his music, even when not based on chant, has a certain ebb and flow that is very reminiscent of chant. But in fact chant does figure largely in his works. The Messe “Cum jubilo” for men’s voices that we’ll be singing is based on the plainsong mass…and the four a cappella motets are all based on Gregorian chant themes. And he uses extensive quotes from chant also in the Requiem.

    The process of making a recording is as different from live performance as live performance is to rehearsal. This is one of the reasons why it was so important that we make this recording this season although we’re a full season away from the performance; to be able to establish the kind of finesse that is necessary to have any kind of prevalent recording requires coming to a very high level of performance and then going above that. The thing about recordings is that you have the option of listening to the same passage over and over and over again and what might slip by in performance…becomes a train wreck on repeated hearings, or becomes annoying, and becomes detrimental actually of the overall effectiveness to the CD. So, getting this CD done now was really important. And also having the opportunity to do it at Rice [University’s] Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall…[it] is a very unique building. It was designed specifically for the organ and has, as a result, a very rich, resonant acoustic. There are curtains that lower and raise on the sides to be able to affect the amount of reverberation. But even at its driest, it’s still very warm compared to most churches, or certainly concert halls. And then the organ itself was designed specifically as a French instrument. On top of that, Ken Cowan, the Professor of Organ there, is a remarkably talented young person who, among other things, is very, very gifted at performing French romantic music. So when you take our choir and put that choir in that room, with that organ, with that organist, you’ve got a combination that is, quite frankly, quite special. And as a result, I really think that this recording will bring a performance of real value to those that are already available.

    What makes these pieces so special and why record them?

    Well, these pieces are well-known. We have done four recordings in the past and the music on those has been universally either unknown, or brand new. Bringing back works of the 16th century with Colonna…is one thing, recording commissions as we did on soft blink [of amber light] is fabulous, but this recording takes us into the realm of what is known and loved. And as a result, there is a special responsibility on us to not just produce another recording, but to do something special and that’s a heavy weight; that’s something that I feel very excited but responsible for as well. We will not make the pieces special; the pieces are already special. They have become beloved pieces to anyone lucky enough to sing them. The Ubi caritas alone would probably keep Duruflé’s name alive for generation after generation. So the reason that these pieces are special is because Duruflé was not only so gifted but he was so thorough and so insistent on every last aspect of these pieces being just right. The reason that I think it’s important for us to make a recording is because we’ve got this very unique convergence of pieces, venue, musicians, [and] collaborators to be able to take this music and bring an interpretation to it that will, perhaps, give people a new understanding or new appreciation of its emotional depth.

    Why do you feel recordings in general are so important?

    Well, recordings in general are important because they document the interpretations of a major artist; we refer back to Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations, both the ones that were recorded at the beginning of his career and at the end of his career as one example of treasures that are landmarks that we have to both study and revere. So recordings can be special because they document significant interpreters. They can also be special because they give a wider audience to less known or less appreciated music, and then there is the recording as an opportunity for instrumentalists or choral musicians or individuals to be able to take their music and share it with a wide number of people throughout the world. In live concert you can only reach those who are within an easy distance of the concert hall, but a recording will allow the performance to travel far and wide. And for the Houston Chamber Choir, it’s important for us to make recordings for artistic reasons, but also it’s an important part of allowing our brand, our music, our approach to making music to be familiar to those who would never be able to hear us in person.

    What makes this particular group of singers so special?

    This choir is now at the end of its 21st season and every group has been special. But I will say that there has been a steady progression of talent and experience that has taken the choir to being an ensemble that has become more and more able to make music at a consistently high level. This group of people is as fine as any group we’ve had and our performances this season have been more consistently refined than ever before. We’ve had a record of singing beautifully, but there’s something about the combination of voices and combination of personalities this year that has allowed us to make music even more passionately and perhaps technically more refined and it’s our goal to continue. And part of that is that we’ve had singers now in the choir for ten or more years, so they are no longer wondering what I’m looking for. They know exactly what I’m looking for and they know how to offer it. But at the same token, I’ve worked with them and I know what they’re capable of and I can just make a suggestion and I know it’s going to trigger the imagination of these people and they can take it in directions that I had not anticipated at first and I am actually stunned and delighted to hear. Wow, how wonderful that we’ve come to a place that we would only have gotten to with the joining of our two talents, with our two approaches. So it’s definitely ‘the sum is greater than the total of the parts’ for any organization like this.

