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.


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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. 

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

Excerpted from:

Longy Teams-Up with Grammy-Nominated Ars Lyrica Houston


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."


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).