Houston Chamber Choir Keeps It Close To Home In By Local

Houston Chamber Choir will present the works of five Houston-based composers during By Local on November 16 at South Main Baptist Church.
Houston Chamber Choir will present the works of five Houston-based composers during By Local on November 16 at South Main Baptist Church. Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
There's no shortage of H-Town pride. Houstonians like to shop local. We harbor a sense of pride when our homegrown musicians, actors and business make it onto the big stage. We puff our chest anytime our sports teams take the field in national competitions. It makes sense then that our performing arts groups would follow suite in their respective arenas. That's the driving idea behind Houston Chamber Choir's upcoming performance By Local. The program features five A-List composers - all locally based - showcasing their immense creative talents at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at South Main Baptist Church.

The evening extravaganza will include performances of works by Mark Buller, Daniel Knaggs, Pierre Jalbert, Rob Landes and David Ashley White as well as talks from each composer about their music.

"The chamber choir often performs music by living composers, but we’ve seldom had the opportunity to perform music from people we admire who are close at hand. These composers are getting noticed and being performed around the world, so why don’t we take an evening to celebrate them here at home? We wanted to turn the lens around and look at the creative energy of Houston that is represented by these five composers," said Bob Simpson, founder and artistic director for the organization.

The concert brings the feeling of a family gathering with each artist bringing their own creative style to the table.

Buller's music has been performed around the country and internationally. For two years he was a member of the Da Camera of Houston Young Artist Program, which also commissioned a number of chamber works, including the award-winning "String Quartet No. 3." Knaggs is a concert composer whose compositions range from solo and chamber music to orchestral works. In 2019 alone, his music has been performed in Japan, Australia, Poland, Israel, Scotland, England, Germany, Italy and throughout the United States. Having studied five foreign languages in his university years, he maintains an international outlook in his work and output.

Jalbert served as Composer-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 2002 to 2005 and is currently Professor of Composition and Theory at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Earning widespread notice for his richly colored and superbly crafted scores, he has developed a musical language that is engaging, expressive, and deeply personal. Landes' playing has taken him from the United States and Canada, to Norway and many parts of Europe. He is widely known as a pianist, organist, harpist, arranger, conductor and published composer. He has been organist and artist in residence at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston since 1996.

White’s secular and sacred compositions are widely performed and published, and he has received numerous commissions from various organizations, schools, churches and individuals. His hymns are found in a number of books, including the Episcopal Church’s The Hymnal 1982 and its supplement, Wonder, Love, and Praise; The United Methodist Hymnal and its supplement; the hymnal of the United Church of Christ in Japan; Great Britain’s Worship Songs Ancient and Modern and the Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013). He is a professor of composition and music theory at University of Houston.

"Each of these composers has a very unique style. It’s like a fingerprint. These [selections being played] are representative works. These pieces may not be the subtotal of how they approach music, but they give the audience a chance to hear the artist's unique voice," he said.

With so many creative outlets in Houston, though, picking only five artists to be represented proved a mighty task for Simpson, but he hopes it will be a short term dilemma. He hopes to include more programming of this nature in the future.

As an additional treat, patrons will enjoy viewing artwork created by visual artists - also local - who will display their pieces in a joint gallery exhibition and reception prior to the concert.

"One of the things that hopefully Houston Chamber Choir is becoming better known for is our desire to collaborate with other artistic institutions around the city," said managing director Mariam Khalili, referencing the group's previous partnerships with entities like Houston Met Dance, Da Camera and Apollo Chamber Players. "Predominantly what we’ve done is work with other performing artists, so I thought, 'Why don’t we do something with visual artists?'"

The pre-show exhibit will include paintings by David Maldonado, Nikkie Markle and Anat Ronen; mixed media photography by Khalili and sculptures by Debbie Gibbs.

By Local is the third concert in Houston Chamber Choir's season. It is considered one of the top 24 choral ensembles in the world by the International Federation for Choral Music, and it is composed of 25 professional singers, most of whom have studied at the top music schools and conservatories in the country.

By Local takes place November 16. Art is on display at 6 p.m., and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main. For information, call 713-221-5544 or visit Tickets are $40, with discounts available for seniors, first responders, music educators and students.
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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