Press Release Re-Gifting with Royalty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

“RE-GIFTING WITH ROYALTY” OPENS 2018/19 “OUT OF THE BOX” SEASON
Artistic Director Matthew Dirst, soprano Lauren Snouffer, flautist Colin St-Martin, and violinist Elizabeth Blumentsock set the stage for a season of ambition and innovation.

 HOUSTON, TX (AUGUST 16, 2018) Leading from the harpsichord,Artistic Director Matthew Dirstjoins returning soloists Lauren Snouffer(soprano), Colin St-Martin(Baroque flute), and Elizabeth Blumenstock(Baroque violin) and the Ars Lyrica ensemble for “Re-gifting with Royalty” on Friday, September 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.Program highlightsinclude the Fifth and Sixth “Brandenburg” Concertos by J. S. Bach, vocal and instrumental chamber works by François Couperin, and Bach’s Italian-language cantata Non sa che sia dolore(BWV 209). 

Acclaimed soprano Lauren Snouffer, a Houston Grand Opera Studio alum, has been praised by Opera News for her “clear, lovely soprano [who] reached the heights with pinpoint accuracy of attack.” Famed Baroque violin virtuoso Elizabeth Blumenstock and Baroque flutist Colin St-Martin also bring a wealth of experience and talent to this program: Blumenstock is longtime concertmaster of San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque, and St-Martin serves as principal flute with the Washington Bach Consort and Opera Lafayette, in addition to Ars Lyrica. Artistic Director Matthew Dirst reveals that he is “thrilled to offer—at long last—all of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos on a single season. Each of these concertos is a marvel, and our season-long excursion with them should be quite a revelation.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.arslyricahouston.org/re-gifting-with-royalty or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston)

 Ars Lyrica Houston, Re-Gifting with Royalty, Friday, September 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby Street

Out of the Box: Celebrating Ambition & Innovation

For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or slangman@arslyrcahouston.org.

Ars Lyrica Houston Announces 2018/19 Season:  ​​​​​​​Out of the Box: Celebrating Ambition & Innovation

Ars Lyrica Houston Announces 2018/19 Season:  ​​​​​​​Out of the Box: Celebrating Ambition & Innovation

The Grammy nominated early music ensemble, Ars Lyrica Houston, announces its 2018/19 season: Out of the Box: Celebrating Ambition & Innovation. Ars Lyrica Houston takes on its first full-length Baroque opera with Handel’s Agrippinaplus the complete “Brandenburg” Concertos by J. S. Bach. Artistic Director Matthew Dirst has created a program “that highlights composers and works that are exceptional, definitive, unusual, even infamous.” With Bach’s six concertos appearing in pairs throughout the season, individual programs explore distinct ways of thinking about the general theme, from unexpected musical gifts to singular collections and composers.

Read More

Ars Lyrica Houston’s Spring Gala Surpasses Fundraising Goal for Handel’s Agrippina

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Ars Lyrica Houston                                                                                             PRESS RELEASE
4807 San Felipe Street, Suite #202                                                                     Media Contact      
Houston, TX 77056                                                                                         Shannon Langman
Tel: 713-622-7443                                                                                            Ars Lyrica Houston    
Tickets: 713-315-2525                                                                    Marketing & Admin Coordinator   arslyricahouston.org                                                                    slangman@arslyricahouston.org   Matthew Dirst                                                                                                                                      Artistic Director
Kinga Ferguson
Executive Director

Ars Lyrica Houston Gala Fills Houston Landmark with Music and Glamour with A Roman Feast
Ars Lyrica Houston’s Spring Gala Surpasses Fundraising Goal for Handel’s Agrippina

 Houston, March 4, 2018 – Ars Lyrica Houston’s A Roman Feast Gala, Honoring Rhonda and Donald Sweeney chaired by Drs. Rachel and Warren Ellsworth IV, and Sara and Gabriel Loperena took place March 3, 2018 in the historic Esperson building in downtown Houston, an event to raise funds for the organization’s first fully-staged Baroque opera, Handel’s Agrippina to be produced November 2018. The evening began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the contemporary Rusk Lobby, filled with fragrant lavender, ferns and Romanesque décor with live harp music. An intimate concert of Handel arias followed, performed by acclaimed countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Artistic Director Matthew Dirst on harpsichord, and violinist Alan Austin in the Esperson Neils Lobby. Guests then enjoyed a grand feast on theme and ended with an Italian disco after party in the transformed Neils Lobby complete with dancing, drinks, light bites, and craft beer sponsored by Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.

The gala was sponsored by Cameron Management at the Esperson, 1001 McKinney, CKW LUXE Magazine, Spindletop Design, Workhorse Print Makers, The Antiquarium Maps and Prints Fine Custom Framing, Gabriel and Sara Loperena.

Those in attendance included gala honorees Rhonda and Donald Sweeney, gala chairs Sara and Gabriel Loperena, and Drs. Rachel and Warren Ellsworth IV, gala after party chairs Michelle Stair and Carlos Sierra, Darrin Davis and Mario Gudmundsson, Stephanie Von Stein and Dr. Mark Schusterman, Tatiana Galitzine and Guillermo Sierra, Perryn Leech, Sixto Wagan, Andrew Davis and Corey Tu, Lauren and Brandon Abel, Emily Schreiber, Jano and John Kelley, Liam and Meredith Bonner, Carrie and Sverre Brandsberg-Dahl, Bradley Moore, Anna Kaplan, Trey and Katherine Brady of MBR Financial, Dougal and Cathy Cameron, Jennifer Blanco, John Earles, Ed and Marianne Grusnis, and Judy Nyquist.

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About the Artists

 Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera and early music’s most promising rising stars. In 2017, he was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and First Prize Winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition. In the 2017-18 season, he joins the Houston Grand Opera Studio, as the first countertenor in the studio’s history, for productions of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Strauss’ Elektra. He also joins American Bach Soloists for performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. He made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, singing the primo uomo role of Timante in Gluck's Demofonte with baroque ensemble Il Complesso Barocco. Additional credits include performances with the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, the Leipzig Barockorchester, the Venice Music Project, and the Newberry Consort. www.aryehnussbaumcohen.com

 A founding member of Ars Lyrica Houston, violinist Alan Austin performs regularly as a chamber musician, soloist, and orchestral player.  He has served as concertmaster of Ars Lyrica Houston, Bach Society Houston (for over 20 years), and Texas Bach Collegium, and has performed with the Texas Baroque Ensemble, Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Denver, Dallas Bach Society, Mercury Baroque, Early Music Southwest, La follia, and Texas Early Music Project. He is adjunct instructor of Baroque violin at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. He has recorded for the Dorian, Zephyr, Gothic, Sono Luminos, and MSR Classics labels, and plays on a Bernardo Calcanius violin made in Genoa, c. 1740.

 In addition to performing, Alan is the General and Artistic Director of the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival, a series of summer training programs featuring one of the premier summer Orchestral Institutes in the US, which brings young professional musicians, on the cusp of professional careers, to Houston each June.

Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. His book Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. He is also the editor of Bach and the Organ, which appears in the Bach Perspectives series from the University of Illinois Press in early 2016.

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About the Esperson

Niels Esperson Building
This first building was built by Mellie as a memorial to “Mr. Esperson,” as she called him. It became the tallest building in Texas for two years after its completion and dedication in 1927, and it was ranked as the third largest in all of America.

Niels wished to build an architecturally distinctive 32-story building on Travis. He had a vision that Houston would become a city of over a million people one day, and he wanted to play a part in its development. However, with his premature passing, Mellie fulfilled his vision with the construction of the Niels Esperson Building. 

Mellie Esperson Building
Mellie broke ground on an adjacent plot of land next to Niels’ building in 1938. “But,” she cautioned the contractor, “it must not be as tall as Mr. Esperson’s building, nor as magnificent. I wouldn’t want it to detract from his glory in any way. Let it be to the right of his building—as I always was to him.”

Completed in 1941, the adjacent 19-story Mellie Esperson Building offered the greatest amount of office space in one structure at that time.  It was also outfitted with central air conditioning, which was a first.

Esperson—bounded by Travis, Walker, Milam, and Rusk—continues to bring in individuals and companies seeking to lease space in this historic two-building property, contiguously joined on the first 16 floors. Its architecture charms tourists from all over the world.

As Cameron Management works to make improvements to the property, they also endeavor to add additional amenities like the new escalator, which connects the new first floor Rusk Lobby to the Tunnel System with a redeveloped food court. 

The Cameron Team is excited about their progress as they work to continue the Esperson vision of providing “practical, operating developments,” with a touch of class.

About Ars Lyrica Houston

 Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011.

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For high-resolution images, media contact: Shannon Langman 713-622-7443 or info@arslyrcahouston.org.

www.arslyricahouston.org | 713-622-7443

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Gala Sponsors

Gabriel & Sara Loperena  |  Cameron Management  |  Morton's Steakhouse  |  CKW Luxe Magazine  | Spindletop Design and Workhorse Printmakers | The Antiquarium Antique Maps and Prints Fine Custom Framing | 1001 McKinney

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Long Live the Queen Press Release

Media Contact:

Shannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 | slangman@arslyricahouston.org
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Long Live the Queen press release header.jpg

Media ContactShannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 | slangman@arslyricahouston.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ARS LYRICA HOUSTON PRESENTS LONG LIVE THE QUEEN

HOUSTON, TX (February 26, 2018) – Ars Lyrica Houston presents the 2017/2018 Artful Women season concert, Long Live the Queen on Saturday, April 7th 2018 at 7:30pm in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. This regal program commemorates two beloved female patrons with J. S. Bach’s rarely heard Trauerode, written for the 1717 funeral of Christiane Eberhardine of Saxony, and Handel’s 1713 Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne. Both works call for multiple soloists, chorus, and unusually expressive orchestral forces, including two violas da gamba and lutes in the Bach cantata and an echo trumpet at the beginning of Handel’s ode. A stellar array of soloists including countertenors Aryeh Nussbaum CohenRyland Angel, soprano Dominique McCormick, tenor Tony Boutte, baritone Mark Diamond, and the award-winning UH Moores School Concert Chorale join the Ars Lyrica ensemble for some noble and hauntingly beautiful music.

Soloists: Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor; Ryland Angel, countertenor; Dominique McCormick, soprano; Tony Boutte, tenor; Mark Diamond, baritone.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.arslyricahouston.org or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston)

For more information on the concert with video link to exclusive insight from artists and artistic director in the Long Live the Queen promotional video (https://youtu.be/0XaP4g29mBA) or visit http://www.arslyricahouston.org/long-live-the-queen/

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 Ars Lyrica Houston Long Live the Queen, April 7, 2018
Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron

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 For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or slangman@arslyrcahouston.org.

 About the Artists

Dominique McCormick is a lyric soprano from Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Aaron Copland School of Music and the Conservatoire National de Région Boulogne-Billancourt in France. Performing in the United States and Europe, her roles include: Gretel in Humperdinck’sHansel and Gretel; Laetitia in Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief; Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro; Sola Myrrhis, in Messager’s Coup de Roulis; Lady Marian in De Koven’s Robin Hood; Hanna Glavari in Lehar’s The Merry Widow. As soloist, works include: Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater; Mozart’s Mass in c minor and Requiem, Brahm’s Requiem; Handel’s Messiah and Dixit Dominus; Bach’s Mass in b Minor, Magnificat, and St. Matthew’s Passion; Poulenc’s Gloria; Mendelssohn’s Psalm 42 and Lauda Sion; Recitalist for Les Musicales de Normandie; and Les Nuits de Cheronne. Currently completing her doctoral dissertation in music, Dominique is happy to be newly relocated to the Houston area and is overjoyed to be performing with Ars Lyrica. 

