Classical Music

ROCO Gets Brassy And Boozy With Yuletide

ROCO Brass Quintet knows how to get the holidays off to a festive start - jazz pieces, brunch, and booze.
Photo by Pin Lim
ROCO Brass Quintet knows how to get the holidays off to a festive start - jazz pieces, brunch, and booze.
ROCO is tooting its horn this holiday season with Yuletide Brunch and Brass, an early afternoon filled with jazz and classic arrangements of seasonal music and oh-so-delicious mimosas and morsels. The melodies-meets-munchies event takes place Friday, December 2 at Houston Botanic Garden, 1 Botanic Lane. Doors open at 9:45 a.m., with brunch, coffee, and mimosas available shortly after 10 a.m. The event events by noon.

Yuletide Bruch and Brass will be a feast for both the ears and the mouth. Chef Soren Pedersen will cater the event. The Denmark-raised culinary wizard is an artist of his own right who uses local farmers markets and the most in-season foods to create a sumptuous delight.

The performing arts group founder, Alecia Lawyer, says the concert is an aperitif to the smorgasbord selection of holiday programming Houstonians will find throughout the city through the rest of the month: The Nutcracker, Messiah, A Christmas Carol, etc.

“We just kick off the season, and we don't do anything else during the holidays so [our musicians] can rest, be with their families and enjoy their time together. The brass players are always so joyful, and we love performing at the botanic garden,” she said.

The set list includes an eclectic selection, including "Hanukkah Swing," “Twenty Carols in Two Minutes,” a mashup of “Game of Thrones” and “Carol of the Bells,” “Winter Wonderland” arranged by ROCO’s Thomas Hultén, and a new arrangement from ROCO’s Jason Adams of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

As artistic director, she turns the control over to the brass quintet to choose the programming, led by George Chase, trumpet; Joining him are Adams on trumpet; Hultén, trombone; Gavin Reed, horn; and Jared Lantzy, bass trombone. Christina Carroll will guest on drums.

Lawyer says there is a certain je ne sais quoi about watching brass bands play, and it usually infuses the unique humor and engaging wit for which the ROCO Brass Quintet is beloved, even if they occasionally get carried away.

“The brass instruments attract a certain type of personality who play brass instruments. That in and of itself leads to the merriment that is the ROCO Brass Quintet. I've only had to take the microphone away from them one time,” she said.

Even though ROCO is known as a full symphony orchestra, Lawyer says events like Yuletide Brunch and Brass give the opportunity to take new music to different places, and it allows the audience to get to know the musicians as well.

“We mix and match. I call it the LEGO model where we break apart and you get to really see individual players more. And then we take [audiences] on a tour of Houston through music and different locations with our chamber music. That's been really fun finding the break apart groups and then coming back together for the main shows,” she says.

Fittingly, Houston Botanic Garden has a special LEGO display on its property through February.

This isn’t the first time ROCO has partnered with the Garden. It’s ROCO on the Go program also claims a presence at the property. ROCO on the Go involves a series of QR codes posted around the property that link to a music piece curated to that individual spot. Simply hover over each code with a camera app activated, and a link will appear to play the tunes.

“I love how the Garden manifested it because it's done where the codes are hip height. You don’t have to get on your knees to scan the code, and the codes are on permanent metal. It incorporates the Garden’s branding and their colors, so it blends in with the scenery but at the same time is it easy to scan. They did a really great job of manifesting ROCO on the Go,” she said.

If interested in continuing the day of festivities, a docent-led tour of the Garden takes place after the brunch.

ROCO’s Yuletide Brunch and Brass takes place 9:45 a.m. – noon, Friday, December 2 at Houston Botanic Garden, 1 Botanic Lane. For tickets or information, visit or For additional information, call 713-665-2700 or 713-713-9675, etx. 100. Non-member fee of $75 per adult, $35 per child (12 and under) includes general admission to the Garden, brunch, and the performance. Garden members receive a $10 discount.