    Do the Chamber Choir members enjoy the choral works of Duruflé?

    Yes, there is always an energy surrounding concerts. And sometimes that energy is one of having been taken to literature that they found challenging and interesting and they’re glad they had a chance to do it, but they’re not looking forward to doing it again anytime soon. And then there are concerts where people come away saying, ‘Oh, I can’t stand the thought that we will be leaving this behind.’ And Duruflé and [Bach’s] B-minor Mass are two that immediately come in mind that understandably the singers came away saying, ‘Oh, what a great experience and I wish we could do it again soon.’ So yes, coming back to the Duruflé is something that I think we’re all happy to be able to do.

    What are some challenges when making a recording?

    Well, because of the nature of the recording where there is a series of repetitions, it’s easy without a great deal of care that the performances can either start to become stilted or less inspiring. Energy and pacing the flow of energy is very key in a recording. And one of the things that we have going for us is a multi-Grammy winning producer, Blanton Alspaugh, who won another series of Grammy’s this last go-round. When we get into the recording session, my job is to inspire the choir, but it’s his job to pace the recordings and to know when the choir has given its last best take - “[They’re] ready to move on to something else, we can come back to it tomorrow night.” I don’t make those choices. He’s the one that says cut or stop. If I hear something and I think “hmm” I just let it go because it’s not my call. I just keep conducting and we keep singing until he says stop. A less skilled producer can actually be an obstacle. But a person like Blanton, specifically Blanton, will be a tremendous benefit to us because he will be able to pace the recordings and know specifically what to go back to. [i.e.] “In measure 25, the sopranos didn’t sing together.” So he’ll know that we only need to go back to measure 23. A less skilled producer might say, ‘go back to measure 19,’ and then you both waste time and waste energy. So he’s very efficient, he’s got great ears. He himself has a Master’s in Orchestral Conducting from the Shepherd School so it’s fun for him to come back to the Shepherd School. …He has buddies who are still on the staff and the faculty there and he’s a trained conductor himself. So he listens with the ears of a conductor and the knowledge, the technical expertise, of a Grammy-winning producer.

    Wow, between Blanton Alspaugh, Ken Cowan, and the Chamber Choir, sounds like this recording is a true Houston project! Any other thoughts?

    This is part of what a professional ensemble is all about. And it’s a real honor that we’re having the opportunity to sing this music, to make this recording, as an ongoing part of our mission to record important works, so I thank all those who are responsible: the Board and our wonderful staff, you and Aileen and Vahe, for the support we’re going to need to make this a success.


    [Interview conducted by Grace Svatek on May 19, 2017]

    Click here to donate to this exciting recording!


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    2017 Gala: A Huge Success!

    Our 21st Anniversary Gala, “An Evening in the French Quarter,” was a tremendous success! April 23rd was such a special evening honoring Franco Valobra.

    Mr. Valobra comes from a multi-generational jeweling business, started by his great-grandfather Vittorio Valobra in Italy. He opened the first Valobra Jewelry showroom in the United States in 1982 in the heart of the French Quarter. Two more stores were then opened in Highland Village in 2006 and Lugano, Switzerland’s work-renowed Via Nassa in 2012. Mr. Valobra is very involved in children’s health and well-being charities, including the New Orleans French Quarter Classic benefiting cancer research, the Highland Village Ferrari Festival benefiting Texas Children’s Hopical Cancer Unit, UNICEF, and many more. We were so excited to honor Mr. Valobra at our event!