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera and early music’s most promising rising stars. In 2017, he was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, First Prize Winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, a Sara Tucker Study Grand recipient from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, and numerous other prizes. This season, he is a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio – the first countertenor in the Studio's history – and next season, he will continue his training by joining the San Francisco Opera as an Adler Fellow. This season at HGO, he performed in productions of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Strauss’ Elektra. Additional performances of the season include engagements with American Bach Soloists, The Dallas Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and recitals around the United States. In summer 2018, his first commercial recording will be released- the world premiere recording of Kenneth Fuchs' "Poems of Life" with the London Symphony Orchestra (Naxos). www.aryehnussbaumcohen.com

Born on St Cecilia's day, the Grammy-nominated British counter-tenor Ryland Angel has built an international reputation on both the opera and concert stage, in repertoire ranging from the Baroque to new operatic commissions at major opera houses, concert halls and festivals throughout Europe and the USA. He has performed in Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Gavin Bryars’s Doctor Ox’s Experiment (English National Opera), Fairy Queen (Barcelona), Gluck’s Orfeo (Koblenz), Amadigi  Karlsruhe), Venus and Adonis (Flanders Opera), Dido and Aeneas(Opera Comique), The Play of Daniel (Spoleto), and Ballet Comique de La Royne (Geneva). Angel has sung on over 70 recordings including music of Buxtehude, Charpentier, Scarlatti, Stradella, Spears, O'Regan, Handel, Monteverdi, Purcell, Bach and on the film soundtracks of Jack Reacher - never go backZoolander 2FreedomLe Petit PrinceLa PeauHenry 4thMacheteThe Mystery of Dante and the PBS TV special Heavenly Voices. Recent engagements include Doux Mensonges (Opera National de Paris), Agrippina (NYCO), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Florentine and Kansas Opera), Julius Caesar (Utahand Colorado Opera, Boston Baroque), Sant' Alessio (Paris, London, New York), Carmina Burana(Lincoln Center and Prague Proms with CNSO), St. John Passion (Saint Thomas and Worcester Chorus), Classics and Rock (Seoul Philharmonic), Tesla (Dartmouth), Striggiowith Le Concert Spirituel (Edinburgh Festival), Acis and Galatea (Houston) and Messiah (Handel and Haydn Society, Masterworks Chorus, Musica Sacra). Recent recordings include The Flaming Fire (MSR), Heart and Soul (Centaur) ,La Sposa dei cantici (Solo Luminus) and Now Fatal Change (NMC). Ryland is a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the Universityof Minnesota and has talk masterclasses around the world including some atUNT, Conservatoire of Toulouse, Princeton high school andConspirare Youth choirs. RylandAngel.com. 

Tony Boutté is described in the current issue of Opera News as “possessed of a radiant, communicative tenor." A native of Louisiana, Tony has traveled extensively, here and abroad, including New York, London, Paris and Los Angeles. Tony has sung with such established ensembles as Les Arts Florissants, Les Talens Lyriques, Tafelmusik, Musica Angelica and Ars Lyrica Houston. His extensive recording catalog includes works by Lully, Handel and Bach, as well as world premier recordings by Philip Glass, Douglas Cuomo and Michael Gordon. Upcoming releases include Fauré songs (Edition Peters Sounds) and music of Boismortier (Centaur) with Arcanum Ensemble. Tony recently joined the faculty of Sam Houston State University, and is excited to be joining the thriving cultural life of Houston. For more info, visit www.tonyboutte.com.

Baritone Mark Diamond debuted with Ars Lyrica last season in Bach’s Coffee Cantata. Mr. Diamond is a graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio where performances included Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Marcello in La bohème, and has since returned to sing Count Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music. Last season Mr. Diamond debuted with the French opera theaters of Limoges, Caen, and Reims. He is the first prize Winner of the 2010 Eleanor McCollum Competition as well as the recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant from Glimmerglass Festival and the Sarah Tucker Study Grant.

 About Ars Lyrica Houston

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011.

Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

  Ars Lyrica is a member of the Hobby Center Foundation’s Uniquely Houston® series sponsored by Houston Area Lexus Dealers and United Airlines.

Ars Lyrica is a member of the Hobby Center Foundation’s Uniquely Houston® series sponsored by Houston Area Lexus Dealers and United Airlines.

Ars Lyrics Houston Hosts A Roman Feast Gala

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: 

Shannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 | info@arslyricahouston.org

 

ARS LYRICA HOUSTON HOSTS A ROMAN FEAST GALA
Ars Lyrica Houston's Spring Gala aims to raise funds for first its fully staged opera production

Ars Lyrica Houston's A Roman Feast gala will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 in the historic Esperson building in downtown Houston. The glamorous evening will begin with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at the contemporary Rusk Lobby, followed by an intimate performance of arias by rising opera countertenor, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen accompanied by Matthew Dirst on the harpsichord. The Feast will be served in the Art Deco Mellie Lobby with all things Roman themed and catered by Morton’s Steakhouse. The night will conclude in the Rusk Lobby with an Italian Disco after party including dancing and drinks.

Proceeds from this gala will support the 2018/19 Ars Lyrica Houston production of Handel’s first operatic masterpiece, Agrippina. Since incorporation in 2003, Ars Lyrica has given the local premieres of many major works by Handel, including La Resurezzione, Susanna, Il Trionfo del Tempo, and Jephtha. Its production of Agrippina will be the organization's first full-length operatic endeavor and its most ambitious Handelian project to-date.  

Gala Sponsors:

The Antiquarium Antique Maps and Prints Fine Custom Framing, Spindletop Design and Workhorse Printmakers, Cameron Management, Morton’s Steakhouse 

Media Sponsor:

CKW LUXE Magazine 

www.arslyricahouston.org/handels-agrippina

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For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or info@arslyrcahouston.org.     

 

A Roman Feast Gala

An evening honoring Rhonda & Donald Sweeney

Chairs: Drs. Rachel & Warren Ellsworth IV and Sara & Gabriel Loperena

After Party Chairs: Carlos Sierra and Michelle Stair

 Saturday, March 3, 2018

6:30pm - Cocktails
7:30pm - Concert

8:00pm – Dinner

9:00pm – After Party

 ESPERSON at 808 Travis Street
Houston, Texas 

 

About The Artists

Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016). 

 

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera and early music’s most promising rising stars. In 2017, he was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and First Prize Winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition. In the 2017-18 season, he joins the Houston Grand Opera Studio, as the first countertenor in the studio’s history, for productions of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Strauss’ Elektra. He also joins American Bach Soloists for performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. He made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, singing the primo uomo role of Timante in Gluck's Demofonte with baroque ensemble Il Complesso Barocco. Additional credits include performances with the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, the Leipzig Barockorchester, the Venice Music Project, and the Newberry Consort 

 

About Ars Lyrica Houston

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011.

 

About Gala Honorees & Chairs

Honorees Donald & Rhonda Sweeney are retired ExxonMobil executives with a passion for music and opera. Donald's career spanned assignments in Japan, Singapore, New Jersey and Houston, managing Information Technology for oil business activities in Asia, as well as coal and minerals business activities in South America, Asia, and the United States. Rhonda's career in IT and Finance spanned roles in the Upstream, Downstream, and Chemicals businesses. In 2013, the couple was awarded the Immanuel and Helen Olshan award for Vision, Leadership, and Commitment for their longtime support for the Texas Music Festival at University of Houston, and in 2015 were Honorary Chairs for Concert at the Villa, benefiting Catholic Charities’ AIDS ministry. As members of Houston Grand Opera's Leadership Council, the Sweeneys were underwriters for HGO's Ring Cycle operas and HGO's Lincoln Center Festival opera, The Passenger.  In addition to her role as HGO Trustee, Rhonda is Houston District Director for the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions, and immediate Past President of Opera Volunteers International. 

Gala Chairs Drs. Rachel & Warren Ellsworth IV are avid supporters of the performing arts in Houston.  Their love for the arts arose from Warren’s studies in music and background in Opera. His father, Warren Ellsworth III, was one of the first singers in the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and Warren grew up in the opera houses around the world as his father’s career as a Wagnerian tenor blossomed.   A native of Annapolis, Maryland, Rachel moved to Houston for her residency in surgery where she met Warren.  Now a board certified Colon and Rectal surgeon, Rachel is a champion for the care of her patients in both Katy and the medical center. Warren’s career as a Plastic Surgeon combines his love of art and science in this creative field.  As Chief of Plastic Surgery at Houston Methodist West, his practice specializes in breast reconstruction after cancer and cosmetic surgery. Warren and Rachel have enjoyed caring for their patients for over a decade while in practice.  Their greatest love, however, is their young daughter, Isabel, who they welcomed in May of 2016.

Gala Chairs Sara & Gabriel Loperena and their two children, Gabriel and Nina, call Houston their home.  Sara is a native Houstonian and a graduate of Marymount University and St. Thomas University.  She is founder, director, and president of The Book Cycle, Inc. a 501(c)(3) organization that works to create a community of book lovers in Houston and beyond, organizing events where people can donate and take away books, all for free.  Gabriel is originally from Venezuela and is a graduate of Harvard University and Georgetown University.  He is a corporate finance attorney with the Houston firm of Porter Hedges LLP.  All of the family shares a deep and abiding love of the operatic arts.

After Party Chairs Michelle Stair and Carlos Sierra met at a young professional’s art group several years ago and have been friends ever since. Michelle is originally from Dallas, a graduate of The University of Texas at Arlington, and works as an office manager at Moritz & Associates. Since relocating to Houston, she has supported several performing and visual art organizations including: Ars Lyrica Houston, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony, Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, among others. Carlos is a graduate of Florida International University and is Regional Director at Lodgic Hospitality. He serves on several organizations including: Treasurer and Board Member of Texas Business Travel Association; Board Member of Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce; Program Director and Board Member of FIU Alumni Houston Chapter; Event Committee Member for Houston Grand Opera’s ONYP; among others. As single young professionals, both Michelle and Carlos stay active in the Houston Art scene.

 

About the Esperson

Niels Esperson Building
This first building was built by Mellie as a memorial to “Mr. Esperson,” as she called him. It became the tallest building in Texas for two years after its completion and dedication in 1927, and it was ranked as the third largest in all of America. Niels wished to build an architecturally distinctive 32-story building on Travis. He had a vision that Houston would become a city of over a million people one day, and he wanted to play a part in its development. However, with his premature passing, Mellie fulfilled his vision with the construction of the Niels Esperson Building.  

Mellie Esperson Building
Mellie broke ground on an adjacent plot of land next to Niels’ building in 1938. “But,” she cautioned the contractor, “it must not be as tall as Mr. Esperson’s building, nor as magnificent. I wouldn’t want it to detract from his glory in any way. Let it be to the right of his building—as I always was to him.” Completed in 1941, the adjacent 19-story Mellie Esperson Building offered the greatest amount of office space in one structure at that time.  It was also outfitted with central air conditioning, which was a first. 

Esperson—bounded by Travis, Walker, Milam, and Rusk—continues to bring in individuals and companies seeking to lease space in this historic two-building property, contiguously joined on the first 16 floors. Its architecture charms tourists from all over the world. 

As Cameron Management works to make improvements to the property, they also endeavor to add additional amenities like the new escalator, which connects the new first floor Rusk Lobby to the Tunnel System with a redeveloped food court.  

The Cameron Team is excited about their progress as they work to continue the Esperson vision of providing “practical, operating developments,” with a touch of class.

 

### END ###

ARS LYRICA PRESENTS ESTHER & JONAH

Media Contact: Shannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 | slangman@arslyricahouston.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ARS LYRICA HOUSTON PRESENTS ESTHER & JONAH

HOUSTON, TX (January 8, 2018) – Ars Lyrica Houston presents the fourth concert of the 2017/2018 Artful Women season with Esther & Jonah in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center on Friday, February 16 at 7:30pm. Produced in collaboration with Bach Society Houston as part of the 2018 Houston Early Music Festival, this program comprises two concise music dramas from opposite ends of the 18th century: G. F. Handel’s Esther (1718) and Samuel Felsted’s Jonah (1775). With gorgeous arias and stirring choruses, Handel’s first English-language oratorio celebrates an Old Testament heroine’s ultimate victory over the forces of evil. Such works provided valuable models for Samuel Felsted, a composer born to an English family in Jamaica in the early 1740s. His concise setting of the story of Jonah and the whale is the first American oratorio. Ars Lyrica continues to honor local female philanthropists, spotlighting Robin Angly whose dedication and philanthropic efforts for the arts are inspirational.  

