To kick off Season 14, we are excited to take you behind the scenes of ROCO In Concert: Checkmate with the first installment of ROCOInsider – a series featuring a sneak peek into the varied artistic and technical elements involved in the production of a ROCO concert.
Alecia Lawyer, the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra’s artistic director, introduced the idea discreetly last fall: She and two other musicians devoted a program on the group’s Unchambered series entirely to works by female composers. This season, Lawyer and ROCO are going big with the theme.
In Kevin Lau’s work, the smallest details are examined with microscopic precision. The Canadian pianist delicately shapes each musical phrase, each moment of harmonic color, while dedicating equal attention to establishing a cohesive sound that ties the piece into a whole.
The 14th season from the innovative Houston-based professional music ensemble features ten world premiere commissions, and a commitment to diversity that sees them presenting a female composer, conductor, or soloist on every concert. New pieces include a musical chess match between piano and orchestra, a tribute to Turkish wrestler Koca Yusuf, a chamber work where audiences vote on their phones to influence the direction of the performance, and many more.
A Houston punk rock legend front and center at a classical concert, a virtuoso concertmaster, a stellar bass-baritone singing nursery rhymes and tombstone epitaphs, and three world premieres. Throw in a couple of Dvořák’s Legends and the rarely heard Wood Notes by William Grant Still, and we have a strange brew of a program that surprised and engaged.
Like a ringmaster leads a circus, conductors direct classical music concerts, presenting various acts or compositions while serving as an intermediary between the audience and the performers.
But the show must go on, with or without, and River Oaks Chamber Orchestra is here to prove it’s possible to have a concert without a conductor, with the return of its annual conductorless concert this weekend at the Church of St. John the Divine.
Chicago-based composer Dan Visconti laughs at the idea that some might think that, because of his training and profession, he only listens to classical music. You know, when he’s not locked away in some ivory tower decked out in a white wig, quill pen scribbling away with frenzied genius.
The band’s most pronounced impression was made in Houston, but fans of ’70s punk reveled in the regional variety the form offered.
One such fan is Dan Visconti, a classical composer who recently composed “Legendary Love,” a piece of music inspired by Christian and The Hates that the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra will premiere later this month.
The numbers are in: 76 world premieres (33 for the full chamber orchestra and 43 for its flexible chamber ensembles), 36 composers commissioned—these are astounding numbers from the Houston-based River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO), now in its perpetually forward-looking 13th season.
“For a generation of a certain age, this is the first classical music piece any of them heard,” says Alecia Lawyer, the artistic director for the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) about Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. It’s a familiar and beloved symphonic fairy tale, often used to introduce children to the instruments in the orchestra.
Houston’s River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, called ROCO, is known for pushing the limits of the expected, bringing classical music into the mainstream by playing in unlikely spaces and collaborating with unlikely partners.
Catch this one while you can, because chances are, a show like this doesn’t come around too often. On February 10 at The Church of St. John the Divine, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) premieres Legendary Love, taking its title from a groundbreaking, genre-crossing world-premiere commission by Dan Visconti, which honors local Houston punk rock legend Christian Kidd, lead singer of The Hates…the band that’s gone unsigned by a major label since 1978, but wildly popular nonetheless.