Concert Chorale of Bellaire High School Joins Rose Ensemble to Open Houston Early Music Season
HOUSTON – Aug. 25, 2015 – Minnesota-based Rose Ensemble returns to Houston on Sunday, Oct. 18, to open the Houston Early Music season with “Music from the Land of Three Faiths: Voices of Ancient Mediterranean Jews, Christians, and Muslims” at St. Philip Presbyterian Church, 4807 San Felipe St. 77056. Exploring language, spirituality and cultural exchange, this Emerging Artists Series program will also feature the Concert Chorale of Bellaire High School.
“Our program highlights the Hispano-Arabic Middle Ages as both an important and devastating chapter of Judaic, Christian and Islamic history,” said Jordan Sramek, founder and artistic director of the Rose Ensemble. The 13th and early-14th centuries witnessed fertile cultural exchanges between Jews, Muslims and Christians, particularly in Spain, but the country had expelled all non-Christians by 1492.
The program includes several songs from the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Songs of the Virgin Mary), a culturally diverse collection of poetry, music and art from the court of Spain’s King Alfonso X (1252-1284). There also will be traditional Sephardic songs that the Jews took with them to North Africa and Eastern Europe when they were expelled from Spain. Other offerings range from 12th-century Italian plainchant to Bedouin folk music, with many stops in between.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this season, the Rose Ensemble features nine vocalists, although Sramek also plays psaltery and hurdy-gurdy in addition to singing tenor. Instrumentalists include oud player David Burk, percussionist Tim O’Keefe and vielle, rebec and harp player Ginna Watson.
Before the concert, the ensemble will spend the weekend in residency at Bellaire High School, working with students in its Concert Chorale. A similar, although smaller, outreach event there during the Rose Ensemble’s last visit to the Houston Early Music series in 2013 led to the current concert collaboration with the Chorale.
“We were particularly struck by [the students’] engagement throughout the activities,” said Sramek about the 2013 Bellaire High School outreach, a lecture/demonstration. “We left wondering whether more intensive activities – such as a residency – couldn’t produce something truly magical.”
Recognized internationally as a leader and innovator in vocal music, the Rose Ensemble won the 2005 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and took first place in both the secular and sacred categories at the 2012 Tolosa International Choral Competition in Spain.
The Rose Ensemble, with the Concert Chorale of Bellaire High School, will present “Music from the Land of Three Faiths: Voices of Ancient Mediterranean Jews, Christians, and Muslims” on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, at 5 p.m. at St. Philip Presbyterian Church, 4807 San Felipe St., Houston, Texas 77056. A preconcert talk will begin at 4:15 p.m.