Soloists: Jennifer Bates, soprano; Eduardo Alberto Tercero, tenor; Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor

Music has been a big part of honoree Robin Angly's life since childhood. She grew up in a household that exposed her to singers like Joan Sutherland, Ella Fitzgerald and a lot of Bach, she began with piano lessons at the age of five, then at fourteen, voice lessons at Aspen Music Festival. Robin has sung with the Houston Grand Opera, The Houston Symphony Chorus and has a philanthropic passion to support the arts, the opera, and the symphony. Robin and her husband, Miles Smith have served on the Ars Lyrica Houston board with a tenure that has instilled a passion for the organization's mission and they hold it close to their hearts. Both Robin and Miles are excited to be a part of the process of bringing the organization's first fully staged Baroque opera, Agrippina that feature two rising operatic countertenors, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, and John Holiday.

Maine native soprano Jennifer Bates enjoys a multifaceted career in the opera, concert and recital worlds. Recent engagements include the role Pepik in the NY Philharmonic production of The Cunning Little Vixen, multiple appearances with NY City Opera, Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg with the American Symphony Orchestra, and was the featured soloist at the Bach Vespers Cantata Series just steps from Lincoln Center for ten years. Highlights of previous seasons have included performances at Carnegie Hall, singing Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the New England Symphonic Ensemble, and many European engagements, including Elgar’s The Kingdom with Maestro Leonard Slatkin and the Philharmonia in the prestigious Three Choirs Festival, Haydn’s Creation with Robert Tear at the Dartington International Summer Festival, Fauré’s Requiem with Sir David Willcocks at Royal Albert Hall, and Verdi’s Requiem at Windsor Castle. She has also appeared with the Masterworks Chorale in Boston, the Orchestra of Lon- don and the London Pro Arte Orchestra. Her repertoire spans the gamut, ranging from Bach, Monteverdi and Couperin to the more avant-garde works of Schönberg, Eisler, and Berg. As a recitalist, she has performed in multiple venues in the US and abroad, including a tour of Great Britain performing Britten’s Holy Sonnets of John Donne, and a recital at the French Embassy in Washington D.C. Jennifer is a strong advocate of late 20th and 21st century music, singing numerous premieres of new works and revamping classics of the contemporary repertoire, including Lukas Foss’ Time Cycle, and Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. She appears regularly on NY City Opera’s VOX series and has sung on the ALEA III series in Boston. Ms. Bates was a multi-year Chamber Music Fellow at the Aspen Festival, and a Scholar at the Steans Institute for Singers at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago.

Tenor, Eduardo Alberto Tercero, a native of Panama City, Republica de Panama, is described as a “dashing” performer by the Houston Chronicle and was also listed in Symphony Magazine’s Guide to Emerging Artists.  As a concert artist his credits include the World Premiere of Nicholas of Myra by Robert Nelson in the role of Marcus, Piacere in the Houston Premiere production of Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e della Verita, Adamo in the Houston Premiere production of Il Primo Omicidio by Scarlatti, Messiah by G. F. Handel with the Des Moines and La Cross Symphony Orchetras, Houston Chamber Choir and Bethany (KS) and Augustana (IL) Colleges, Montiverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 with Ars Lyrica Houston in conjunction with both the Houston Chamber Choir and Orpheus Chamber Singers of Dallas and his Houston Symphony debut as the Narrator in Copeland’s The Lincoln Portrait. Most recently he has appeared in the World Premiere production of O Columbia with the Houston Grand Opera, Music Box's production of Godspell in the role of John the Baptist/Judas, the Houston Premiere production of Adam Guettel's Myths and Hymns with A Bit of a Stretch productions and as lead ensemble member of the Premier production of Defy Gravity: A Stephen Schwartz Songbook with Standing Room Only productions. A longtime member of the Houston Chamber Choir under the direction of Robert Simpson, he will be making his season debut with Cantare Houston under the baton of Amy Solberg this coming season. He is a frequent soloist for Ars Lyrica Houston under the baton of Dr. Matthew Dirst and Mercury Baroque under the baton of Antoine Plante.  He can also be heard in the Newport Classics' recording of Cassanova’s Homecoming by one of America’s leading composers, Dominick Argento, and is the tenor soloist for the World Premiere recording of Giovanni Paolo Colonna's Psalmi ad Vesperas (1694) now available from MSR Classics. He can be seen next in the role of Franky in Forever Plaid.

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera and early music’s most promising rising stars. In 2017, he was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and First Prize Winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition. In the 2017-18 season, he joins the Houston Grand Opera Studio, as the first countertenor in the studio’s history, for productions of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Strauss’ Elektra. He also joins American Bach Soloists for performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. He made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, singing the primo uomo role of Timante in Gluck's Demofonte with baroque ensemble Il Complesso Barocco. Additional credits include performances with the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, the Leipzig Barockorchester, the Venice Music Project, and the Newberry Consort. www.aryehnussbaumcohen.com

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.arslyricahouston.org or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston)

– MORE –

Ars Lyrica Houston Esther & Jonah, February 16, 2017 Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron

# # #

For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or slangman@arslyrcahouston.org.

About Ars Lyrica Houston

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011. Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

New Year's in Berlin Press Release

Media Contact:

Shannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 | slangman@arslyricahouston.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ARS LYRICA HOUSTON PRESENTS NEW YEAR’S IN BERLIN

HOUSTON, TX (November 22, 2017) – Ars Lyrica Houston presents the third Artful Women season concert, New Year’s in Berlin on December 31st at 9:00pm in Zilkha Hall at The Hobby Center. Ars Lyrica’s most popular event of the year, the New Year’s Eve celebration is a full evening of separately ticketed events including dinner at 7:30pm, concert 9:00pm, and gala at 10:15pm which will feature a special German cabaret performance by mezzo-soprano, Sonja Bruzauskas. The New Year’s in Berlin concert program is inspired by Sara Itzig Levy whose home was the meeting place for musical giants, Bach’s eldest son and the young Felix Mendelssohn, and includes several works from her legendary collection. Ars Lyrica continues to honor local female philanthropists, spotlighting Kathryn Godfrey whose dedication and philanthropic efforts for the arts are inspirational. 

Concert soloists: Mario Aschauer, fortepiano; Colin St-Martin, traverso; Matthew Dirst, harpsichord Gala soloist: Sonja Bruzauskas, mezzo-soprano

Born and raised in Germany, mezzo-soprano Sonja Bruzauskas was trained on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Along with her expansive stage career in Musical Theater, Opera and Operetta, Sonja is a well established concert singer and recitalist, focusing on German Art Song and contemporary music. Appearances include the Staatsoperette Dresden, where Sonja was under full contract for several years before moving to the United States, the Santa Fe Opera, Volkstheater Rostock, Nordharzer Staedtebundtheater, Babelsberger Filmorchester, Bochumer Symphoniker, Baton Rouge Symphony, Da Camera, the Bach Society Houston, Mercury, the Greenbriar Consortium, the Houston Chamber Orchestra, the Houston Chamber Choir, ROCO, The Roundtop Institute and Ars Lyrica Houston.

Austrian conductor, harpsichordist, and musicologist Mario Aschauer works at the interface of music scholarship and performance. He has built up a diverse repertoire specializing in Austrian Baroque music. As member of the Calamus-Consort he has performed at numerous renowned early music festivals such as Resonanzen Vienna, Bach Fest Leipzig, and Itinéraire Baroque en Périgord Vert (France). Having earned a degree in conducting from the Linz Bruckner Conservatory at the young age of seventeen, Mario had already conducted major works from the choral and symphonic canon before he graduated from high school. He holds a PhD in musicology from the University of Vienna and an MA in harpsichord performance from the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. Before Mario came to Texas to teach music history, historically informed performance, and early keyboard instruments at Sam Houston State University, he was a postdoctoral fellow and visiting guest lecturer at the Yale School of Music.

Colin St-Martin, who since childhood was interested in 17th and 18th century European culture, began playing the traverso at the age of 14.  His studies took him to Brussels, Belgium, where he obtained a First Prize (bachelor of music) from the Royal Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of the renowned master, Bart Kuijken. He returned to the US to complete graduate work at the Early Music Institute at Indiana University. Currently, Mr. St-Martin is busy as a performer and recording artist with many early music ensembles across the US in addition to being sought after as a master teacher. 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.arslyricahouston.org or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston)

– MORE –

Ars Lyrica Houston New Year’s in Berlin, December 31, 2017
Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron

# # #

For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or slangman@arslyrcahouston.org.

About Ars Lyrica Houston

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011.


Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

Ars Lyrica Houston Writing Competition Results

In collaboration with Rice University's ENGL 397, "Capturing Music: A Cultural Writing Clinic" taught by professor Sydney Boyd, Ars Lyrica Houston recently hosted a creative prose writing competition.  Dr. Boyd's course was created with a goal: To discover the cultural role that classical music plays in Houston.  Over the course of a semester, students attended a diverse array classical music concerts that reflect the diversity that is Houston's classical performing arts scene.

Students from ENGL 397 attended Ars Lyrica's most recent "Italian Sirens" concert and were given a writing assignment to capture Italian Sirens in 400 words.  The winning entry was selected by a panel inclusive of Ars Lyrica staff, board members, and Artistic Director. 


We are excited to announce our winner, Lydia Dick, and share her insightful entry.  Please see the winning entry & biography of the author below!


 

           My mother loves Baroque music. When I was a young girl, she would force me into my patent leather Mary Janes and drag me to local performances. I remember sitting in a crowded church pew surrounded by wrinkly patrons who would grin down at me and pinch my cheeks. “So nice to see someone so young appreciating this beautiful music!”, they would say.  ‘Appreciating’ is a strong word, I would think as I filled my programs with doodles. I hated the smell of mothballs and soap, the indecipherable lyrics in foreign tongues, and the bald head inevitably obstructing my view of any of the performers. These associations left me with an immediate aversion to harpsichords, lutes, and any other Baroque sounds.

           So, it was with some trepidation that I attended Sunday evening’s performance of Ars
Lyrica’s Italian Sirens. As I entered Zilkha Hall and sat at a mezzanine seat with impeccable sight lines, it was clear right away I was in for an entirely different experience. From the stage festively lit up with the colors of the Italian flag, to the feather boas they were handing out during intermission, it was clear that Ars Lyrica’s intention was to make listening to 17th and 18th century music fun, not didactic.

          The program selection gave me an entirely new appreciation for Baroque lyricism. Phrases such as “I want no one else with me apart from a cold cliff and my fated death,” in Lasciatemi Qui Solo, transported me from the concert hall to a woman’s suffering as she contemplates her suicide above the ocean’s craggy rocks. Others like “I do not know if that smile mocks me or confides in me,” in Non sò se quell sorriso surprised me with their relevancy in my own life almost four centuries after they were written. As each new phrase struck me with a wave of imagery and emotion, my appreciation grew for not only the lines of music, but also the musicianship of the performers that magnified the subtleties of the words’ meanings.

            I can no longer say that I cringe at the sound of the harpsichord. Instead, I think of it as a means of transportation to a time where people were just as inclined to express their emotions through music as we are today. Next time my mother visits, I’ll ask her to strap on her Mary Janes and we can enjoy a Baroque performance together.

 

alh writing lydia.jpg

About the Author:

 Lydia Dick is a senior at Rice University majoring in Cognitive Sciences. Growing up, she was lucky to have lots of exposure to music outside of the concert hall. She and her two siblings studied violin together as well as voice. Lydia now manages a student-run bike shop at Rice and enjoys biking to art museums, used bookstores and concerts in her spare time. 

Italian Sirens Press Release

Media Contact: Shannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 | slangman@arslyricahouston.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ARS LYRICA HOUSTON PRESENTS ITALIAN SIRENS HOUSTON, TX (OCTOBER 10, 2017) – Ars Lyrica Houston presents the second Artful Women season concert, Italian Sirens in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 6:00pm. This musical tricolore spotlights a trio of exceptional Houston singers in the company of a colorful continuo band of violins, cello, Baroque harp, theorbo, and harpsichord. The Italian Sirens program is devoted to the unique voices that emerged around the 1600s with virtuosic talent, as realized in the work of three remarkable early 17th-century composers: Isabella Leonarda, Francesca Caccini, and Barbara Strozzi, and will feature Houston vocalists, Sydney Anderson, Cecilia Duarte, and Alexandra Smither. Artistic Director, Matthew Dirst expresses Claudio Monteverdi’s sentiment to describe the song filled program, “prima le parole e secunda la musica, first the words then the music.” Ars Lyrica continues to honor local female philanthropists, spotlighting Joan Weltzein, Ed. D. whose dedication to Ars Lyrica and the arts has been a tremendous impact and inspiration.

