Weaving tales of hope, ROCO’s 17th season highlights timely and impactful topics through dynamic collaborations and eight new commissions
New works include a triptych of pieces by ROCO’s composer-in-residence Derek Bermel, a symphony by Maxime Goulet, and commissions by Mark Adamo, Aaron Jay Kernis, Marcus Maroney, Toulmin Prize winner Leanna Primiani, and more
For the first time in ROCO’s 17-year history, each of the ensemble’s full orchestra performances will feature a female conductor, including Artistic Partner Mei-Ann Chen
ROCO will continue to create musical experiences in a variety of unique venues across Houston, returning to Asia Society Texas Center, [email protected], Holocaust Museum Houston, Czech Center Museum Houston, and much more
Since 2005, ROCO has been committed to connecting our Houston community together through the joys of music. We have brought into the world over 110 new commissions from living composers of diverse backgrounds, shared performances in some of Houston’s most unique spaces, and with ROCO on the Go—continued to innovate even during a period of social distancing, by offering QR codes to curated playlists of our years of concerts up for free listening on our site, spread throughout Houston in spaces such as Buffalo Bayou Park, Texas Children’s Hospital, and many other places to come.
This next year, we’ll go even further in stitching the diverse parts of Houston together, weaving new musical tales which unite our community and beyond, in Season 2021-2022: Musical Threads!
Reinforcing music as a throughline that connects us all, the new works of ROCO’s next season serve as a vehicle for our living composers to express concerns around timely and impactful topics. In partnership with orchestras across the world, we are thrilled to be premiering eight new commissions, focusing on common threads of environmental awareness, human rights, and the scarcity of time.
Maxime Goulet’s Ice Storm Symphony, based on the great Canadian ice storm of 1998, will open The Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation In Concert Series, along with Marcus Maroney’s commission OK, Goodbye for flute, viola d’amore, and chamber orchestra, Also in the fall, we’ll present Mark Adamo’s cello concerto entitled Last Year, in which each movement portrays one of the four seasons.
Kicking off our spring performances, we’ll premiere Earth by Aaron Jay Kernis—reflecting on the climate crisis through vignettes of a farmer’s life—created in collaboration with poet and agricultural researcher Kai Hoffman-Krull, and featuring tenor Nicholas Phan. In this concert, we’ll also present a moving new work by Leanna Primiani honoring survivors of human trafficking, accompanied by portraits, to mirror Mussorgsky’s Pictures at Exhibition.
Supported by an award from National Endowment for the Arts, ROCO welcomes Derek Bermel as this season’s composer-in-residence, writing a triptych of pieces showcasing ROCO’s flexibility, including a large chamber orchestra piece based on J. Henry Fair’s photography series “Industrial Scars”, and a collection of songs based upon the work of Chicana author Sandra Cisneros.
We are also especially thrilled to share that for the first time in our ensemble’s history, each performance of The Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation In Concert Series will feature a female conductor, including Jeri Lynne Johnson, Sarah Hicks, Rei Hotoda, and Mei-Ann Chen, now in her third year as ROCO’s Artistic Partner.
The Unchambered Series—curated by and featuring ROCO musicians in intimate chamber performances—returns to MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston), spotlighting strings, brass, and percussion in programs by concertmaster Scott St. John and violinist Pasha Sabouri, trumpeters Joseph Foley and George Chase, and the ROCO Percussion Trio.
Our Connections Series will continue to weave classical music through the fabric of our city, taking audiences into new and unexpected places. Huang Ruo’s passacaglia for strings, entitled “A Dust in Time”, will be performed at Asia Society Texas Center and mimics a monk’s mandala, and this season, we will welcome the return of beloved concerts such as our Yuletide Brunch & Brass at the Czech Center Museum Houston, our Musical Ofrenda at Miller and [email protected] (Talento Bilingue de Houston), and more exciting concerts at Rienzi and Holocaust Museum Houston featuring Mak Grgic, guitarist.
As always, most of our concerts will be broadcast through free livestreams and available to you anytime, anywhere. We also welcome all communities and ages into our musical conversation through programs such as ROCOrooters for kids, and ROCO on the Go, which will expand to new locations throughout Houston during our new season.
“Music is the invisible but palpable connection we weave through our world,” says ROCO Founder and Artistic Director Alecia Lawyer. “Join our fabulous musicians on our Musical Threads journey this season, through the unique spaces of Houston!” We look forward to seeing you in-person soon!
ROCO 2021-22 SEASON
THE ALBERT AND MARGARET ALKEK FOUNDATION IN CONCERT SERIES
The Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation In Concert Series, which showcases the full 40-piece orchestra, will begin on September 25 with “Bursting at the Seams.” Conducted by ROCO Artistic Partner Mei-Ann Chen, the opening concert is centered around the world premiere of Maxime Goulet’s Ice Storm Symphony, telling the story of Canada’s historic, devastating 1998 ice storm, and co-commissioned by ROCO, Orchestre Classique de Montreal, Laval Symphony Orchestra, Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, and Trois-Rivières Symphony Orchestra. The concert will also include Michael Abels’ Delights & Dances, Domenico Cimarosa’s Il Maestro di Cappella Overture, and the world premiere of Marcus Maroney’s OK, Goodbye for flute, viola d’amore, and chamber orchestra, with soloists Matt Dane and Christina Jennings—a work inspired by the melting of the Icelandic Okjökull glacier.
On November 13, the series continues with “A Stitch in Time,’ featuring conductor Jeri Lynne Johnson’s ROCO debut, and the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s cello concerto Last Year—a work co-commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, New Century Chamber Orchestra, and Manitoba Chamber Orchestra—in which each movement represents one of the four seasons. The program also includes Hilary Purrington’s FIFteen commission, Threshold, Jonathan Peters’ Arthropod Suite, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F Major—whose 2nd movement parodies the metronome.
