HISTORY - About Us
Ars Lyrica Houston performs a wide range of Baroque and early Classical era music on instruments that recreate the original sounds of this vibrant repertoire. Its programming, which features neglected gems alongside familiar masterworks, creates a contemporary context for the dramatic potential, emotional resonance, and expressive power of early music. Ars Lyrica is committed to serving a diverse community, including underserved segments of the local population, through educational and community outreach activities.
By making music from the 17th and 18th centuries resonate anew through performances, recordings, and education initiatives, Ars Lyrica seeks to establish Houston as an international destination for period-instrument performance and appreciation of this timeless repertoire.
Ars Lyrica Houston (ALH) specializes in music from the Baroque era, the “golden age” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as performed on period instruments with careful attention to historical style and context. Founded in Houston in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst and incorporated in 2003 as a 501(c)(3) organization, this Grammy-nominated ensemble provides audiences with world-class performances of a wide range of dramatic, sacred, and chamber works.
Ars Lyrica offers a yearly subscription series at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Houston (some with multiple performances) plus outreach events each season in schools, museums, and other public venues. Employing local instrumentalists and singers alongside guest artists, ALH has cultivated a growing pool of early music specialists and a broad audience demographic in the Houston area. Its impact also stretches beyond Houston, enhancing the city’s cultural standing: international recognition of Ars Lyrica recordings and performances, including reviews in leading publications and a Grammy nomination for Best Opera 2011, affirm the organization’s mission and programming priorities. ALH has also appeared at major international early music festivals and at annual conventions and meetings that bring to Houston leading scholars and musicians from around the world.
Ars Lyrica has grown steadily to support more ambitious programming, of a type that few American organizations regularly present. ALH has introduced local audiences to ballets by Claudio Monteverdi, chamber operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, comic intermezzi by Domenico Scarlatti, and major though little-known works by Bach and Handel. Its oratorio series has so far included three modern world premieres, the first oratorio composed in the Americas, both of Handel’s Italian oratorios, and six of Handel’s English oratorios, the latter in collaboration with leading Texas choirs. During the 2018/19 season, ALH inaugurated its new biennial Baroque opera series with a widely praised production of Handel’s Agrippina. Its online audience has increased dramatically over the last three seasons, with subscription programs available via live-feed streaming on ALH YouTube channel.
To enrich the concert experience and build new audiences for classical music, Ars Lyrica also offers a variety of outreach programs in schools and for underserved communities. These include educational programs that reach over 10,000 primary and secondary school students annually, free performances at public venues like museums, hospitals, airports, and parks, university collaborations, masterclasses, and lectures.