Soloists: Sydney Anderson, soprano; Cecelia Duarte, mezzo-soprano; Alexandra Smither, soprano

Soprano Sydney Anderson is delighted to make her Ars Lyrica debut this season. An accomplished concert soloist, Ms. Anderson has been featured with such ensembles as the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Manchester Symphony Orchestra, and Bach Society Houston. Recent soloist credits include Mozart’s Requiem, Christopher Theofanidis’s The Here and Now, and Handel’s Esther. In 2016, Ms. Anderson celebrated her main stage debut with Houston Grand Opera as Arminy in Carousel, and participated in the company’s Opera to Go! program as the Princess in The Princess and the Pea. While studying at the Moores School of Music, she was seen as Manon (Manon), Lisette (La Rondine), Adina (L’eslisir d’amore), and Antonia in (Les Contes d’Hoffman). As a 2015 participant in Opera Saratoga’s young artist program, she covered the roles of Belinda in Dido and Aeneas and Virgil in the World Premiere of The Long Walk by Jeremy Howard Beck and Stephanie Fleischmann, and won third place in the company’s young artist competition. Ms. Anderson holds a M.M. from the University of Houston and a B.M. from the University of Hartford. Mezzo-Soprano Cecilia Duarte appeared with Ars Lyrica Houston last season in G.F. Handel’s oratorio Jeptha. She created the role of Renata in the first opera with mariachi music Cruzar la Cara de la Luna with Houston Grand Opera, touring with it to the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France, and then in later performances at Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera (revival), San Diego Opera and Arizona Opera. Cecilia is an active performer in the circle of contemporary music, and has premiered several works, such as Ethan Greene’s A Way Home (HGO and Opera Southwest), David Hanlon’s Past the Checkpoints, The Ninth November I was Hiding (HGO), and chamber pieces written by composers Mark Buller and Paul English also through HGO. An early music enthusiast, Cecilia has performed at the Oregon Bach Festival, the Festivalensemble in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Festival de Música Barroca of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as well as performing often with the Bach Society Houston and Ars Lyrica Houston. Past performances include Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Opera in the Heights), Jessie Lydell in A Coffin in Egypt (HGO) and several operas with the University of Houston. Future performances include Smeraldina in Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges with Moores Opera Center, and An English Baroque Christmas with Mercury, Renata in Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, New York City Opera.

Canadian-British soprano Alexandra Smither is quickly making a name for herself in the world of old and new classical music. A recent graduate from the prestigious Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, 2017 brings performances at Carnegie Hall, the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Tanglewood Festival. Roles performed include Esmeralda in The Bartered Bride and Lydia in Second Nature at Music Academy of the West, as well as Gretel in Hansel und Gretel, and Amore in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Rice University, Valencienne in The Merry Widow with Opera York, and Taumännchen in Hansel und Gretel with Metro Youth Opera. She has performed in scenes from Der Rosenkavalier as Sophie, Ariadne auf Naxos as Zerbinetta, Don Giovanni as Zerlina, Così fan tutte as Despina. In June of 2017 she performed the role of Mrs. Waters in The Boatswain’s Mate by Ethel Smyth for the Canadian premiere with Opera5. An avid chamber collaborator, Ms. Smither has appeared in concert singing Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Britten’s Les Illuminations, Salonen’s Five Images after Sappho, Chin’s Akrostichon Wortspiel, and Higdon’s Love Sweet. She is a member of the Houston-based contemporary music ensemble Loop38, and was the co-founder of the new music ensemble Hear&Now at Rice University. She was the third prize winner at the 37th Eckhardt-Gramatté competition, one of the youngest vocal finalists in the competition’s history. In May of 2017 she joins forces with violinist and fellow Canadian Timothy Steeves for a tour of contemporary music for soprano and violin. Equally at home in oratorio, she has performed the soprano solos in Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Magnificat. Ms. Smither has spent her summers at the Music Academy of the West, Songfest (Mark and Eva Stern Fellowship), and the Franz Schubert Institute (Jean and Aline Chrétien Grant from the Jacqueline Demarais Foundation). She has performed recitals at the Prince Edward County Music Festival, the Navasota Musical Club, and at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto, Ontario.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.arslyricahouston.org or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston)

– MORE –

Ars Lyrica Houston Italian Sirens, November 12, 2017 Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron

# # #

For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or slangman@arslyrcahouston.org.

About Ars Lyrica Houston Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011. Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

Announcing a New Collaboration: Longy School of Music of Bard College & ALH

Excerpted from:  http://longy.edu/about/news/current-news-releases/longy-teams-grammy-nominated-ars-lyrica-houston/
 

Longy Teams-Up with Grammy-Nominated Ars Lyrica Houston

20170521125.jpg

October 2, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, MA (October 2, 2017)│ Longy School of Music of Bard College is pleased to announce a formal collaboration with Ars Lyrica Houston (ALH) for the 2017-18 academic year. This collaboration is a result of Longy’s ongoing effort to enable our students to work intimately with professional ensembles. Each year, students from Longy’s Historical Performance department will be selected to perform alongside ALH; whose mission is to gift audiences with unparalleled historically-informed performances of 17th and 18th century music.

Harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst first brought forth the glorious melodic blends of ALH in 1998. Though the ensemble specializes in Baroque music, they also perform a diverse range of dramatic, sacred, and chamber works through an extraordinary multitude of period instruments and voice.

ALH’s groundwork for programming in Baroque dramatic and chamber works has won international acclaim; most noteworthy is the ensemble’s Grammy-nominated world premiere recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’ Antonio e Cleopatra which has received high praise from media outlets like Early Music America.

This immersive project with Grammy-nominated ALH will play a crucial role in the project-based learning curriculum at Longy. While maintaining the core of rigorous artistic training, the collaboration will provide musicians with real-world experiences to prepare them for the self-crafted careers artists must navigate. This newfound partnership will continue to build upon the musical skills of Longy’s Historical Performance students, and allow them to explore various artistic paths while furthering their development as world-changing musicians.

Acting Chair of Historical Performance, Dr. Sean Wang said, "We are very excited that Longy's Department of Historical Performance is now in collaboration with Ars Lyrica Houston to enable our students to perform alongside some of the best professionals in early music. This affiliation is in line with Longy's focus on project-based learning, and it is an honor to have a Grammy-nominated ensemble take part in this schoolwide effort."

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About Longy School of Music of Bard College 

At Longy, we provide world-class training and so much more: we prepare our students to make a difference in the world. While studying with some of the best musicians in the country, you will develop the skills needed to be a professional musician in a rapidly changing musical landscape. You will find many paths to make a life in music and to make music matter—how to engage new audiences outside the concert hall, in schools, shelters, and non-traditional settings; how to teach anyone, anywhere; and how to play your part in making music that can change lives in communities all around the world. Our faculty are Grammy award winners, Steinway Artists, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians. They are master teachers who know how to train and inspire students, and are all deeply committed to helping you find a meaningful life in music. You will have opportunities to play professionally alongside mentors who will support you as you launch your career.

About Ars Lyrica Houston

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston, and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

Sweet Philomela Program Notes

Sweet Philomela

Friday, September 22

Good evening and welcome to Sweet Philomela, the first program of a season devoted to Artful Women and their various interactions with the musical world of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We’re delighted to welcome back soprano Sherezade Panthaki and to introduce glass harmonica virtuoso Dennis James to our home audience. Dennis gave a memorable performance of Hasse’s L’Armonica with Ars Lyrica at Cornell University in November 2014, and we’re very pleased to be able to reprise this extraordinary cantata with him in Houston.

Sweet Philomela serves up both myth and reality, from a beloved literary character to a pair of talented sisters who set the European musical world on its ear during the 1760s and 70s. Who was Philomela? The Roman poet Ovid relates, in Book VI of the Metamorphoses, the tale of an Athenian princess violated by her brother-in-law Tereus, who cut out her tongue and abandoned her. The gods later transformed Philomela into a nightingale to escape his further revenge. That bird’s sorrowful but beautiful song, which runs like a thread through tonight’s program, is a useful reminder of the transporting nature of art itself. For those still suffering the effects of Houston’s recent catastrophic flooding, we hope this music will be a balm for both the ear and the soul.

Our 2017/18 season of Artful Women continues November 12 with Italian Sirens, a program featuring music by three remarkable female musician-composers of the early seventeenth century. Subscriptions are still available and can be purchased either at intermission or through the Hobby Center box office. Check the Ars Lyrica website for the most recent information: www.arslyricahouston.org.

Thanks for joining us and enjoy the program!

Matthew Dirst, Artistic Director

Program

Excerpts from L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, HWV 55, and the Twelve Concerti Grossi, Op. 6        George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)

    Largo (Op. 6/7/i)

    Air: “Come, thou Goddess, Fair and Free”

    Larghetto andante (Op. 6/2/iii)

    Accompagnato: “Come, Pensive Nun” 

    Arioso: “Come but Keep thy Wonted State”

    Allegro (Op. 6/7/ii)

    Accompagnato: “First, and Chief, on Golden Wing”

    Air: “Sweet Bird”

Adagio for Glass Harmonica, K. 356    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Quartet in G Major from Tafelmusik, TWV 43:G2    Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767)

    Largo–Allegro–Largo

    Vivace–Moderato–Vivace

    Grave–Vivace

Symphony in F Major, Wq. 183/3    Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–1788)

    Allegro di molto

    Larghetto

    Presto

L’Armonica    Johann Adolph Hasse (1699–1783)

    Introduction: Un poco Lento–Allegro di molto–Lento

    Aria: “Ah perché col canto mio”

    Recitative: “Ardir Germana”

    Aria: “Alla stagion di fiori”

Notes on the Program

Handel composed his ode L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato in 1740, as English-language works finally replaced Italian operas once and for all in English theaters (though a preference for Italian titles lingered). Not properly speaking an oratorio, this grandiose ode—more a poetic than musical category—is a dialogue between the extrovert and introvert in all of us. Its inspired libretto incorporates two John Milton poems, L’Allegro (Mirth) and Il Penseroso (Melancholy), plus Charles Jennen’s Il Moderato (Moderation), itself an homage to Milton. Though Milton’s poetry was then over 100 years old, its wide range of quintessential English imagery—from lovely pastoral scenes to stirring cathedral music—still held great sway over Handel’s audiences. Among this ode’s most fetching movements are several that evoke sounds from nature: the warbling of the nightingale, for example, features prominently in “Sweet Bird.” Our opening set, which mixes various solos from this work with Handel concerto movements, is a kind of miniaturization of the composer’s own practice: the first performance of L’Allegro in February 1740 included two of his Op. 6 concerti as intermission features.

Just two decades later, Benjamin Franklin enchanted London audiences with his latest invention: the glass harmonica. This instrument mechanized the familiar practice of rubbing rims of glasses filled with varying amounts of water, thereby producing a strange, unearthly resonance. Franklin’s wondrous machine operates by means of glass bowls of varying sizes nested horizontally on a spindle, rotated steadily by a foot treadle (like a spinning wheel), and played by applying wet fingers to their rims. When new, the instrument was celebrated for its ability “to accompany the voice…and never [be] out of tune,” and it continued to captivate audiences well into the nineteenth century, by which time it was often associated with occult practices, mesmerism, and madness. Mozart’s famous C-major Adagio, the best-known solo work for glass harmonica, highlights its distinctively veiled yet transparent timbre, which has often been compared to the voices of angels. 

Georg Philipp Telemann, arguably the most wide-ranging composer of the late Baroque, also knew how to create music that people craved. His Tafelmusik or Musique de Table, part of a long tradition of diverse chamber collections “for the table,” was one of the most successful publications of its day. Its initial announcement in 1732 garnered some 250 subscriptions from all over Europe, a truly astonishing number (Bach’s Art of Fugue, by contrast, had barely 30 subscribers). Telemann packed its three volumes with all manner of pieces in his signature “mixed” style: effectively a combination of Italian virtuosity, German learnedness, and French savoir-faire. Each “Production,” as he called them, includes an ouverture with dances, a quartet, a concerto, a trio, and either a sonata or some other kind of solo work. This evening’s G-major Quartet, from Production 1, is scored for flute, oboe, violin, and basso continuo.

