ROCO’s 16th season features illuminating musical collaborations exploring global soundscapes, presenting ten commissions, in three series of concerts showcasing the ensemble’s flexible model.
New works include a nature-inspired triptych by Alyssa Morris, a concerto for bandoneon (a Latin-American bellowed instrument) by soloist Richard Scofano, a vocal work by Reena Esmail based on Chickasaw poetry, a piece by Anna Clyne honoring Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and a deeply personal chamber work by Milad Yousufi, telling the story of his journey to America.
ROCO continues to revitalize how audiences experience classical music with performances in partnership with unique organizations across the Houston community, and concerts livestreamed to the world.
For the past 15 seasons, ROCO has shown our true colors – shining a light on underrepresented voices, weaving music through the unique spaces of our Houston community and beyond, and commissioning over one hundred new works.
This fall we’re delighted to brighten your world anew, as we all come together again for our 16th season – Color and Light! ROCO has been a pioneer in livestreaming concerts since 2013. We are so thankful to you, our audience and patrons, for your enthusiasm and engagement as we go fully virtual this year. With multiple safety measures in place for our artists, we will be presenting a full season of concerts across our three series, all offered for free via livestreaming. These livestreams will be presented in partnership with many of Houston’s beloved cultural institutions.
Working with living composers has been a part of ROCO’s mission from the very start, and in Season 2020-2021, we will perform ten new works we’ve commissioned, including eight in partnership with orchestras across the world.
This season’s In Concert series, built around these premieres, will take audiences on an illuminating journey through global soundscapes, celebrating nature and culture through creative collaborations. Our composer-in-residence this season, Alyssa Morris, will write a triptych of pieces for our flexible model including a work for wind sextet, a work for solo instrument, and a work for chamber orchestra based upon an Aztec tale, serves as an anchor.
On the podium, we are both thrilled to have ROCO Artistic Partner Mei-Ann Chen back to kick off the season, and to welcome faces both new and familiar, with conductor Ward Stare making his ROCO debut and Brett Mitchell returning.
Our Unchambered series, showcasing ROCO musicians in self-curated chamber concerts, will feature an exciting new partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, inviting our wide range of musical colors to mingle with masterpieces of art and vibrant acoustics.
The Connections series will continue to take music into new and unexpected places in repeat collaborations with MFAH Rienzi, Holocaust Museum Houston, and the return of our Musical Ofrenda celebrating Día de los Muertos with MECA@TBH.
With our season going virtual all year, we have created new offerings for ROCOrooters. Our wonderful music teacher, Keisha Twitchell, will prepare material for ROCOrooters ahead of our In Concert and Unchambered livestreams so you can watch as a family. The following Saturday, she will present a thirty minute interactive program delving deeper into the previous weekend’s music.
“Even though Season 16’s theme of Color and Light is very timely, it has been our intent before this unprecedented time of social distancing,” says Alecia Lawyer. “While our musicians can continue to connect us all digitally, we greatly look forward to being in person with you to share the power of our language of music and be in relationship with you once again.”
ROCO 2020-21 SEASON
IN CONCERT SERIES
ROCO’s In Concert series, which showcases the full 40-piece orchestra in livestreamed performances, lifts off September 26, 2020 with “Starburst”, sparkling with musical light and energy, conducted by ROCO Artistic Partner Mei-Ann Chen. Richard Scofano, composer and soloist on the bandoneon (a Latin-American bellowed instrument), features in the world premiere of his new work La Tierra Sin Mal (The Land Without Evil), and additional works include Jessie Montgomery’s brilliant Starburst; Fauré’s Masques et bergamasques; Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus; Debussy’s Clair de Lune; and Kodály’s Dances of Marosszék.
The series continues on November 14, with “Oceans”, a nature-inspired program featuring the orchestra – conductorless! Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday, the concert will feature a new work by Anna Clyne for strings, Stride. Rounding out the program are two classics – Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds, Op. 16, and Debussy’s paean to the sea, La Mer – as well as Coleridge-Taylor’s Nonet and Bolcom’s Ghost Rags.
On February 27, 2021 ROCO will explore the interplay of light and dark in “Shadows”, built around a commission by Alyssa Morris, Tlapalli Tlahuilli – based on the children’s book “Musicians of the Sun” and featuring ROCO’s principal winds as soloists. Led by conductor Ward Stare in his ROCO debut, the livestream also features Patrick Harlin’s Shadow Dancer, Haydn’s Symphony No. 101, “The Clock”, and concertmaster Scott St. John in Luigi Dallapiccola’s Baroque-inspired work, Tartiniana Seconda.
The season concludes with livestreamed flair on April 24, 2021 in “Flamenco”, featuring the world premiere of The History of Red, a co-commission by Reena Esmail based on a text by Chickasaw poet Linda Hogan, with soprano Kathryn Mueller as soloist. Conductor Brett Mitchell makes his return to ROCO, also leading the premiere of Quinn Mason’s Princesa de la Luna for harp and strings, Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Errollyn Wallen’s Photography, and Carlos Surinach’s flamenco for orchestra, Ritmo Jondo.
The ROCO Unchambered series will once again highlight our musicians and the distinct musical colors they offer through self-curated programs at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art. The series starts on October 17 with “Love Notes”, featuring oboist Spring Hill, flutist Rebecca Powell Garfield, and harpist Laurie Meister. On February 13, “Kaleidoscope” next features principal oboist Alecia Lawyer, principal flutist Brook Ferguson, and principal bassoonist Kristin Wolfe Jensen, in a program including the world premiere of a wind sextet by Alyssa Morris. Finally, on March 6 it concludes with the ROCO Brass Quintet in “Blackbird”, presenting contemporary and classic favorites.
ROCO’s Connections series will continue to take classical music outside of the concert hall and into unique spaces across our community through creative collaborations. On November 1st we’ll welcome the return of our Musical & Literary Ofrenda from MECA@TBH, celebrating Día de los Muertos and presenting the world premiere of a trio commission by Kerwin Young, Coming Forth by Day.
The series also makes its return to Rienzi on February 4, for a chamber music celebration of the music of Margaret Bonds, one of the most prolific Black, female composers, curated by and featuring pianist Howard Watkins, with bass-baritone Timothy Jones. Wrapping up, ROCO is honored to again partner with Holocaust Museum Houston on March 11 for a chamber concert featuring a commission by Afghan composer Milad Yousufi, titled My Journey to America.
September 26, 2020 Starburst | In Concert
October 17, 2020 Love Notes | Unchambered
November 1 2020 Musical & Literary Ofrenda | Connections
November 14, 2020 Oceans | In Concert
February 4, 2021 Celebration of Margaret Bonds @ Rienzi | Connections
February 13, 2021 Kaleidoscope | Unchambered
February 27, 2021 Shadows | In Concert
March 6, 2021 Blackbird | Unchambered
March 11, 2021 Journey to America | Connections
April 24, 2021 Flamenco | 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 nearly 100 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.