Classical Music

Houston Chamber Choir Puts Spotlight On The Endangered

Environmental issues take center stage this weekend with Houston Chamber Choir.
Environmental issues take center stage this weekend with Houston Chamber Choir. Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
Climate change, animal preservation and the future of our global existence have been hot topics for a while, so it makes sense that artists use these subjects as inspiration to create a conversation. Such will be the ideas conveyed on February 4 when the Houston Chamber Choir presents Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Mass for the Endangered at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church.

Under the direction of founder and artistic director Robert Simpson, Houston Chamber Choir will welcome Loop38 as a guest performer for this regional premier.

“People are going to experience this concert and the talents of Loop38’s collaboration in an evening that will bring attention to the need for us to care for this this world that we call home and renew our pledge to take good care of it and of each other,” Simpson said.

Snider’s work, which features a libretto by poet Nathaniel Bellows, is both a celebration and an elegy for the natural world, and it serves as an appeal for greater awareness, urgency and action. At once jubilant and reverent, Mass for the Endangered is a meditation on all that nature has to offer and what we can offer in return.

The six-movement work is a rumination on the concept of the traditional Catholic Mass, its fidelity enhanced by Snider’s interpolation of traditional Latin text for the Gloria, Sanctus/Benedictus, and parts of the Kyrie, Credo, and Agnus Dei.

Snider has received critical acclaim for her chamber, orchestral, song cycle, choral, and ballet works. Her musical compositions, particularly her song cycles, frequently borrow from indie rock and popular musical idioms as well as classical chamber music forms and instrumentation.

To dial up the drama before the Snider piece, Houston Chamber Choir will also perform Horizons by Peter van Dyck and Carrot Revolution by Gabriella Smith.

Horizons is a text that narrates the arrival of Westerners mostly from the Dutch and the English peoples and the negative impact that had on the indigenous peoples of South Africa that is quite beautiful, dramatic and mesmerizing,” he said. “Carrot Revolution is a very entertaining piece that will also carry through the theme of environmental issues, and then we'll get to the main event, which is Mass for the Endangered.”

“The music is very intricate, but it creates out of all of the various musical details a setting that has a great impact, and there is of life and a spirit that is brought through,” Simpson said.

The other star of the evening is Loop38, a boundary-pushing, artist-driven music ensemble that aims to build community around innovative, stimulating, and culturally relevant musical experiences.
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Loop38 is one of Houston's rising stars in the performing arts.
Photo by Natalie Gaynor
Placing this performance on Houston Chamber Choir’s season was a no-brainer for Simpson.

“I was introduced to this piece by Craig Hauschildt, one of the leaders of Loop38, who brought up the idea,” he said. “I immediately realized that this was a piece that we needed to do. It's a piece of our time. It's something that resonates with all of us and is an important commentary.”

With “endangered” being the central focus for this concert, it comes as no surprise that community partners for this event include green groups like Houston Botanic Garden, Houston Arboretum & Nature Center and Galveston Bay Foundation, all of which are dedicated to preserving, conserving and protecting the natural environment in the greater Houston Area.

Houston Chamber Choir presents Mass for the Endangered at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 4 at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, 2450 River Oaks Boulevard. For tickets or information, call 713-224-5566 or visit $10 – 40.
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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