As Telemann’s successor in Hamburg (as Director of Music at that city’s five principal churches), C. P. E. Bach used his fame and prominence to cultivate an increasingly international music-buying public. His four “Symphonies for Twelve Obbligato Instruments,” Wq. 183, came about thanks to a 1775 commission from a Hamburg patron whose name, alas, is lost to history. The title of these works reflects a new trend in writing symphonic music in the 1770s: unlike Emanuel Bach’s previous two sets of string symphonies, these new works are scored for two horns, two flutes, two oboes, bassoon, two violins, viola, cello, violone, and harpsichord continuo (for a total of thirteen instruments: Emanuel neglected to count himself at the keyboard). Each comprises three movements: an imposing Allegro, a tender and introspective slow movement, and a light-hearted finale. In addition to his signature melodic swoops, harmonic deflections, and sudden stops, C. P. E. Bach provides transitions in these symphonies from one movement to another, turning each into a self-contained dramatic scena

The glass harmonica (or “Armonica,” as its inventor called it) enjoyed its greatest heyday during the 1760s-80s, especially under the hands of the first English virtuosa Marianne Davies, who had been taught by Franklin himself. In 1768 Davies and her sister, the singer Cecilia, left for an extended concert tour of Europe armed with letters of introduction from Johann Christian (the “London”) Bach to his brothers Carl Philipp Emanuel and Wilhelm Friedman. In Vienna they lodged in the house of the legendary court composer Johann Adolph Hasse and became favorites of Empress Maria Theresia. No surprise, then, that their magical music-making inspired a cantata by Hasse for the 1769 wedding celebrations of Duchess Maria Amalia to the Spanish prince Ferdinand of Bourbon, Duke of Parma. 

L’Armonica, set to a libretto by the esteemed poet Pietro Metastasio, celebrates the power of music to bless the royal nuptials while drawing attention, in a curiously self-referential way, to the union of voice and glass harmonica in the Davies sisters’ performances. Ben Franklin owned a copy of the libretto, and must surely have been gratified that his invention had found such favor at the Hapsburg court. Metastasio’s enchanting text invokes in its first lines Philomela, whose “sweet chain for souls” inspires both the vocal line and its magical accompaniment, made by “skilled hands [on] resonant, ever-changing crystals.” What a rapturous wedding this must have been, with Cecilia matching perfectly her voice to the uncanny sonorities of her sister Marianne’s glass music.

© Matthew Dirst & Annette Richards

 

Update After the Storm, Ars Lyrica with Houston community, poised to rebuild

Our thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected by this devastating storm.

Thankfully, despite some harrowing experiences and losses over the past week, our staff, board, and musicians are safe.

Ars Lyrica’s offices are open and we are working diligently to prepare for our season opener, “Sweet Philomela,” on September 22 at Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Our beloved home venue did sustain some water damage, but, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Hobby Center staff, Zilkha Hall will reopen soon and our performance will go forward as scheduled. We have been very fortunate: many of our colleagues in the Theater District have sustained far greater damage. The Hobby Center box office and full administrative offices will reopen on Tuesday, September 5th. 

We are so grateful for our supporters who continue to purchase tickets and make donations to Ars Lyrica Houston as we strive to remain a vibrant arts organization and continue high-quality performances of early music in Houston. We’d like to offer a 20% discount on all remaining tickets to “Sweet Philomela” on September 22 with special discount code, PARTNER, redeemable online at any time, or by phone and in person through the box office starting September 5th.

Ars Lyrica is committed to helping our community return to normalcy by participating in relief efforts and bringing the healing power of music to affected areas. Special thanks go to our musicians and board members who have generously volunteered their time and talent to help. We will continue to send updates as we work towards ensuring that all of our programs and events continue without interruption to serve you and our beloved city of Houston.

Kinga Ferguson, Executive Director

#HoustonStrong

Ars Lyrica Houston opens it's 2017/2018 Artful Women season with Sweet Philomela

Media Contact:

Shannon Langman for Ars Lyrica Houston | 713-622-7443 | slangman@arslyricahouston.org
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

ARS LYRICA HOUSTON OPENS 2017/18 SEASON WITH SWEET PHILOMELA

 

HOUSTON, TX (August 7, 2017) – Ars Lyrica Houston, the Grammy nominated early music ensemble, opens its 2017/18 season: Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron with Sweet Philomela on September 22, 2017 at 7:30p.m. in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The opening concert features exotic musical works inspired by Philomela, mythical princess of Athens, whose transformation into a nightingale has fascinated poets and musicians for centuries. Soprano Sherezade Panthaki returns to the Zilkha Hall stage for evocative arias from Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato and Johann Adolph Hasse’s lyric cantata L’Armonica, while Dennis James makes his Ars Lyrica debut on the glass harmonica which he describes the program as “the most challenging technically to perform while reigning as the most beautiful in the entire glass music repertoire.” The ensemble of strings and winds soar with one of C. P. E. Bach’s vibrant symphonies for twelve obbligato instruments. This season highlights Houston’s own artful women by honoring leading female philanthropists and longtime members of the Ars Lyrica family for their tireless advocacy and generous support, at each concert with an exclusive dinner and program package experience.

Soloists: Sherezade Panthaki, soprano; Dennis James, glass harmonica; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin

Soprano Sherezade Panthaki’s international success has been fueled by superbly honed musicianship; “shimmering sensitivity” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), “astonishing coloratura with radiant top notes” (Calgary Herald); a vocal color “combining brilliance with a dark, plumlike tone” (The Wall Street Journal), and passionately informed interpretations, “mining deep emotion from the subtle shaping of the lines” (The New York Times). An acknowledged star in the early-music field, Ms. Panthaki has developed strong collaborations with many of the world’s leading interpreters including Nicholas McGegan, Simon Carrington, the late John Scott, Mark Morris, Matthew Halls, Nicholas Kraemer, and Masaaki Suzuki, with whom she made her New York Philharmonic debut in a program of Bach and Mendelssohn. Highlights of her current and recent seasons include Handel’s Messiah with Bach Collegium Japan (Tokyo), National Symphony Orchestra (Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.), National Arts Center Orchestra (Ottawa, Canada), Calgary Symphony, and Nashville Symphony; Handel and Bach oratorios with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco; several productions with the Mark Morris Dance Group, including Handel’s L’allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and the title role of Galatea in the company’s premiere performances of Handel’s Acis and Galatea; Handel’s Saul with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto; Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Houston Symphony; Bach’s St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion, and Brahms Requiem with the late John Scott and the Choir and Orchestra of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, New York City; numerous Bach cantatas and Mozart Requiem with Music of the Baroque (Chicago); Handel’sSolomon with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie in Holland; Handel at Carnegie Hall with William Christie and the Yale Philharmonia; Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and solo cantatas with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York city; Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate and Requiem with the Washington Bach Consort (Washington D.C.); and solo concerts of Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi cantatas with the Rebel Baroque Orchestra. She is a frequent soloist with the most accomplished early music ensembles in New York, including the Choir and Orchestra of Trinity Church Wall Street (with whom she performed on a Grammy nominated recording). Born and raised in India, Ms. Panthaki holds an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, where she won multiple awards, including the prestigious Phyllis Curtin Career Entry Prize, awarded to launch the career of a student who demonstrates exceptional promise and talent as an artist. She earned a Masters degree from the University of Illinois and a Bachelors degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Ms. Panthaki is an active and passionate music educator, frequently called upon to present vocal masterclasses at Universities and Arts Schools across the United States. She teaches as an adjunct voice professor at Yale University.

 

Internationally touring performer Dennis James debuted as a glass musician in 1983.  This conservatory-trained artist has since dedicated himself to the revival of the glass music and its instruments with his specialty focus on the armonica, Benjamin Franklin's 18th century musical invention. As the founder of the current international revival of glass music, James has transformed his collection of other previously neglected glass instruments into an exciting and versatile performance resource.  James has now established glass instruments as significant components of today's music scene. With his unique blend of adroit virtuosity, eclectic interests and clever humor, Dennis James has become the world's foremost glass music performer

Elizabeth Blumenstock (violin) is widely admired as a performer of interpretive eloquence and technical sparkle. A frequent soloist, concertmaster, and leader with American Bach Soloists, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and the Italian ensemble Il Complesso Barocco, she is also a member of several of California's finest period instrument ensembles, including Musica Pacifica, Ensemble Mirable, the Arcadian Academy, and Trio Galanterie. She has appeared with period orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the United States and abroad, and has performed for the Boston and Berkeley Early Music Festivals, Germany's Goettingen Handelfestspiel, Los Angeles Opera, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Oulunsalo Soi festival in Finland, and the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, among many others. Ms. Blumenstock has recorded for Harmonia Mundi, Deutsche Grammophon, Virgin Classics, Dorian, BMG, Reference Recordings, Koch International, and Sono Luminus. She is instructor of baroque violin at the University of Southern California, teaches regularly at the International Baroque Institute at Longy, has taught at the Austrian Baroque Academy, and has coached university Baroque ensembles at USC, Roosevelt University, the University of Virginia, and California Institute of the Arts.


For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.arslyricahouston.org or call the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Box Office at 713.315.2525. (Press 4 for Ars Lyrica Houston)

– MORE –

 

Ars Lyrica Houston Sweet Philomela, September 22, 2017 Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron

 

# # #

 

For high-resolution images, please contact Shannon Langman at 713-622-7443 or slangman@arslyrcahouston.org.

 

About Ars Lyrica Houston

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011.

 

Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

Ars Lyrica Artist Insights | Artful Women

ALH Artist Insights

 

We asked our 2017/2018 artists their thoughts on the Artful Women season, and they shared! If you haven't already, like us on Facebook and follow our #ArftulWomenWednesday campaign for more interesting spotlights on women, and their impact on the Houston arts community and beyond!

Name an ‘artful woman’ that has had the most influence on you?

"My younger sister Danielle. She is also a professional singer and performer. We sang together for many years professionally until I went off to France for my musical studies. We would sing together in church services, recitals, and concerts and in full- scale operetta/opera productions. She is a constant inspiration for me. To watch her perform is mind blowing. And even though she is my younger sister, I must say that most of my true artistic moments have been accessed through our collaborative work or through my observation or study of her as an artist." - Dominique McCormick, soprano featured in Artful Women concert Long Live the Queen

 

"I would have to credit, thinking in my fifty-year career long pursuit of unusual music instrument studies,  as the most artful woman that I encountered, the one who affected most all of my career activities, would have to be Clara Rockmore (the famed theremin virtuosa). She had a career as the finest thereminist ever beginning in the mid-1920s and she became the most active performing artist at the instrument in its entire history. The Theremin was a pioneering electric instrument invented in 1919 by a Soviet physicist named Leon Termin. I, fortunately, had the opportunity in the early 1990's to study it with her as one of her final students learning her personally developed aerial fingering technique." - Dennis James, glass harmonica featured in Artful Women season concert, Sweet Philomela

"My wonderful teacher, Dr. Barbara Clark, has completely transformed how I think about preparing and singing a piece. Every marking, every possible nuance is explored in both a technical and emotional way. She is an incredible mentor and artist." - Alexandra Smither, soprano featured in Italian Sirens Artful Women season concert.

