River Oaks Chamber Orchestra’s founder and artistic director Alecia Lawyer wants to challenge you to a game — specifically, a round of 42.
Invented in the 1880s and often referred to as the “national game of Texas,” 42 is a four-player, trick-taking game played with a set of double-six dominoes as if they were a deck of cards. More importantly, it’s a game that Lawyer learned from her great-grandmother.
Games are multigenerational, she explained, much like ROCO’s target audience. They are personal, much like one’s taste for the performing arts, and they can be passed down through generations, much like music.
These comparisons have rarely been more clear than they are in the orchestra’s 14th season, titled “Games People Play.” They certainly stand at the forefront of Thursday’s “Vintage Game Night” — a multidimensional entertainment experience that will mark the ensemble’s second collaboration with Rienzi, a 1950s mansion that was converted into a house museum for European decorative arts by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
‘ROCO Connections: Vintage Game Night’
The evening will begin with playing games of the “Mad Men” era, such as bridge and chess, while sipping cocktails in the parlor before guests gather in the rarely accessible ballroom for a concert curated by husband-and-wife duo Richard and Cece Belcher.
“Games are done to connect people,” Lawyer said. “That’s what music is, too. It’s not something to be put on a pedestal and in a way presented as an entity. It’s very relationship driven, and that’s what we’re about.”
Within the larger theme of human connection, the concert will shine a light on one relationship in particular — that of the married musicians. The program, including works by Bohuslav Martinu, Rebecca Clarke, Erwin Schulhoff and Ludwig van Beethoven, reflects their lives in various ways.
While Cece grew up in St. Louis, Richard experienced childhood halfway around the world in Christchurch, New Zealand. The two met in 2004 in Houston, where they both lived until Cece moved to Miami two years later — what the couple describes as “the beginning of the big long-distance puzzle.” Their music careers (she is a violinist; he is a cellist) often kept them apart, and this rootless yet happy stage in their lives is reflected in Martinu’s quirky three-movement duet, featuring a back-and-forth conversational aspect in the melodies.
“We’ll use the music as examples of how our own game of life together has taken its curious course around the country, but always with a constant, or leitmotif, of returning to Houston together,” the couple wrote in an email interview. Both have performed with ROCO for nearly a decade, a consistent part of their profession mirrored by the recurrent theme in “Rondo,” a movement in Beethoven’s “Duo No. 2 in F major.”