    We celebrated in the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice Hotel with cocktails, dinner, a silent auction, and of course, music! Our wonderful Houston Chamber Choir performed as well as the Boomtown Brass Band. We love them! Another highlight of the evening was HCC’s very own Lauren Pastorek singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” during dinner! Our silent auction was amazing; so many incredible items from an array of donors and organizations all around Houston. We had a record-setting fundraiser this year, raising almost $100,000!

    This evening would not have been possible without the many wonderful people who helped put it all together. A special thanks to our Gala Chairs, Drs. Rachel and Warren Ellsworth; Silent Auction Chair Laurel Flores; and Gala Committee members Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Sonja Bruzauskas, Jack Byrom, J. Todd Frazier, Jeremy Garcia, Nancy Hixon, Brian McCulloch, and David Ashley White. A final thank-you to all of our generous donors and friends who attended.

    Click here to see more photos from the Gala!

    What a special night! We can’t wait to start planning our 2018 Gala… See you there!

  • 2017 Annual Gala: An Evening in the French Quarter

    It's almost springtime here in Houston, so you know what that means: GALA TIME! Our 2017 Annual Gala, "An Evening in the French Quarter," will be held on Sunday, April 23, 2017 at the Rice Crystal Ballroom in downtown Houston. The event will honor Franco Valobra, a most generous supporter of the Houston Chamber Choir.

    Franco Valobra is the fourth generation of jewelers.  In 1982, he immigrated to the US and opened the first international branch of his family's business in New Orleans.  When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, he opened up a store in Houston; Valobra Master Jewelers

    Franco is extremely active in generously giving back to his communities.  Inspired by his parents, he is inspired by other people's passion for the projects they support.  Houston Chamber Choir is honored to honor him.  

    Our gala theme is inspired by the location of our honoree's first US jewelry store. The event includes dinner, drinks, a silent auction, and of course, music!  We hope you'll join us! 

    http://houstonchamberchoir.org/gala


  • Renowned conductor, Elena Sharkova, takes audiences on a musical journey through the Russian Soul

    HOUSTON, TX – Brilliant young conductor Elena Sharkova leads Houston Chamber Choir on Saturday, November 12th at 7:30 pm in a concert entitled “A Window into the Russian Soul” at St. Philip Presbyterian Church. The program will explore the depths of the mysterious Russian soul in a moving concert featuring works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and the Houston premiere of Chimes by Valery Gavrillin.

    “We are thrilled to welcome such an incomparable conductor to the city of Houston,” says Lorenzo Martinez, Executive Director of Houston Chamber Choir. As a passionate advocate for Russian choral music, Sharkova intends to spotlight various chambers of the Russian soul in musical terms. “This music is going straight to the heart. The audience will be taken so strongly by the sincerity and emotion in every piece,” says Sharkova. The program will chronologically explore historical segments of Russia’s both turbulent and triumphant past.

    As a graduate of the prestigious St. Petersburg Conservatory, Sharkova has reached a pinnacle few, if any, Russian female conductors can claim. She is recognized nationally and internationally as an inspirational, versatile, and effective conductor, choral clinician, music educator, and lecturer. Her upbringing in St. Petersburg molded Sharkova both personally and professionally. “Music has been my religion since I was little because there wasn’t much else that was so divine, so beautiful.”

    Tickets are $36 for Adults and $32 for Seniors (65+). Student tickets are available for $10 with valid student ID. They can be purchased online at www.houstonchamberchoir.org, or on site the day of the performance. Advanced purchase is recommended because of limited seating capacity.