"Oh goodness...there are so many...My vocal coach and dear friend, Dr. Ana Maria Otamendi has been a constant source of inspiration since I met her three years ago. She is an incredible pianist, collaborator, teacher, linguist, empathetic guru...the list could go on. To say that she has influenced my musical life is an extreme understatement. I must also say that my aunt, Becky Burns, has had a huge influence on me as an artist. She has had an extraordinarily diverse career, climbing the ranks in multiple different fields, and yet has never stopped seeking new learning experiences. In fact, before I was even involved in opera or classical music, she randomly decided she wanted to learn about opera. She bought books, attended live broadcasts, subscribed to magazines, etc., to become what I like to call an amateur expert on the field! This is how she approaches everything that interests her–sewing, beading, gardening, traveling...she has always been a huge inspiration to me when it comes to being a life-long learner." - Sydney Anderson, soprano featured in Italian Sirens Artful Women concert

"Maria Callas. Her incredible palette of vocal expression from the sweetest pianissimo to the most painful and raw sounds remains unparalleled. How relentlessly she put both herself and her voice in the service of the composer, the music, and art!" - Mario Aschauer, fortepiano featured in New Year's in Berlin Artful Women concert

"My first voice teacher, Schuman Yang, escaped China during the cultural revolution. I learned from her the true meaning of discipline and dedication to the art of singing. She passed away a few years ago, but I hope that her good work lives on in me." - Tony Boutté, tenor featured in Artful Women season concert, Long Live the Queen

"The artful woman who has most influenced me is probably the great mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, my favorite singer of all time." - Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor featured in Artful Women season concerts, Esther & Jonah and Long Live the Queen 

Find out more on Ars Lyrica Houston artists, and the exciting Artful Women season online at www.arslyricahouston.org. For tickets, Hobby Center box office (713)315-2525.

©Ars Lyrica Houston 2017, All Rights Reserved

Artist Interview: Dennis James, glass harmonica

Artist Dennis James, glass harmonica

Dennis James joins Ars Lyrica's 2017/2018 season in Sweet Philomela in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on Friday September, 22 at 7:30PM.

Curios what a glass harmonica sounds like? Watch Dennis on YouTube

What does “artful women” mean to you?

 

In the context of this performance, I think of the fact that women were the predominant players of glass musical instruments at the time of their introduction and initial popularity. By the early 1770s several female musicians were touring with Benjamin Franklin's extraordinary armonica and major composers had begun to write music especially for them to play using it. Performing music with sets of individual musical glasses had become extremely popular earlier in the 1700's with such active players as Miss Wilkerson, Miss Lloyd and Miss Ford. Anne Ford, supposedly a pupil of the pioneering 17th & early 18th c. Irish player, Pockrich, was herself an accomplished player who accompanied her own singing with the stroking of the rim-rubbed glass instruments.  She published a book of "Instructions for playing on the Musical Glasses with such directions that any person of a musical turn may learn it in a few days, if not in a few hours," considered today to be the earliest known method for playing the musical glasses.  

 

The famous Davies sisters, Marianne and Cecilia, were the fine ladies described in Oliver Goldsmith's 1766 Vicar of Wakefield who would "talk of nothing but high life, and high-lived company, with other fashionable topics such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare and the musical glasses." English relatives of Benjamin Franklin, it was Marianne Davies who initially made the armonica popular throughout Europe soon after its invention having been given one by the inventor. Already a seasoned public performer at the musical glasses for a decade, in early January of 1762 (at the age of 18) she performed with her armonica in London at "the Great Room in Spring Gardens, accompanied occasionally with the voice and German flute".  

 

Miss Davies introduced the armonica to Italian concert-goers later that year and was after commanded to give a performance to the Imperial Court at Vienna, where Gluck was chapel master.  Metastasio, the court poet, wrote an Ode on the "Nuove instrumento di musica, inventate dal celebre Dottore Franklin" set by composer Hasse for Armonica and soprano especially for Marianne and her sister Cecelia, herself a celebrated singer, to perform at the Duke of Parma's wedding. While in residence at the Viennese Imperial Court, Davies was instructor to both the young Archduchess Maria Antonia (better known as Marie Antoinette), and also the soon-to-be-notorious Viennese hypnotist, Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer. It was also during Davies' Viennese stay that the instrument came to the attention of the composer whose work would give it lasting fame, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

 

Next on a list of "artful women" associated with glass is Angelica Kaufmann - the famous painter who became the first female member of London's prestigious Royal Academy of artists. She was renowned for playing Franklin's armonica, said "for spiritual purposes."  The most famous "artful woman" in glass music at that time must, however, have been the blind armonica virtuosa Marianna Kirchgaessner (1770-1808 ). It was she who inspired Mozart to write some of his last compositions for the delicate glass instrument. Newspaper accounts of her playing are innumerable- here from the "Hamburgischer Correspondent": "Her adagio is ravishing and her allegro is admirable.  She plays the instrument with such lightness that it is as if she had a keyboard beneath her fingers, performing grace notes and trills which have hitherto been considered impossible."

 

Each of these performers eventually became quite ill, thought by most caused by their career long associations with Franklin's mechanized musical glasses. Marianne and Cecilia Davies had shared a career of sparkling success for over 20 years when Marianne was forced to retire in 1785. It was said this was not because of her age (she was just over 40) but "because her nerves had been ruined". By the beginning of the 19th century these persistent deleterious rumors, likely stemming first from the Davies tragedy plus the forced withdrawal of the composer Naumann from performing also apparently due to the glass, spread warnings to both performers and listeners alike. 

 

During the blind armonica virtuoso Marianna Kirchgessner's passage through Stuttgart during her last professional tour, a famous composer of ballads, one J. R. Zumsteeg, personally directed her concert and admired her beautiful play. These were the last tones of music heard by him, for a vehement attack of 'cramp in the chest' terminated his life that very night- he was found dead in his bed. Marianna was shortly thereafter seized with a fever, from which she never recovered, and she expired on December 9, 1808, her death attributed to "deterioration of her nerves caused by the vibrations of the instrument." 

 

In 1798 Friedrich Rochlitz wrote in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, "There may be various reasons for the scarcity of armonica players, principally the almost universally shared opinion that playing it is damaging to the health, that it excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood, that it is an apt method for slow self-annihilation.... Many (physicians with whom I have discussed this matter) say the sharp penetrating tone runs like a spark through the entire nervous system, forcibly shaking it up and causing nervous disorders" He went on to give some warnings:

 

 

- If you are suffering from any nervous disorder you should not play it,

- If you are not yet ill you should not play it excessively,

- If you are feeling melancholy you should not play it or else play uplifting pieces,

- If tired, avoid playing it late at night.

 

J.C. Muller warned in his instructional manual of 1788: "If you have been upset by harmful novels, false friends, or perhaps a deceiving girl, then abstain from playing the armonica--it will only upset you even more. There are people of this kind--of both sexes--who must be advised not to study the instrument, in order that their state of mind should not be aggravated."

 

When word began to circulate that there was illness attributed to the instrument, people began to panic, blaming the instrument for everything from domestic disputes, premature births, and mortal afflictions, to convulsions in cats and dogs. In certain German States it was banned by police decree "on account of injury to one's health and for the sake of public order." As J.C. Muller wrote in 1788, "It is true that the armonica has extraordinary effects on people, different ones on each person according to his temperament. But that these are detrimental to the health has never been proven. If playing the armonica were to bring the performer gradually closer to death, or at least cause certain illnesses, that would be truly terrible."

 

What are your thoughts about the piece/program you are performing this season?

 

Hasse enjoyed a reputation in Italy somewhat similar to Handel's and Gluck's and his L'Armonica is the oldest surviving instrumental ensemble composition written to include the glass armonica. For years later Metastasio's ode was known to have been preserved, but Hasse's music had disappeared. The work thus remained forgotten until the complete original manuscript turned up in a Milano library. Having performed the work now for nearly thirty years I can say it ranks together with the famous Mozart Concertantequintet K. 617 for Armonica and Strings as the the most challenging technically to perform while reigning as the most beautiful in the entire glass music repertoire (a list that today numbers over 500 compositions by major composers in the 18th and 19th centuries alone).

 

 Name an ‘artful woman’ that has had the most influence on you?

 

I would have to credit, thinking in my fifty year career long pursuit of unusual music instrument studies,  as the most artful woman that I encountered, the one who affected most all of my career activities, would have to be Clara Rockmore (the famed theremin virtuosa). She had a career as the finest thereminist ever beginning in the mid-1920s and she became the most active performing artist at the instrument in its entire history.

 

The Theremin was a pioneering electric instrument invented in 1919 by a Soviet physicist named Leon Termin. I fortunately had the opportunity in the early 1990's to study it with her as one of her final students learning her personally developed aerial fingering technique.

 

When did you first start singing/playing?  

 

I began my musical career at the age of seven by studying the "stomach-piano" (accordion) because it was the local instrument of choice for budding musicians in Cleveland, Ohio in 1957.  However, it was one day during Science Class in seventh grade that I had an epiphany that caused me to change instruments.  I had the realization that none of my classmates wanted to hear my renditions of Lady of Spain complete with bellows shake.  We had an electronic organ at home, and as I mentioned, I had previously embarrassed my brother Rodger with competitive technique display in a bouts of sibling rivalry when I was 9 and he was 12, so I guess it was a no-brainer for me to make the shift finally when I turned 12.

 

 Who are your musical inspirations?

 

My musical inspirations come from my fellow performers. I've had a now fifty year career as a touring instrumentalist and I have to say all of the musicians with whom I've worked over these years havebeen my major inspirations - a few names to mention:  Bruno Hofmann, Anner Bylsms, guitarist John Williams, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Christopher Hogwood, George Benjamin. 

 

What kind of music do you listen to today? 

 

Well, for today as the example, I've been listening to performances of major keyboard works by CPE, WF and WC Bach getting ready for my appearance next Tuesday at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. I'm also listening today to my most recent recorded performance of my film score that I prepared for the 1924 silent film Ben Hur. I'll be performing that again tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock in Bellingham, Washington. 

 

What embarrassing songs might I find on your MP3 player? 

 

Well, I do have the master recording from which I worked out an arrangement by ear when I was seven years old for my first big accordion project. It is entitled "The one eyed one horned flying purple people eater"

 

Where would you most like to perform?

 

I'd like to perform ragtime piano on the famous Mississippi riverboat, the Delta Queen.

 

If you weren't performing, what would you be doing?  

 

That's easy - at the moment I'm gleefully studying flameworking, the craft of working with rods of glass manipulated in the flame from a torch.  Today I would be making small animals and marbles. 

 

What hidden talents do you have?

 

I can put the stem of a cherry in my mouth and tie a knot in it with my tongue 

 

Any loves, other then music? 

 

Collecting antiques, painting plein-airand riding my Indian chief motorcycle.

 

Any celeb crushes?  

 

That would be Vilma Bankey, the costar with Rudolph Valentino in the 1926 silent film Son of the Sheik.  Oh, be still, my beating heart!

 

Best advice ever given?  

 

Every time you touch your instrument, be it for rehearsing or performing, whenever, just every time make sure the sound is beautiful.

 

 Secret craving? 

 

 My friend's special recipe for rum banana bread.

 

 Favorite food/restaurant? 

 

Weisswurst in the restaurant in the Munich airport terminal arrivals area each time I arrive on that morning flight from the United States 

 

Favorite song of all time?

 

 "Someone to Watch Over Me"  tied with "Our Love is Here to Stay", both by George Gershwin

Hear Dennis James in Zilkha Hall on Friday, September 22 at 7:30pm in the first concert of the 2017/2018 Artful Women Season, Sweet Philomela.
www.arslyricahouston.org

Preview: Artful Women 2017/2018 Season

Year of the Woman: Ars Lyrica’s Upcoming Season Celebrates Artful Women

 SHERRY CHENG

MAY 31, 2017

Matthew Dirst, founder and artistic director of Ars Lyrica.
Photo by Anthony Rathbun.

Sherezade Panthaki performs as part of “Sweet Philomela” on Sept. 22 at Zilkha Hall /Hobby Center For The Performing Arts. Photo courtesy of the artist.

It’s the first time Matthew Dirst, Founder and Artistic Director of Houston’s leading early music ensemble Ars Lyrica, has programmed an entire season of music focusing on women.  When I asked him what took so long, he boldly replied, “to be honest, what did it was the election last November.  This is the year to do something for women!”

The 2017/18 Ars Lyrica Season, Artful Women: Muse, Heroine, Musician, and Patron, celebrates women in manifold roles, as pioneering composers and performers, as inspirational icons from mythology and history, and as leading patrons and cultural mavens.

