Classical Music

Apollo Chamber Players Bridges Cultures Via Music

Apollo Chamber Players are a musical act to keep your eyes on.
Apollo Chamber Players are a musical act to keep your eyes on. Photo by Lynn Lane
Apollo Chamber Players is entering its 15th season with several notches under its belt – five album releases with a sixth one pending this summer — as well as a few new ones to add – the replacement of its departing violist and a debut at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Themed "Connective Harmony," this season is a reminder of all the group has already and continues to achieve to connect communities and cultures through globally-inspired music.

The crystal anniversary season is akin to a melodic journey circumnavigating the globe in its musical influences with ports of call in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Apollo's Founder and Artistic Director Matthew Detrick predicts patrons will experience the universal language of music as the coalescing x-factor throughout the many styles.

“Our season is inspired by themes of unity, peace, wholeness and strands of musical interest and interconnectedness. These ideas can bridge cultural divides, and maybe even perhaps political polarization. The arts can keep us keep us connected in a way. That's ‘connective harmony.’,” he said. “The beauty of art is that people can receive its messages but still interpret them in different ways…hopefully in ways that expand them and make people create more empathy.”

Along its showcase, Apollo will occupy performance spaces both secular (Rice University, Holocaust Museum Houston, Asia Society Texas) and sacred (First Congregational Church Houston) while exploring a bevy of topics ranging from the Asian-American experience, banned music, winter holiday traditions and folk songs – all through Apollo’s unique lens.

“There’s an interest from my standpoint in programming pieces and reaching out to composers with different ideas. I think a lot of it comes from being interested in different genres of music, and trying to figure out what classical music means in the 21st century and where it's going,” Detrick said.

He also credits Houston’s multicultural fabric as an influence on the chamber orchestra.

“It all comes back to Houston. I grew up in a city that was not very diverse in Pennsylvania. Most people in my school looked like me. Coming to Houston and living in the music world provided a new start,” Detrick added. “With all the cultural representation that's in Houston, it’s inspiring. Houston is the city of the future by many metrics, culturally.”

While Apollo has earned its place as a local staple thanks to the Bayou City’s thirst for arts and culture, the group is also hitting the road and taking its talents and style to destinations familiar as well as new.

The group will make a return to Carnegie Hall to play standout works from its 20X2020 project. Launched in 2014 and inspired in part by President John F. Kennedy's Moonshot goal, 20X2020 is an Apollo initiative to commission 20 new multicultural and folk music-inspired works for the ensemble by the end of 2020.

Apollo will also make its debut at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in April for a reprise of its February 2023 concert, the expansive and multidisciplinary MEKONG: SOUL.
click to enlarge
Apollo Chamber Players is traversing across the world - musically speaking - to connect communities through globally inspired music.
Photo by Lynn Lane
Along with the excitement of a new season and new destinations, Apollo will bid farewell to one of its familiar faces. As previously mentioned, 10-year ensemble member Whitney Bullock is stepping away from performances, which means the group will spend this season auditioning her eventual replacement. The team has already winnowed down the list of candidates to roughly two dozen musicians, and it will pare down the list even more over the season.

“It's really hard to know how someone is going to work with you in this four-person marriage just from videos and other [recorded] media. You really have to work with someone closely, and putting on one of our concert projects will give us a good idea of whom the best candidate may be,” he said. “It has been very meaningful to know that we have a very attractive ensemble position open that is bringing top tier candidates from around the world.”

As a season, though, Detrick believe the year will be a celebratory one.

"During any kind of major anniversary year, whether it is with your spouse or with a performing arts organization, the point is to reflect on where you've been. You showcase some of the highlights from the previous years but then expand upon the ideas and artistry that have molded the organization is into where it lands today and where it is going," he said.

Apollo Chamber Player's 15th season is as follows:

Concert One:
Silk Threads, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, September 10 at Edith Bates Old Recital Hall at Rice University, 6100 Main
**Advance performance on 7:30 p.m., Friday, September 9, at University of Houston-Clear Lake, Bayou Theater, 2700 Bay Area
  • Program:
    Wang Jie: Commission for organ and string quartet
    Shih-Hui Chen: Returning Souls
    Reena Esmail: Zeher
    Debussy: String Quartet in G Minor
  • Guests: Daryl Robinson (organ), Wang Jie (composer) and Fred Child (Host of Performance Today)
Concert Two:
BANNED: Music, 7 p.m., Saturday, November 12 at Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline
  • Program:
    Homayoun Sakhi: Commission for string quartet, rhubab, and percussion
    Erberk Eryilmaz: Unsung Folksongs
    Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 1
    Islam Chipsy: Zaghlala
  • Guests: Homayoun Sakhi (rhubab composer-performer) and Aria Cheregosha (viola)
Concert Three:
Holiday Voyage, 7 p.m., Saturday, December 17 at First Congregational Church Houston, 10840 Beinhorn
  • Program:
    Brian Nabors: Kwanzaa Suite
    Isabelle Ganz: A Sephardic Chanukah
    Jovino Santos Neto: A Brazilian Christmas Suite
  • Guests: Wayne Ashley (tenor) and Isabelle Ganz (composer-performer)
Concert Four:
, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, February 18 at Asia Society Texas, 1370 Southmore
  • Program:
    Van-Anh Vo: MEKONG: SOUL
  • Guest: Van-Anh, Dan bau (zither), Doy Charnsupgarindr (vocalist) and Wayne Ashley (tenor)
Concert Five:
We Will Sing One Song, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 13 at Stude Concert Hall at Rice University, 6100 Main
  • Program:
    Eve Beglarian: We Will Sing One Song
    Greek Rembetika folk song arrangements
    J.S. Bach: Chaccone
  • Guests: Eve Beglarian (composer), Arsen Petrosyan (duduk), Pejman Hadadi (percussion), Olympian Dancers of Houston, Andrew Papanicolaou (lecturer)
Apollo Chamber Players 15th season, "Connective Harmony," runs September 2022 through May 2023 at various locations. For tickets or information, call 832-496-9943 or visit Season subscriptions range $150 - $175.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd