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Best Virtual Bets: LGBTQ Films, Women Composers, and Tattoos

Houston Ballet Principal Karina González and composer Javier Farias join episode 10 of Apollo Chamber Players 20x2020 Virtual Festival series this week.EXPAND
Houston Ballet Principal Karina González and composer Javier Farias join episode 10 of Apollo Chamber Players 20x2020 Virtual Festival series this week.
Screen Shot Provided by Apollo Chamber Players

Happy Cooking Day! Yes, this Friday is National Cooking Day, a perfect time to gather some groceries and make a special meal before sitting down to enjoy some of our best virtual bets. This week, cyberspace will play host to film festivals, concerts, art shows and more, so settle in for another week of responsibly staying in.

Houston’s own LGBTQ film festival, QFest, returns for its 24th year – now in cyberspace – with a slate of six competition features, three special features, and 18 shorts from around the world. Films include Arash Eshaghi's 2019 documentary Gracefully, about a farmer whose drag career came to a screeching halt after the 1979 Iranian Revolution; Marwa Zein's Khartoum Offside, about a group of women trying to establish themselves as the national football team of Sudan, a country under Islamic rule where women aren’t allowed to play football or make movies; and Ask Any Buddy by Evan Purchell, a found-footage patchwork of more than 125 gay adult films that span almost 20 years after Stonewall. QFest films will be available from Thursday, September 24, through Monday, September 28. For the full line-up and to purchase an all-access $20 pass, visit QFest’s Cinenso platform.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” exhibit may have come to a close, but there’s still a chance to dive into one of the exhibit’s featured films: Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed. This Thursday, September 24, at 6:30 p.m. Houston Public Library, Houston Cinema Arts Society, and the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Friends of Women's Studies programs at the University of Houston are hosting a Filmmaker Discussion: Chisholm ’72 with writer/director Shola Lynch. Houston Cinema Arts Artistic Director Jessica Green will moderate a panel about Lynch’s 2004 documentary about Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress and to seek a presidential nomination. The free discussion will be available on the Houston Public Library’s Facebook page. (And if you missed the film, you can find it on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu, and college students and MyLink library card holders can view it through Kanopy.)

We are at the halfway point of Apollo Chamber Players’ 20x2020 Virtual Festival, a celebration of the 20 commissioned works the ensemble has premiered over the last six years. Divided into 20 episodes, each with new performance footage and artist interviews led by host St. John Flynn, we are at Episode 9, which will premiere this Thursday, September 24, at 7 p.m. and feature Four Dreams, a string quartet by composer Christopher Walczak. The piece, inspired by Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime and Aboriginal musical traditions, emerged from a January 2017 program exploring creation myths from around the world. Then on Sunday, September 27, at 7 p.m. Episode 10 will debut centered around Chilean composer Javier Farias’s Andean Suite. Written for string quartet and guitar, Andean Suite references folk dances from the Andean region, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Episode 10 will also feature a special dance performance by Houston Ballet Principal Karina González. New episodes will continue to premiere every Thursday and Sunday at 7 p.m. on Apollo Chamber Players’ YouTube and Facebook pages (where you can also catch up on past episodes) through November 1.

Five years ago, The Atlantic noted “another sign of America’s broadening acceptance of the 1,000-year-old art form” of tattooing: the emergence of high-art tattoo auctions and museum exhibits. Specific examples include Guernsey’s auction of images from noteworthy tattoo artists for upwards of $50,000 in 2015 and turn-of-the-century tattoo flash art sheets that netted more than $40,000 at Ripley Auctions in 2018.

In the spirit of tattoos as art, this Friday, September 25, at 7 p.m. Insomnia Gallery will hold their sixth online art show, Let It Bleed: An Online Tattoo Art Show, on YouTube Live. The show will open with a video preview of all the original works, completed by local artists, before festivities move over to either Facebook or Instagram at 7:30 p.m. for questions before the pieces go up for sale on Insomnia’s website at 8 p.m. The show is free, but if you interested in some new wall art, prices will vary.

Sad face. We’re down to our last three installments of Stages Studio Sessions. But – happy face – this week’s episode, premiering Friday, September 25, at 7:30 p.m. will feature LaBraska Washington. You may have caught Washington stealing the show in the Theatre Under the Stars production of Elf, or maybe earlier this year when he made his Stages debut as Bellomy in The Fantasticks. The intimate, hour-long program will stream Friday night and be available through Sunday, September 27. As always, it’s free, but you must register on the Stages website here. Next week's previously scheduled show with Jasminne and Lupe Mendez has been unfortunately cancelled, so now Luis Galindo and Mark Ivy will take the stage for the two final scheduled installments.

Get ready to learn the names of the opera stars of tomorrow during the Houston Grand Opera’s Studio Showcase. Kristine McIntyre, a stage director with almost 100 operas under her belt, will direct the annual showcase, which will spotlight 11 different young artists (six in their first year and five that are returning) performing from the Wortham Theater Center. And all are pretty darn good – remember, this is one of the most competitive programs in the country.

The artists will perform works from a grab bag of opera lovers’ favorites, including Alban Berg’s Lulu, Georges Bizet’s Carmen, Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Anna Bolena, Jules Massenet’s Werther and Don Quichotte, Claudio Monteverdi’s L'incoronazione di Poppea, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Maurice Ravel’s L’heure espagnole. You can catch the Studio Showcase on Friday, September 25, at 7:30 p.m. on HGO Digital.

ROCO will livestream the opening concert of their 16th season, Starburst, on Saturday, September 26.EXPAND
ROCO will livestream the opening concert of their 16th season, Starburst, on Saturday, September 26.
Photo by Blueprint Film Co.

Sixteen must be a lucky number for arts organizations this year, as ROCO is also opening its 16th season, “Color and Light,” on Saturday, September 26, at 5 p.m. with a livestreamed concert titled Starburst. The program, which will be performed by the full 40-piece orchestra in an empty Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, will be centered around a world premiere, La Tierra Sin Mal (The Land without Evil), by composer Richard Scofano.

Scofano found inspiration for the symphonic poem in the myths of the Guaraní people of Paraguay and surrounding regions and will join the ensemble on the bandoneon. Also on the program are Zoltán Kodály’s Transylvanian folk song-inspired Dances of Marosszek; Ludwig van Beethoven’s Greek mythology-based Creatures of Prometheus Overture; Gabriel Fauré's orchestral suite Masques et bergamasques, Op. 112; Claude Debussy’s beloved Clair de lune; and Jessie Montgomery’s titular work Starburst. Viewers can tune in to the free concert on ROCO’s website, Facebook Live, or YouTube Live.

Dualities are the focus of Ars Lyrica’s 16th season, "Side by Side," which opens this Saturday, September 26, at 7:30 p.m. with a virtual program titled Musical Duels. Artistic director Matthew Dirst and Sam Houston State professor Mario Aschauer will attack two concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach on two harpsicords, and audience members will also be treated to the sight (and sounds) of a new addition – a harpsicord designed after those that Bach would have encountered in his lifetime.

Also on the program is Johann Heinrich Schmelzer’s Fechtschule (Fencing School), a ballet suite reminiscent of combat, and "the most important Baroque composer before Bach," Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, with Mensa Sonora (Sonorous Table). Though literally created to be Baroque-era easy listening during dinner, Biber himself acknowledged the work as “a noble jewel of Harmony.” You can purchase a single event pass ticket for $10, or you can explore supporting Ars Lyrica with an in-person subscription (which includes virtual programming) or by making a donation.

Houston Symphony celebrates the works of women, past and present, during this weekend’s Live from Jones Hall: Great Women Composers: Esmail, Price & Smyth. First on the program is Reena Esmail’s “Tuttarana,” the third movement from her brass quintet Khirkiyaan. Originally conceived for women’s choir, “Tuttarana” is a mashup of the Italian “tutti” and the Hindustani musical style “tarana” (reminiscent of scatting in jazz). But here instead of vocalists, the ensemble will be the ones showing off.

Next is Florence Price, who you probably already know as the first Black woman composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Her second string quartet, String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, which invokes mid-twentieth-century and African American idioms, will be featured. Finally, the program will conclude with Dame Ethel Smyth’s Songs for Mezzo-soprano with Instrumental Accompaniment – and the mezzo-soprano will be Grammy Award winner Kelley O’Connor. Though Houston Symphony is now offering live performances for the socially distant at Jones Hall, you can still buy a $20 ticket to the livestream on Saturday, September 26, at 8 p.m. Ticket holders will also have access to a live prelude discussion on Zoom before the concert to learn more about the program.

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