Classical Music

Heavenly Voices Fill Villa De Matel This Holiday Season

The Houston Chamber Choir makes its triumphant return to Villa de Matel's chapel for its holiday concert.
The Houston Chamber Choir makes its triumphant return to Villa de Matel's chapel for its holiday concert. Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
Houston Chamber Choir is getting into the holiday spirit with its concert Christmas at the Villa – On This Day Earth Shall Ring. Performances will take place in the Villa de Matel chapel twice on Saturday and Sunday, and they will include guest performers the Treble Choir of Houston and guitarist Marc Garvin.

“My experience is that Christmas and music go together like milk and cookies. Music is an essential part of Christmas. Whether it's secular or sacred, it puts us in the mood and makes us feel deeply connected to the holiday. The choir’s Christmas at The Villa each year is designed to make people feel that the Christmas season has begun. We'll sing traditional carols, but we also will sing pieces that will probably be new to many people,” said Bob Simpson, artistic director and founder of Houston Chamber Choir.

The program includes classics like “Two Settings of In Dulci Jubilo - Dietrich Buxtehude” by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Pat-a-Pan,” God rest ye merry, gentlemen,” and “The Gift to be Simple” to more recent compositions. Of particular interest are Dave Brubeck’s “God’s Love Made Visible” (Yes, that Dave Brubeck) and Daniel Knaggs’ North American premiere of “Ave Maria No. 18, Regina Pacis.”

Knaggs has set an ambitious goal related to “Ave Maria.”

“Daniel set himself the job of writing an ‘Ave Maria’ each year for 50 years. This is ‘Ave Maria No. 18’ But the special thing about this is that he has incorporated a prayer for peace for Ukrainians along with the traditional ‘Ave Maria’ text. It has been performed once before in Poland, and it will be performed for the second time by the chamber choir at our concerts,” Simpson said.

The setting of Villa de Matel’s chapel has earned a special place in the choir’s history. The chorus has performed for more than a decade at this venue, but COVID-19 put a stop to the performances out of an abundance of caution. This performance marks the Houston Chamber Choir’s grand return after a two-year displacement.

“Coming back to The Villa is very special part of how excited we are. It was such a happy occasion when a sister from The Villa called and said they we're ready to open up to the public and that we can come back for the Christmas concerts,” Simpson added.
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If you think the ornate decorations of Villa de Matel are breathtaking, just wait until the heavenly voices of the Houston Chamber Choir fill the space.
Photo by Jeff Grass Photography
Villa de Matel is operated by the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and located on 72 acres of land in east Houston. The exterior of the Chapel is constructed of semi-rough, reddish brick and stones of various colors. The interior is of concrete mosaic, inlayed Tavernella marble and Venetian mosaics. A visit to the chapel has been likened to “standing inside a jewel box that is bathed in sunlight.”

The choir’s masterful voices and programming will undoubtedly add to the experience.

“When you walk in you feel as if you're transported to Italy. It is, in my estimation, one of the most beautiful sacred spaces in all of Houston. It's not one that would normally find its way into most people's travels,” Simpson said.

Since the holidays are a season of giving, the choir’s performances also double as a fundraiser for The Beacon. It is a nonprofit organization located in downtown Houston that works to end homelessness and restore hope. In the spirit of the holidays, Houston Chamber Choir invites patrons to bring donation items like disposable razors, new socks, toiletries, medical scrubs and new or gently used bath towels.

Houston Chamber Choir’s Christmas at the Villa – On This Day Earth Shall Ring takes place at 2:30 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11 at Villa de Matel’s chapel, 6510 Lawndale. For information, call 713-224-5566 or visit houstonchamberchoir.org. Tickets are sold out.
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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