The exotic centerpiece of opening night on Sept. 22 is Johann Adolph Hasse’s lyric cantata L’Armonica, featuring internationally renowned soprano Sherezade Panthaki and glass harmonica specialist Dennis James. The feminine muse of the night is Philomela, the mythical Princess of Athens, whose heartrending transformation into a nightingale has inspired a trove of literary and musical works in the Western canon. The theme of sisterhood must have been made even more prominent at the 1769 premiere, when glass harmonica virtuoso Marianne Davis performed the piece with her sister, soprano Cecilia Davis. Incidentally, Marianne also gave the first public performance featuring Benjamin Franklin’s new invention in 1762.

Dirst describes its sound as “ethereal and eerie, oozing in and out.” “It very well maybe the first time we’ve ever had a glass harmonica in Houston,” he adds, “as there are very few glass harmonica players in the world. Dennis James, who travels the country with his glass harmonica a couple of times a year by land (because it is impossible to travel with it by air), happened to be coming our way.” Dirst is also thrilled to be working with Panthaki again, describing her as a “flawless coloratura with a beautiful sound.”

Cecilia Duarte performs as part of “Italian Sirens” on Nov. 12 at Zilkha Hall /Hobby Center For The Performing Arts. Photo by Shannon Langmam.

The “Italian Sirens” concert on Nov.12 is devoted to the music of three extraordinary 17th century female composers, the remarkable singer/lutenist/composer Francesca Caccini of Florence, the prolific convent composer Isabella Leonardo of Novara, and the poetic beauty Barbara Strozzi of Venice, who left the most surviving music, particularly secular vocal music, of the three.  Both Caccini and Strozzi were also virtuoso sopranos, and their music showcases the expressive qualities of the female voice to perfection.  Dirst is a firm believer in fostering gifted local singers. A trio of sirens, all young artists residing in Houston, will take center stage—soprano Sydney Anderson, soprano Alexandra Smither, and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte.

Sara Levy is a figure who has interested Dirst for a long time. She is even the subject of a thoroughly researched historical fiction novel by a friend of Dirst’s (And After the Fire, by Lauren Belfer).  For the New Year’s Eve concert, a festive Ars Lyrica tradition, Dirst and company will recreate the salon of this important patron of the arts who lived well into her 90s. Levy brought into her Berlin salon some of the brightest stars of German cultural life in the Enlightenment and Romantic eras, such as  E.T.A Hoffman and Felix Mendelssohn. She was a brilliant harpsichordist who had studied for 10 years with J. S. Bach’s eldest son W.F. Bach, and she was also the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn.

Levy’s massive collection of instrumental music encompasses the works of nearly all the major composers active in the latter half of the 18th century, particularly the works of J. S. Bach and his sons. The concert will showcase several pieces from her legendary collection, including W.F. Bach’s only surviving flute concerto, performed by Colin St. Martin on baroque flute (traverso). Dirst and colleague Mario Aschauer will be featured soloists for C.P.E. Bach’s double concerto for fortepiano and harpsichord, a work commissioned by Levy and in which she performed at the 1788 premiere.  C.P.E. Bach’s last composition is a unique piece in the repertoire for its deliberate juxtaposition of two different generations of solo keyboard instruments.

Dominique McCormick performs as part of “Long Live the Queen” on April 7 at Zilkha Hall /Hobby Center For The Performing Arts. Photo by Shannon Langman.

As part of the 5th Annual Houston Early Music Festival, Ars Lyrica will team up with Bach Society Houston on Feb. 16 for two dramatic oratorios, Handel’s Esther (1718) and Samuel Felsted’s Jonah (1775). Esther, known as the first English oratorio, celebrates the Old Testament heroine’s victory over evil through intellect and courage. “Jonah,” admits Dirst, “was a complete surprise to me, and resulted from some good conversations with Rick Erickson at the Bach Society. It’s almost never performed and has not yet seeped into the public consciousness of people who do oratorios.” Rediscovered in the 1970s, the first oratorio from the New World comes from the most unlikely of places, the Caribbean island of Jamaica, where composer Samuel Felsted worked as organist at the Kingston Parish Church.

Two royal female patrons are extolled in “Long Live the Queen,” a program that consists of J. S. Bach’s rarely heard Trauerode, written for the funeral of Christiane Eberhardine of Saxony, and Handel’s Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne. The instrumentation of the Trauerode is remarkable in its richness.  In addition to the usual complement of strings, flutes, oboes, and harpsichord, Bach added a pair of oboes d’amore, a pair of violas da gamba, and a pair of lutes as obbligato instruments. The sound of this “plush orchestra,” notes Dirst, “is quite ethereal, solemn, and gorgeous.” As for the Handel, Dirst is eager to showcase the brilliance of not one, but two amazing countertenors in this glorious cantata.  Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, winner of the 2017 Met Opera National Council Auditions and winner of the HGO Eleanor McCollum Competition, will join forces with well-established countertenor and frequent Ars Lyrica guest artist Ryland Angel in what is sure to be a memorable performance.  Cohen, who also appears earlier in the season in Handel’s Esther, will be joining the HGO Studio this fall as the first countertenor in the studio’s history.

The May 19 season finale, “A Day with Marie Antoinette,” casts France’s most tragically famous queen in the pre-revolution days as a student and connoisseur of music.  “She had great music teachers and surrounded herself with culture,” says Dirst, “and she was responsible for a great deal of music making, including a visit by the young Mozart, and a Haydn Symphony (La Reine) that was dedicated to her.”

Cynthia Roberts performs as part of “A Day with Marie Antoinette” on May 19 at Zilkha Hall /Hobby Center For The Performing Arts. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Her music teachers included opera composer C. W. Gluck and Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Bologne, a virtuoso violinist of Afro-Caribbean origin, thrived in Marie Antoinette’s court.  He left a large number of excellent violin concertos, one of which will be performed by Cynthia Roberts, distinguished among America’s leading Baroque violinists, on this concert. It is said that during her imprisonment, the score of Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 lay near the harpsichord in her cell. It’ll be fascinating to hear La Reine in this context, as a fitting tribute to an endlessly controversial woman.

Ars Lyrica’s timely new season encompasses an amazing array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries, revealing compelling stories of artful women as part of the rich cultural history of their time and place.  In varied capacities, multifaceted women were able to shine despite whatever societal and cultural obstacles they faced. “Nobody in my field of vision has done something like this recently,” Dirst concluded, “so why not!  One thing that I see in this city, the women of our city who are interested in culture tend to be the ones that drive the organizations—the opera, the symphony, the ballet, even the smaller organizations.  There are powerful women on the boards and serving in leadership roles.”

—SHERRY CHENG

Press Release Don Quixote's Excellent Adventures

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Kinga Ferguson | 713-622-7443 | kferguson@arslyricahouston.org

ARS LYRICA HOUSTON WRAPS UP ITS 2016/2017 SEASON WITH A FANTASTICAL FINALE, DON QUIXOTE’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES

Performed in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on May 21st at 6:00 p.m., DON QUIXOTE’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES winds up the Ars Lyrica Houston 2016/2017 season with a whimsical Baroque program inspired by the figure of the Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha. This Fantastical Season Finale features Grammy-nominated guitarist and lutenist, Richard Savino, violinist, Kurt Johnson, and soprano, Dominique McCormick, with an impressive ensemble of period strings and winds. The tragic-comic story of Don Quixote’s undaunted valor and misplaced loyalty has inspired composers and artists since its publication more than four hundred years ago, during the Golden Age of Spanish literature. According to Artistic Director Matthew Dirst, the program offers a “musical salute to Miguel de Cervantes’ hapless knight errant” and his imaginary world in a program of “unusual and engaging repertoire.” Ars Lyrica’s flagship outreach group, The Crumhorn Collective, will also perform what promises to be an exciting season finale. 

About the Artists

Dominique McCormick is a lyric soprano from Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Aaron Copland School of Music and the Conservatoire National de Région Boulogne-Billancourt in France. Performing in the United States and Europe, her roles include: Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel; Laetitia in Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief; Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro; Sola Myrrhis, in Messager’s Coup de Roulis; Lady Marian in De Koven’s Robin Hood; Hanna Glavari in Lehar’s The Merry Widow. As soloist, works include: Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater; Mozart’s Mass in c minor and Requiem, Brahm’s Requiem; Handel’s Messiah and Dixit Dominus; Bach’s Mass in b Minor, Magnificat, and St. Matthew’s Passion; Poulenc’s Gloria; Mendelssohn’s Psalm 42 and Lauda Sion; Recitalist for Les Musicales de Normandie; and Les Nuits de Cheronne. Currently completing her doctoral dissertation in music, Dominique is happy to be newly relocated to the Houston area and is overjoyed to be performing with Ars Lyrica. 

Grammy nominated guitarist, lutenist and director Richard Savino’s performances and recordings have been praised by critics throughout the world. Within his extensive discography of over 30 commercial recordings of music ranging from the early 17th century through virtuoso music of Paganini and Mertz is the only recording of Mauro Giuliani’s Op. 30 Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra with the original orchestration and no cuts on a period instrument. He is also the recipient of a Diapason d’Or from Compact (the French Grammy) and a 10 du Rèpertoire. The latter has also placed his Boccherini recordings in their "Great Discoveries" category, which they deem as essential to any classical music collection.  He has been a featured guest on numerous national and international television and radio programs such as NPR, PBS and CBC and CBS, and has been chosen three times as the Global Hit on the Public Radio International/BBC program The World most recently in 2016 to celebrate the release of his cd What Artemisia Heard, Music from the Time of Caravaggio and Gentileschi.  This cd surveys the life of the great 17th century painter Artemisia Gentileschi through music. He has also created concert programs and cds on the lives of Francisco Goya and Peter Paul Rubens. In December 2016 he was asked by the Leiden Collection in New York to create a series 20 of soundtracks to accompany videos describing the world’s largest collection of privately held Rembrandts, the only private Vermeer and dozens of additional paintings by other great Dutch masters.

Mr. Savino has toured and recorded with some of the world’s most important performers including Joyce Di Donato, Monica Huggett, Stephanie Chase, Chanticleer, and Paul Hillier. And as a continuo player has performed as principal with groups such as the Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Opera, West Edge Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Diego Opera, Opera Colorado, Dallas Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. He has also guest directed the Aston Magna Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Ensemble Rebel and Milano Classical Chamber Orchestra. From 1986-98 Mr. Savino directed the CSU Summer Arts Guitar and Lute Institute. Presently he is director of the ensemble El Mundo.

 An avid writer, Mr. Savino has composed all of his cd notes and had articles and editions published by Cambridge University Press, Editions Chantarelle and Indiana University Press. He is presently a Professor of Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and at Sacramento State University where he has been the only music professor to receive "outstanding and exceptional" and “best” sabbatical awards.  Mr. Savino instructors have included Andres Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia, Eliot Fisk, Albert Fuller and Jerry Willard. He received his Doctorate from SUNY at Stony Brook. For more information go to:  www.richardsavino.net.

 

Violinist Kurt Johnson is currently in his 15th season as a member of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Before joining the HSO, he was a recipient of the Civic/Northwestern String Fellowship and held the concertmaster position of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for two seasons. Kurt received his undergraduate degree in music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and his master's degree from Northwestern University. His teachers have included Marilyn McDonald, Rachel Barton Pine, Gerardo Ribeiro and David Taylor. Kurt has performed with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin. He performs frequently with Ars Lyrica and the Houston Bach Society. Kurt resides in the Heights with his wife, flutist Colleen Matheu Johnson, their two kids Allegra and Luke and their newly adopted dog Lulu.

The "Crumhorn Collective" was founded in 2009 as a completely student-run renaissance band based at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. They have since gathered a sizable following through frequent outreach performances, concerts at private events, and lecture recitals, all performed on combinations of crumhorns, recorders, bagpipes, cornemuses, shawms, dulcian, viols, hurdy-gurdy, sackbut, cornetti, lute, and percussion. 

With their impressive arsenal of instruments and exceptionally energetic and interactive programs, the group has gained extensive outreach experience in many of Houston's public schools, as well as at Ars Lyrica events and in concert at the Miller Outdoor Theater and The Centrum. In 2010 they were awarded a Richter grant for music outreach, performed at Rice University’s McMurtry College Dedication, and were honored to premier a piece written for them by renowned composer Karim Al-Zand. The Crumhorn Collective is delighted to continue their relationship with Ars Lyrica Houston as their Resident Young Artist Ensemble this season.

