The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra is known for roaming around Houston, bringing classical music into neighborhoods, parks and other community gathering spaces. Now, its energetic brass quintet continues its own three-concert series at the MATCH, in a program called "Love and Loss."
"It is so great to be doing this first season at the MATCH," says ROCO founder and artistic director Alecia Lawyer. "It's a huge leap for our group and that ensemble, and it's excellent to be part of this new chapter in Houston's arts scene."
The program features David Sampson’s “Morning Music"; Adam Schoenberg’s “Reflecting Light"; Chase’s arrangements of Samuel Barber’s “Twelfth Night” and “To Be Sung on the Water"; works from Claudio Monteverdi’s fourth book of madrigals; a suite from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story”; and Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday.”
George Chase, trumpeter and concert programmer for the quintet, says the selections look at a variety of musical styles, as well as different takes on love and loss, from the romantic to the familial. He calls "Morning Music" an especially moving piece; Sampson wrote it while dealing with the death of his brother at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre.
"It's full of melancholy, but has these moments of joy," he says. "And the Ellington talks about gray skies, and how, even as clouds pass over, there's still a sense of hope and longing; all of these pieces have that stripe to them."
Chase says that the quintet's concerts have earned a reputation for being lively, "not stuffy" affairs. Musicians take questions from the audience and discuss the pieces and why the were selected. Chase and Lawyer agree that format not only helps audiences connect with the selections, but also helps the group form a bond with the community. The group's traveling schedule, with concerts all over the Houston area, helped cement its commitment to bringing music to where the audience was.
"We're about pulling people in," says Lawyer, who founded the orchestra 11 years ago. "We don't do gigs; our concerts are a conversation. And being at the MATCH is a massive opportunity to introduce another group of people to our musicians."
Lawyer says the quintet has acted in many ways as an ambassador for ROCO, with its heavy on-the-road schedule. This season, they've performed at Saint Arnold Brewery, the Cypress Creek FACE and Grace Presbyterian Church. Right after the MATCH concert, the quintet heads up to The Woodlands to perform.
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"We love to get out and meet people and talk about the process of making music," says Chase. "How we rehearse, how we select pieces. People are curious; they ask us all kinds of things, like what the different mutes are on our instruments. It's wonderful to give people an understanding of what we do."
Lawyer says the series at MATCH will definitely continue that trend. "Our music is meant to be an exploration, not a witnessing," she says. "We want it to be about a relationship, not a transaction."
The new partnership with the MATCH, in addition to ROCO's continued plans to perform around Houston, should give experienced music lovers and curious newcomers alike ample opportunity to be part of the conversation.
The ROCO Brass Quintet "Love and Loss" concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 4 at the Midtown Arts & Theatre Center Houston (MATCH), 3400 Main. For information, call 713-665-2700 or www.rocohouston.org. $25 ($10 students)