Next in the series, “Canvasing the Earth” explores our world through sight and sound on February 26, with two world premieres led by conductor Sarah Hicks, also making her ROCO debut. Earth, composed by Aaron Jay Kernis, reflects upon the fundamental environmental crisis of our time, and was created in collaboration with poet and agricultural researcher Kai Hoffman-Krull. Featuring tenor Nicholas Phan, the work tells the story of a farmer’s life through vignettes, exploring the incremental changes of the seasons and how those who depend upon the land must adapt. Freedom Place by Leanna Primiani, co-commissioned by the League of American Orchestras with the generous support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, will be a reflection on the horrors of human trafficking, presented with accompanying images from the New Abolitionists Campaign. The program also features Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in a special presentation, with accompanying images from the collections of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The 17th season concludes April 23 with “Tying Up Loose Ends,” conducted by Rei Hotoda, in her ROCO debut. The program centers around the world premiere of a work for large chamber orchestra by composer-in-residence Derek Bermel based on J. Henry Fair’s photography collection “Industrial Scars”—capturing the beauty and destruction of industrial and human impacts on our planet—and will also include Viet Cuong’s percussion concerto Re(new)al, Darius Milhaud’s jazz-inspired 1923 work Creation of the World, and new pieces by Cynthia Lee Wong and Judah Adashi.
The Unchambered series continues to highlight the distinct talents of ROCO’s musicians through intimate, self-curated programs, featuring audience interaction, and returns this season to MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston). The series begins with “Ties That Bind” on February 5, spotlighting concertmaster Scott St. John and violinist Pasha Sabouri. On March 12, “Tapestry” will showcase trumpeters Joseph Foley and George Chase, and the series will close on April 2 with “Spinning Tales”, featuring the ROCO Percussion Trio, in a world premiere commission by composer Quinn Mason.
ROCO’s Connections series continues to take classical music outside of the concert hall through creative collaborations exploring unique spaces around Houston. In October, ROCO will perform their yearly Musical Ofrenda celebrating Dia de los Muertos, on October 29 at the Miller Outdoor Theater and on October 31 at [email protected], presented in partnership with Grupo Teatro de Indigo’s play “Calavera Con Calavera.” The performances will feature Alejandro Basulto’s Songs of the Departed with bass-baritone Timothy Jones.
On November 19, ROCO will perform the world premiere of Huang Ruo’s A Dust in Time: Passacaglia for Strings, arranged for string quartet, at Asia Society Texas Center. Structured similarly to a Tibetan sand mandala, the 60-minute uninterrupted musical meditation is slowly created live from the central essence point, expanding outward into colored fullness, then to be subtracted back to its origination. The cycle fulfills the spiritual journey of traveling from nothing (emptiness), to something (fullness), and back to nothing (emptiness).
On December 11, the ROCO Brass Quintet will present Yuletide Brunch & Brass at Czech Center Museum Houston, in a morning of fellowship and fun celebrating the season.
On January 22, ROCO will return to Rienzi for a Chicano-style, Schubertiade-inspired evening of music. The performance will feature a commission of songs by Derek Bermel, written for and performed by mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, pianist Ana Otamendi, and percussionist Jesus Pacheco, and based on the work of Chicana writer Sandra Cisneros—who was born in 1952, the same year Rienzi was designed. On March 26, ROCO will return to Holocaust Museum Houston for a concert featuring Slovenian classical guitarist Mak Grgić performing the U.S. premiere of his Balkan Suite, based on music from his native Balkans, written for guitar and strings, along with Aaron Jay Kernis‘ 100 Greatest Dance Hits.
September 25, 2021
Bursting at the Seams | In Concert
October 29, 2021
Musical & Literary Ofrenda at Miller Outdoor Theatre | Connections
October 31, 2021
Musical & Literary Ofrenda at [email protected] | Connections
November 13, 2021
A Stitch In Time | In Concert
November 19, 2021
A Dust In Time @ Asia Society Texas Center | Connections
December 11, 2021
Yuletide Brunch & Brass @ Czech Center Museum Houston | Connections
January 22, 2022
Celebrating Sandra Cisneros @ Rienzi | Connections
February 5, 2022
Ties That Bind | Unchambered
February 26, 2022
Canvasing the Earth | In Concert
March 12, 2021
Tapestry | Unchambered
March 26, 2022
Mak Grgic’s Balkan Suite @ Holocaust Museum Houston | Connections
April 2, 2022
Spinning Tales | Unchambered
April 12, 2022
ROCO Wind Trio @ Cypress Creek FACE | Connections
April 23, 2022
Tying Up Loose Ends | In Concert
ROCO is a dynamic and innovative professional music ensemble that flexes from 1 to 40 players from all over the US and Canada, with guest artists from around the world. Performing intimate concerts in dozens of venues, ROCO’s musicians don’t just give concerts – they challenge preconceptions, create extraordinary experiences, and foster new relationships with audiences through the language of music.
ROCO’s debut album, Visions Take Flight, was recognized for a GRAMMY® Award for Producer of the Year, Blanton Alspaugh. Widely recognized for diversity in programming, a recent study from the Institute for Composer Diversity found ROCO is the number one ensemble in the US for performing the works of women and number two for performing the works of composers of color. Additionally, ROCO has the third-highest number of commissions in the United States and has premiered over 110 commissions from living composers. ROCO embraces technology, with free worldwide concert livestreams and real-time artist commentary via a smartphone app, as well as on-demand recordings of past concerts via popular music streaming services. A vital part of the community, ROCO concert DVDs are sent to nursing homes and hospitals to bring music to those immobile communities, and their music education/childcare program attracts multigenerational audiences.