Apollo Chamber Players is delving into its 16th season, themed “Silenced Voices,” with perhaps its most thought provoking and poignant programming yet meant to explore the historical and ongoing efforts to ban, censor and marginalize. The four-concert season is will feature world premieres and commissions, a free satellite series and Library Voyage concerts, a new album titled “Trace of Time” and the introduction of the group’s new violist Aria Cheregosha.
“The theme of censorship is unfortunately more prevalent today than it maybe has been in the last couple of decades; however, I think that censorship and the banning of books and [free] thinking is not a new concept,” said founder Matthew Detrick. “Artists have been censored throughout history and with what's going on in our culture today, we thought it would be appropriate to explore bans and censorship through new music and collaborations.”
Each of the four concerts delve into the censorship theme in different ways. “Banned” presents a musical commentary on the reasoning behind book censorship and control. “Canceled” will continue the story of censorship by diving into the history of forbidden theories in science and astronomy. “Revised” will feature a genre-fusing conversation with works by poet and activist Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton and Emmy-winning composer Jasmine Barnes and vocal guests from Houston Ebony Opera Guild. “Muted” uplifts voices that have been suppressed by totalitarian dogma and other silenced voices.
“The season is very reflective of what's going on today in terms of censorship and book bans and prohibitions,” Detrick said.
Viewing and creating conversation about controversial topics through the lens of music has been something artists have done for hundreds of years, as Detrick sees it.
“Art provides a pathway to explore these issues in a way that is hopefully non-threatening for listeners and audience members, and it is perhaps even a way to connect people to the issue and in a way that is positive and can affect positive change,” he added. “The mission of Apollo Chamber Players and our vision is to create cultural harmony through musical exploration. I think that's very much in line with what we're trying to do in exploring this controversial subject.”
Tackling the theme of censorship is entirely appropriate for Apollo Chamber Players, who regularly perform at area libraries. Launched in October 2021, Apollo Library Voyage initiative presents programs at all 26 Harris County Public Libraries, each specifically curated in conjunction with library programming. The free program feature Apollo commissions, arrangements and special guests, designed to reflect the heartbeat of Houston’s global community.
The quartet will also have a new face in its ranks this year. After the violist Whitney Bullock announced her planned departure from the group, the group launched a search to name her successor, which Cheregosha ultimately championed.
Persian-American violist Cheregosha is a North Carolina native who began her musical studies at age seven. At age 13, she had already performed at both Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center and was the youngest semi-finalist in the 2012 Viola Congress Competition.
Cheregosha holds degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Kim Kashkashian, and from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Roger Tapping.
“She is of the same cultural exploratory mindset as we are,” Detrick said of the year-and-a-half search process’ top choice. “We've been auditioning and interviewing a number of candidates for the job. We had some really fantastic finalists for the job. In the performing arts, you pick the musician who is the most proficient, technically and musically. That was our top criteria, but the cultural criteria was also something that helped to seal the deal.”
“Trace of Time” is a journey of musical discovery and cultural connections, from spirituals to the evolution of the tango. The program will showcase music by Adolphus Hailstork, Astor Piazzolla and Latin Grammy-winning composer and bandoneon performer Hector Del Curto, and it will feature Texas’ premiere tango duo Hugo Patyn and Celina Rotundo.
“This album will be almost exactly the same music as will be performing at our Miller concert on August 26,” Detrick said. “The album is a story of cultural connections and musical exploration connecting the evolution of the tango genre from Argentina, to African American spirituals, with a little bit of Texas composer music thrown in.”
Of course, for any music enthusiasts not able to attend the show at Miller Outdoor Theatre, an additional satellite concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 25 at UH Clear Lake’s Bayou Theatre.
As part of the satellite series, Apollo will also present its seventh annual Czech Heritage Month concert on October 26 at the Czech Center Museum and “Holiday Voyage,” a celebration of religious pluralism as a means of fostering compassion and cultural harmony, on Saturday, December 17 at First Congregational Church.
Apollo Chamber Players’ full season is as follows:
Concert 1: Banned
7:30 p.m., Friday, October 6 at Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston
Allison Loggins-Hull – New Work for string quartet and flute [World Premiere, Apollo Commission]
Mark Buller – New Work for string quartet [World Premiere, Apollo Commission]
Virgil Thomson – String Quartet No. 2 (1932)
Apollo Chamber Players
Allison Loggins-Hull, composer and flutist
Mark Buller, composer
Edward Melton, Harris County Public Library Director
Howard Pollack, Professor of Musicology at University of Houston
Concert 2: Canceled
8 p.m., Saturday, November 18 at Houston Museum of Natural Science: Burke Baker Planetarium
DJ Spooky/Paul D. Miller – New Work for string quartet and electronics [World Premiere, Apollo Commission]
Apollo Chamber Players
DJ Spooky/Paul D. Miller, composer & multimedia artist
Concert 3: Revised
7:30 p.m., Saturday, February 17, 2024 at Holocaust Museum Houston
Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton/Jasmine Barnes – New Work for string quartet, spoken word and chorus [World Premiere, Apollo Commission]
John Cornelius – PAX (2022)
Apollo Chamber Players
Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, poet, activist and educator
Jasmine Barnes, composer Outspoken Bean, poet
Kenneth Gayle, tenor
Members of Houston Ebony Opera Guild
Concert 4: Muted
7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 24, 2024 at Duncan Recital Hall, Shepherd School of Music at Rice University
Joey Roukens – New Work for string quartet based on Dutch folk songs [World Premiere, Apollo Commission]
Dick Kattenburg – Trio à cordes
R. Schumann – Piano Quintet in E-flat major
Apollo Chamber Players
Joey Roukens, composer
Tuğçe Özcivan, piano
The free Satellite Concert series is as follows:
Trace of Time
7:30 p.m., Friday, August 25 at UH Clear Lake, Bayou Theater
8:30 p.m., Saturday, August 26 at Miller Outdoor Theatre
Seventh Annual Czech Heritage Month Concert
7 p.m., Thursday, October 26 at Czech Center Museum Houston
7 p.m., Saturday, December 17 at First Congregational Church Houston
Apollo Chamber Players "Silenced Voices" runs October 6 to May 24, 2024 at various locations. For tickets or information, visit ApolloChamberPlayers.org. Season tickets range $150 - $175.
Apollo Chamber Players will present “Trace of Time” at 8:30 p.m. at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For tickets or information, visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free.