Tapestry of hope... As is often the case, no one realized just how many friends and admirers cellist Mike Dudley had until he was gone.
"There were more people [at his August 6 memorial service] than I would ever have imagined," says Robert Yale, Dudley's companion of ten years. "Michael was very opinionated; you may not've liked Michael, but you respected him as a perfectionist."
Out of that respect, many of those who attended the memorial service will also take part in Tuesday's A Musical Tapestry, in which five of the city top classical chamber ensembles will join forces at the First Unitarian Church. The concert lineup features Accent Chamber Music, Ambient Brass, the Paradise Trio, Triad and Dudley's own Allegro String Quartet.
When Dudley, who died of complications from AIDS August 2, started the Allegro String Quartet in 1988, he envisioned it as a more intimate, less stodgy alternative to Houston's established classical institutions. He was trying to stay busy as a substitute cellist for the Houston Opera and the Houston Ballet when the idea for the quartet came to him. "We were kind of struggling for a while," admits Yale. "Then we got involved with the Houston Bridal Extravaganza, and that literally put us on the map."
From there, the quartet went on to perform at almost 100 weddings a year, along with assorted high-end parties and celebrity events. Says Yale, "We played for [then] President Bush; we played when the city had the Republican Convention here."
In short, the Allegro String Quartet earned a reputation as perhaps the most popular string quartet in Houston. Press readers confirmed its status in 1994, voting the quartet the city's best classical ensemble in that year's Music Awards. Despite the demand, Yale says, Dudley gained little financially from the venture, and when the full-blown symptoms of his disease began to appear in 1993, it became a constant struggle for the cellist to find effective medications that were also affordable.
By April of this year, Dudley's eyesight was failing, and Denise Tarrant, the quartet's first violinist, was forced to confront Yale with the grim reality. "He just couldn't do it anymore," Yale says. "So we sat down, and I said, 'Michael, something's got to give.' Neither of us were very strong men, and we both cried. He knew that was the end; I knew that he would be dead in a few months. It was always kind of a standing rule with him that if it was a choice between him and the cello, the cello would always win. And when we took away his playing, he just gave up."
Dudley's friends and colleagues haven't given up in his absence. The Allegro String Quartet will continue, says John Cramer, Allegro's second violinist since 1991, though a full-time replacement for Dudley has yet to be named. In addition, the Michael E. Dudley Scholarship Fund has been established for prospective students of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Dudley's alma mater. Donations from Tuesday's concert and reception will go to benefit that cause.
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More goodwill... Self-anointed champion of charitable causes Alex Lozano is the promoter behind the latest digital assemblage of local music. Houston Compilation Mission #1 features tracks from the likes of Hollister Fracas, Clever, 19 Good Bones and Top Fuel, as well as cuts from Houston standbys Spunk and the Hates. Only 1,000 of the CDs were made, which makes it a collectors' edition of sorts. The musicians donated the songs, and a portion of the money made from sales will benefit the Texas Children's Hospital Cancer Center. That good cause may give you a reason to pick up this CD; sadly, the music won't. With few exceptions, it's dullsville. Lozano has scheduled a live showcase featuring Mission #1 acts for November 23 at the Urban Art Bar, and every bit of the money from that event, he says, will go to the hospital.
Release activity... New-country-wavers Horseshoe are set to release their long-awaited debut. The CD is called King of the World, and it's a king-size earful -- 70 plus minutes of blooze rock, saloon-style honky-tonk and scattered, indefinable demo-quality outtakes. It's such a sprawling work that the disc's arrival on my desk just a short time before deadline forbids me to draw any sort of rash generalities about its contents (here's a hint, though: the first five tracks were good enough to make me forget I still had 17 tracks ahead of me). Horseshoe celebrates King of the World's arrival Friday at Mary Jane's.
Etc....Houston rock/R&B outfit Lips and the Trips finally came to terms with the horrors of their hectic schedule and relocated permanently to New Orleans. Their leaving town shouldn't come as a shock to fans, seeing as Her Lipsness spends most of her time there anyway. While we're on the subject of lips, arty '80s-ish popsters Bee Stung Lips are putting the finishing touches on a video for "Mr. Right Now," the single from their latest local CD, Chatterboxing. The song has found its way onto a new CD sampler from the national radio trade publication Album Network, sharing disc space with major-label acts such as Drill and the Drag. Sound acoustic thinkers Shag will debut their new drummer, Robert E. Cooke, at their show Saturday at Rudyard's. Keep an eye out for the group's new cassette, Unplugged, recorded at Sugarhill Studios. Friday, Bert Wills works overtime leading his current touring group, as well as the original lineups of the Country Cadillacs and the Cryin' Shames, for a special reunion show at Fitzgerald's. Reggae luminaries Black Uhuru perform Saturday at Rockefeller's. I really should plug Sunday's Alanis Morissette show at the Summit, but what's the point, it's sold out. Damn, I did it anyway.
-- Hobart Rowland