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    A 5-Concert Subscription Series Designed to Attract Young Professionals

    Ars Lyrica Houston, Da Camera, Houston Chamber Choir, Mercury, and River Oaks Chamber Orchestra collaborate in a five-concert subscription series designed to attract young professionals. The series, called Circle of Fifths, includes special event invitations, backstage tours, a ‘bring a friend’ pass, complimentary drinks, and opportunities to mix and mingle with other concert-goers. Set at the reasonable price of $99.00, subscriptions will go on sale Friday, July 22nd, 2016. This dynamic series includes the following concerts:

    Handel's Jephtha, Sat, Oct. 15, 7:30pm Ars Lyrica Houston, Hobby Center for Performing Arts, Zilkha Hall Handel’s final masterpiece sets an Old Testament tale about a warrior’s foolish promise to God and its terrible consequences. The austere subject matter (from the Book of Judges) becomes pure gold in Handel’s hands; his oratorio is full of beautiful melodies, searing choruses, even a surprise ending. A Window into the Russian Soul, Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:30 Houston Chamber Choir, South Main Baptist Church The brilliant young Russian conductor Elena Sharkova takes us into the depths of the mysterious Russian soul in a moving concert featuring works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and the Houston Premiere of Chimes by Valery Gavrilin. Brass Quintet, Friday, January 27, 6:00pm River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, MATCH The ROCO Brass Quintet is distinct from other professional groups in Houston in that it champions modern classical music, while also performing music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, as well as jazz music by American composers such as Duke Ellington. The ensemble offers a unique concert experience while upholding the familiar ROCO characteristics of virtuosic performance and approachability. Brentano String Quartet--Art of the Fugue, Friday, March 3 8:00pm Da Camera, Cullen Theater, Wortham Center The Brentano Quartet presents a cornerstone of classical music in a new way, elucidating and visualizing the fugue with a performance installation created by engineer Gabriel Calatrava. Schubert, Death and the Maiden, Friday, April 6, 7:30pm Mercury, MATCH The String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, known as Death and the Maiden, by Franz Schubert, is one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire and will be the heart of this concert. Audiences will be moved by this powerful, evocative arrangement for string orchestra, originally recorded by Mercury in 2014.

    The young professional’s subscription series introduces audiences to five of Houston’s premiere ensemble and chamber music organizations providing an environment in which to network and create connections. “The idea for the series grew out of a desire to cultivate younger audience members that will act as our next generation of concert goers within the vibrant Houston arts scene,” says Paige Myrick, Marketing and Communications Manager with Houston Chamber Choir. “The future of the arts lies within the audience’s ability to engage with fellow arts enthusiasts and the musicians themselves.” This concert series invites young audience members to come together to experience the incredible artistry provided by Houston chamber and ensemble organizations, many of which are considered ‘home-grown’ and utilize Houston-based musicians. “The subscription is designed to cover a wide range of genres and programming. We’d like to think of this as a musical passport to Houston.”

    Subscriptions can be purchased at houstonmusicpass.com. All upcoming event information and venue locations can be found here.

  • First-Time Subscriptions cost $100

    We invite you to try something new! The Houston Chamber Choir offers an extraordinary 21st season, from the musical transcendence of Bach to the toe-tapping tunes of Big Band and everything in between. First-Time subscriptions also have great benefits, including a 1 free friend pass, a value of $36.00. Go for it-- try something new today!

  • Christian McBride, Grammy-winning jazz artist and composer performs his ground-breaking, commissioned work by the Houston Chamber Choir

    HOUSTON, TX---The Houston Chamber Choir’s 20th Anniversary season will reach its climactic finish in an evening of jazz with virtuoso bassist and five-time Grammy winner Christian McBride. The Christian McBride Trio including pianist Christian Sands, and drummer Jerome Jennings, will headline the concert where the centerpiece is a world premiere of McBride’s groundbreaking work for jazz ensemble and choir. The concert takes place at the Cullen Theater in The Wortham Center on Sunday, May 22nd at 4:00pm.

    Inspired by the works of Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, McBride approached this piece by keeping in mind the talent and versatility of The Houston Chamber Choir. There are “three aspects of my musical personality well represented in this piece. It’s a combination of my classical training, moving into jazz, with a tinge of gospel and soul,” says McBride who wrote both music and text for “The Healing of the Sun,” a work commissioned by Houston Chamber Choir for the occasion. This is the first time McBride has written a piece for choir and jazz ensemble, making this a turning point in his active compositional output.