 

For High Resolution Images and individual artist bios please contact Kinga Ferguson at (713) 622-7443 or kferguson@arslyricahouston.org

 

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About Ars Lyrica Houston Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston is a Texas-based ensemble that performs world-class Baroque music on period instruments. Ars Lyrica’s world premiere recording of J.A. Hasse’s Marc Antonio e Cleopatra brought the ensemble its first Grammy nomination for “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality” (Early Music America). Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming, drawn from the rich chamber and dramatic repertories of the 17th and 18th centuries, “sets the agenda for imaginative period instrument programming in Houston,” according to the Houston Chronicle. The ensemble’s first commercial release, on Naxos International, features the world première recordings of Alessandro Scarlatti’s La Concettione della Beata Vergine and Euridice dall’Inferno. This disc brought international recognition to the ensemble: Gramophone, the leading journal of the classical recording industry, praised this CD for its “exemplary skill and taste,” and Ars Lyrica’s musicians for their “impassioned performance” of never-before recorded works. Ars Lyrica’s latest Sono Luminus recording of Domenico Scarlatti’s comic intermezzo La Dirindina and his chamber cantata Pur nel sonno was released in August 2012. For more information visit www.arslyricahouston.org

 

Review: Don Quixote's Excellent Adventures

 

Review: Ars Lyrica Lends a Musical Tilt to Don Quixote in Season Finale

A sprawling program of period music showcases Cervantes’ most enduring work.

By Doni Wilson  5/23/2017 at 3:25pm

ARS LYRICA HOUSTON ended another successful season under artistic director Matthew Dirst at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Their final fare? A vivacious sampling of compositions inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ famous windmill-tilting knight, Don Quixote. 

As a rule, Ars Lyrica performs music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments, and Dirst, doubling Sunday as both conductor and harpsichordist, has a gift for assembling talent. This program was no exception.

Highlighted performers included soprano Dominique McCormick, whose superlative vocals complemented a wonderful expressiveness and impeccable comic timing.  McCormick’s interpretation revealed natural acting talent, and it was thrilling to watch her command the stage. Guitarist and lutenist Richard Savino demonstrated his Grammy-nominated versatility as he shifted from huge lutes to a range of guitars that hinted at the Spanish source material. Violinist Kurt Johnson of the Houston Symphony also proved his stellar range across the sprawling program that included Quixote-themed works by Jose Marin, Henry Purcell, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, and a fantastic finale of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Don Quixote Suite

The program drove home the point that art begets art, and it was fascinating to see the international spectrum of composers who were all inspired by Don Quixote and other characters from what’s considered the first modern novel. From the English Henry Purcell there was the delightful Incidental Music to Don Quixote, with such fare as “Lads and Lasses” and “From Rosy Bowers,” both delivered with aplomb by McCormick. One of the highlights for me was also the dream-like “Hypocondrie” by Zelenka, under the rubric of songs labeled “Melancholia & Other Enchantments,” along with the witty and engaging “Chaconne” as the final excerpt from de Boismortier’s “Don Quichotte chez la Duchesse.” 

Whether ecstatic or mournful, the entire program had a “joie de vivre” that captivated and thrilled from beginning to end. Turnout was respectable, sure, but every seat in Zilkha Hall should have been filled. Ars Lyrica is that impressive, and there was never a lull in this whimsical and energetic variety of music inspired by the hapless hero, his sidekick Sancho, and notable female characters that inhabit Cervantes’ literary world. Don Quixote may have had unlikely adventures, and his obsessions with chivalric romance may seem easy to make fun of, but the music his character inspired does not fail to move, as the themes of delusion and unrequited love never truly expire.

Ars Lyrica will be back in September for a season focusing on “Artful Women,” with a series of concerts highlighting what Dirst calls “female musical pioneers.”

 

GLITTERING ROARING TWENTIES GALA FILLS HOUSTON LANDMARK WITH MUSIC & GLAMOUR

GLITTERING ROARING TWENTIES GALA FILLS HOUSTON LANDMARK
WITH MUSIC & GLAMOUR

Pop the Champagne, as Ars Lyrica Houston's Spring Gala Surpasses Fundraising Goal!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Roaring Twenties Gala
1720’s meets 1920’s
An evening honoring
Robin Angly & Miles Smith
 
Saturday, March 11, 2017
6:30pm - Cocktails
7:30pm - Concert
8:00pm – Dinner
9:30pm – Speakeasy
 
ESPERSON at 808 Travis Street
Houston, Texas
 
Gala Sponsors:
Robin Angly and Miles Smith, Kathryn and Brenda Godfrey, Cameron Management, 1001 McKinney, Morton’s, and Peli Deli

Media Sponsor:
CKW LUXE,
Connie Kwan-Wong

arslyricahouston.org/20s-gala

HOUSTON, TX (March 14, 2017) – Ars Lyrica Houston's Roaring Twenties gala took place on Saturday, March 11, 2017 in the historic Esperson building in downtown Houston. The glamourous evening began with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at the contemporary Rusk Lobby, which was filled with 20s era jazz and glittering guests. Docents from Preservation Houston gave guests personalized tours of the historic building, highlighting the unique and detailed accents that make the Esperson such a special landmark in Houston.

Setting the tone for the evening, guests enjoyed a moving musical performance in the neo-classic Italian Renaissance Niels Lobby, with a program that featured acclaimed countertenor John Holiday, Ars Lyrica Houston's Artistic Director Matthew Dirst at the harpsichord, plus violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and viola da gambist Mary Springfels in a festive mix of music from the 1720s to the 1920s.  While Holiday's performance of hand selected arias from G. F. Handel's Xerses brought guests to their feet, the highlight of the evening was his performance of "Misty" by Errol Garner, which, offered as a tribute to Holiday's grandmother, brought tears to everyone's eyes. 

Guests then enjoyed an elegant dinner catered by Morton’s Steakhouse, which was served in the Art Deco Mellie Lobby decorated with tall candelabras, exotic peacock feathers, and luscious florals. After dinner, the night continued in the Full Prohibition Bar at the Speakeasy Club, which was held in the recently opened Peli Deli (of Peli Peli Restaurants). Guests, who knew the secret password to enter, were offered 20s-style signature drinks and enjoyed the wee hours in smaller groups. It was a sight to remember, as laughter and cheers filled the dark corners of the room.

Among these guests were honorary chairs of the gala, Robin Angly and Miles Smith, gala co-chairs Darrin Davis and Mario Gudmundsson, as well as Connie Kwan-Wong with CKW Luxe Magazine (proud media sponsor), and CEO of Shining Nightingale Healthcare, Farida Abjani. Other supportive guests included Kathryn McNiel, CEO of Theater District Houston; Perryn Leech, Managing Director at Houston Grand Opera, Gabriel and Sara Loperena, Drs. Rachel and Warren A. Ellsworth IV, Drs. Ishwaria and Vivek Subbiah.

Proceeds from this gala will support a 2018/19 Ars Lyrica production of Handel’s first operatic masterpiece, Agrippina. Since incorporation in 2003, Ars Lyrica has given the local premieres of many major works by Handel, including La Resurezzione, Susanna, Il Trionfo del Tempo, and Jephtha. Its production of Agrippina will be the organization's first full-length operatic endeavor and its most ambitious Handelian project to-date. The Roaring Twenties goal of $40,000 was in fact surpassed by $10,000 for a $50,000 total, thanks to a full house and generous patrons.

Ars Lyrica Houston sends a special thank-you to all its supporters, especially its major sponsors for this gala: Robin Angly and Miles Smith, Kathryn and Brendan Godfrey, CKW Luxe Magazine, Morton’s Steakhouse, Cameron Management, 1001 McKinney and Peli Deli at Esperson. Their help made this Roaring Twenties gala a roaring success!

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For high-resolution images of the event, please visit this DropBox File.
Patron names and special notes are notated in the comment field.
Photo Credit: Annie Mulligan for Ars Lyrica Houston

For further inquiries, please contact Jacqueline Altobelli at 713-622-7443 or jaltobelli@arslyrcahouston.org


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ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. He is the author of Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and the editor of Bach and the Organ (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

In repertoire encompassing George Frideric Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto to Jonathan Dove’s Flight and beyond, countertenor John Holiday's expressive and richly beautiful voice has made him an increasingly sought after artist, possessing a “vocal instrument that threatens to equal the name artists in his range.” (Herald Times)  Recently, Mr. Holiday received third prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition held in Los Angeles, California. In the 2016-2017 season, John Holiday will reprise Huang Ruo’s Paradise Interrupted at the Lincoln Center Music Festival and Singapore Arts Festival. On the concert stage, he sings the Messiah with the Nashville Symphony, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with the Phoenix Symphony, and Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare with Boston Baroque. In the summer of 2017, he returns to the Glimmerglass Festival to make his debut in the title role of Xerxes. As an advocate of new works, Mr. Holiday will make his debut with Opera Philadelphia singing the role of John Blue in a world-premiere of Daniel Roumain's We Shall Not Be Moved, a production directed by the award-winning Bill T. Jones.

Elizabeth Blumenstock is a long-time concertmaster, leader, and soloist with the San Francisco Bay Area's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and American Bach Soloists, and is concertmaster of the International Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany.  In Southern California, Ms. Blumenstock is Artistic Director of the Corona del Mar Baroque Music Festival.  Her love of chamber music has involved her in several accomplished and interesting smaller ensembles including Musica Pacifica, Galax Quartet, Ensemble Mirable, Live Oak Baroque, and Voices of Music, and she has appeared at festivals around the world.  An enthusiastic teacher, Ms. Blumenstock teaches for the Juilliard Historical Performance program, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the American Bach Soloists Festival and Academy, the International Baroque Institute at Longy, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival.  Her discography includes some 100 CDs for such labels as harmonia mundi usa, Dorian/Sono Luminus, Koch, Naxos, Reference Recordings, and Virgin Veritas.  Ms. Blumenstock plays a 1660 Andrea Guarneri violin built in Cremona, Italy, on generous loan to her from the Philharmonia Baroque Period Instrument Trust.

Mary Springfels has spent her adult life performing medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music. She has worked with pioneering groups and individuals, including the New York Pro Musica, Sequentia, the Folger Consort, Marion Verbruggen, and Monica Huggett. For 25 years Mary was Musician-in-Residence at the Newberry Library in Chicago and director of the highly-acclaimed Newberry Consort. In 2007, she was given the Howard Mayer Brown award for an outstanding career by Early Music America. In that year, Mary moved to New Mexico. She performs locally as a guest with the Albuquerque Baroque Players, the Santa Fe Pro Musica, and Serenata; she teaches and performs worldwide, from London to Australia.

ABOUT ARS LYRICA HOUSTON

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011.
 

ABOUT THE ESPERSON

Niels Esperson Building
This first building was built by Mellie as a memorial to “Mr. Esperson,” as she called him. It became the tallest building in Texas for two years after its completion and dedication in 1927, and it was ranked as the third largest in all of America.

Niels wished to build an architecturally distinctive 32-story building on Travis. He had a vision that Houston would become a city of over a million people one day, and he wanted to play a part in its development. However, with his premature passing, Mellie fulfilled his vision with the construction of the Niels Esperson Building. 

Mellie Esperson Building
Mellie broke ground on an adjacent plot of land next to Niels’ building in 1938. “But,” she cautioned the contractor, “it must not be as tall as Mr. Esperson’s building, nor as magnificent. I wouldn’t want it to detract from his glory in any way. Let it be to the right of his building—as I always was to him.”

Completed in 1941, the adjacent 19-story Mellie Esperson Building offered the greatest amount of office space in one structure at that time.  It was also outfitted with central air conditioning, which was a first.

Esperson—bounded by Travis, Walker, Milam, and Rusk—continues to bring in individuals and companies seeking to lease space in this historic two-building property, contiguously joined on the first 16 floors. Its architecture charms tourists from all over the world.

As Cameron Management works to make improvements to the property, they also endeavor to add additional amenities like the new escalator, which connects the new first floor Rusk Lobby to the Tunnel System with a redeveloped food court. 

The Cameron Team is excited about their progress as they work to continue the Esperson vision of providing “practical, operating developments,” with a touch of class.