    Fresh off the heels of a White House appearance at International Jazz Day where he performed with Aretha Franklin and other jazz giants, and his fifth Grammy win in 2016, McBride’s dynamic career as one of the world’s leading jazz artists shows no signs of slowing down. “Make music that you want to make. Make music that is true to your heart and soul,” says McBride.

    “The deep, dark-maple tone that Christian McBride elicits from an upright bass is one of jazz’s forthright pleasures” –Nate Chinen,The New York Times

    Houston Chamber Choir, a professional choral organization founded by Artistic Director Robert Simpson twenty years ago, is delighted to join forces with a trailblazer of the jazz world in this momentous collaboration.
    TICKETS: Purchase tickets online at www.HoustonChamberChoir.org, directly through the Wortham Center at http://tickets.houstonfirsttheaters.com, or by calling 832- 487-7041. Tickets start at $45.00. The Cullen Theater, Wortham Center is located at 501 Texas St.


  • Houston Chamber Choir appears on 'Hola Houston' Fox 26 to promote Mexicantos

    http://www.fox26houston.com/community-affairs

  • Houston Chamber Choir presentará un programa de música coral mexicana titulado "Mexicantos".

    En tributo a la música y cultura de México, Houston Chamber Choir presentará un programa de música coral mexicana titulado "Mexicantos". La brillantez de la tradición coral de México estará en pleno despliegue con obras de la edad de oro del país-- desde composiciones polifónicas hasta obras de la actualidad. El programa incluirá un trabajo que no se ha presentado en más de 250 años. El concierto tendrá lugar sábado, 05 de marzo de 2016 a las 7:30 PM en la Iglesia de St. John the Divine.

    Benjamin Geier, un miembro del Houston Chamber Choir ha descubierto una obra titulada Misas de Réquiem del compositor mexicano Ignacio Jerusalem y Stella. Ben describe esta obra como "un brillante ejemplo de la tradición coral que existió en la ciudad de México desde la Fundación de la catedral en 1573 hasta el final del siglo XVIII". Como parte de su Tesis Doctoral, Geier está completando una edición crítica del Requiem. Ben tomará parte en el programa de 5 de marzo dirigiendo al coro en dicha obra. Ben dice, "Escrito en el estilo galant, el compositor combina melodías de Mozart, estilo operático y texturas rítmicas heredadas de las tradiciones musicales del nuevo mundo."

    Este programa es de gran relevancia para la comunidad de Houston, una ciudad sede de una gran población hispana. Obras de estos compositores reflejan la historia de México, un país frente a guerras, y disturbios políticos durante todo el tiempo que fueron compuestas. Director Ejecutivo del Houston Chamber Choir Lorenzo Martinez dice: "Estamos encantados de honrar a la comunidad mexicana en Houston con un programa de tesoros musicales que reflejan la riqueza cultural de ese país y vinculan directamente a la comunidad hispana en la ciudad."

    Entradas: Comprar entradas en línea en www.HoustonChamberChoir.org o llame al (713) 224-5566 La Iglesia de St. John the Divine está localizada en 2450 River Oaks Blvd, en la esquina de Westheimer St. y River Oaks Blvd. Boletos de admisión general en concierto son de $40 para adultos, $36 para adultos mayores (65 y más) y $10 para estudiantes (con credencial vigente).


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Audience Comments

Best choral group I've ever heard!

—Jan Kellogg

You are so versatile, so spirited, so excellent!

—Patron survey comment, after the Love Me Do! concert (May 2014)

Joy beyond description! So entertaining - gorgeous voices, fantastic dancing, instrumentalists. The conductor was so expressive and fun to watch.

—Patron survey comment, after the "Todo Unidos - Todos Cantamos" concert (February 2014)

This concert has become a family Christmas tradition!

—Patron survey comment, after the "Christmas at the Villa" concert (December 2013)

Beautiful singing - impeccable playing. Wonderful preparation and conducting.

—Patron survey comment, after the "Requiem for a President" concert (November 2013)

To submit your thoughts on your recent Houston Chamber Choir experience, please email Grace Svatek.