Road Trip with François, Kristin and Alastair

By Jason Stephens, ROCO librarian

As ROCO’s orchestra librarian, I find and order all the music that ROCO plays in their full chamber orchestra concerts . . . And occasionally, I get some obscure requests that are a little harder to find.  Last year, Alecia and Kristin Wolfe Jensen approached me about finding a bassoon concerto by French composer François Devienne for Kristin to perform during the 2013-2014 season.  After originally ordering the solo part for a different concerto from Germany (apparently, Devienne wrote TWO bassoon concertos in C Major), I ran into a wall and couldn’t seem to find any reference to this piece being in publication.

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In the orchestra library world, there are some giants and gurus that librarians turn to . . . And this piece definitely warranted extra help.  I sent an email to the best of the best, Clinton Nieweg, retired Principal Librarian of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  He found only one reference to this particular concerto in the world . . . At the University of Iowa’s Music Library.  After speaking to the Head Librarian, I was emailed scans of the microfilm parts (which are scans of the originally published parts from the 1800’s.)  Unfortunately, there was no score for a conductor to use, just the individual instrumental parts.  It was then that the challenge began.

I entered all the music into a music notation software over the next several months, fixing trouble spots and errors along the way. I even flexed my inner nerd by finding a doctoral dissertation about Devienne that helped with some historical research along the way.  With the invaluable help of both Kristin and conductor Alastair Willis, we have reconstructed this piece for ROCO to perform in April 2014.  Along the way, I also took the orchestra parts and reduced them down to be covered by a pianist so Kristin could perform this piece in a few recitals around the country . . . why should orchestras have all the fun after all! 

I am so thrilled that Kristin will perform and Alastair will conduct this music. It has been a labor of love for the last year for me and I know ROCO audiences will love it as well.  Now with this challenge officially conquered, I can’t wait to see what ROCO has in store for next year!

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No, the conductor is not sick!

By Aloysia Friedmann

 

We have indeed planned to play ROCO Celebrates Austria-Conductorless! without a conductor at the helm. The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra started the idea of a performing one “conductor-less” concert per year in 2007, our third season. “Why?” you might ask…

aloysia

When a conductor leads an orchestra, the members of the orchestra are expected to rely on the maestro to not only lead the group with a baton, but also to make musical suggestions, balance suggestions, tempo suggestions and much, much more. As a result, each member of the orchestra gradually submerges their individual personality in favor of following their musical leader.

When our orchestra doesn’t have a conductor standing up and gesticulating in front of them, immediately our senses become much more alive. We truly become a chamber music group, or as Alecia once said, a string quartet times 10 (with winds!). We have to listen more, we have to watch each other more, we have to rely on the visual cues of each other more, and most importantly, we must rely on the concertmaster of the orchestra.

WHY does the concertmaster all of a sudden become so important? There still has to be someone who “leads” the orchestra; someone who can give a cue to start and stop; someone everyone can see and watch. The concertmaster is the natural person to do this.

You may have wondered about the concertmaster’s responsibility. You’re probably aware that the concertmaster is, among other things, the Principal First Violin. When a conductor is present, the concertmaster is also the liaison between the conductor and the orchestra. The concertmaster is the one who can make a suggestion to the conductor, representing the whole orchestra. When a conductor shakes the concertmaster’s hand after a performance, it is an acknowledgment of that responsibility.

Therefore, the ideal concertmaster is more than a strong player, and leadership qualities matter! A depth of chamber music experience, brilliant technique, knowledge of the full orchestral score, and ability to lead with the violin and make eye contact with other players: these are all prerequisites for a great concertmaster.

There are very few ful-ltime conductorless orchestras because so much of the repertoire does demand the full-time responsibilities of a conductor at the helm. Most orchestras, even faced with repertoire that might allow a conductorless setup, are fearful of the extra pressure. But ROCO thrives under these conditions. The players all aspire to great artistry individually, and working without a conductor gives us all our own voice.

We look forward to this opportunity to take greater control of our artistic destiny, to make suggestions to players

across the orchestra, and to try their suggestions in turn. Above all, we know that we have to listen with great care. This is a concert we look forward to every year.

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Andrés Cárdenes is our concertmaster for the upcoming concert. He is the perfect person to be leading ROCO in our conductorless concert. For many years he was the concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony and also is a conductor himself, having guest conducted many orchestras around the country. He’s a great musician, chamber music artist, communicator and a gracious person, making him an ideal guest concertmaster for ROCO Celebrates Austria-Conductorless!

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Making Music in Cuba

tammy linnBy Tammy Linn, violin

I performed “The Train Song” at a September salon concert for members of the Founding Consortium, along with expert help from ROCO bassist Erik Gronfor and train whistler Suzanne Lyons (aka the ROCO Cookie Lady). I had contemplated whether or not to program “The Train Song” for this particular soiree, fearful that it might be too low-brow for our ROCO patrons. tammy linnBut since this piece has been so well-received by other audiences, I took the chance.tammy linn

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I have never claimed to be a versatile musician. Classical music was my calling, and I was perfectly content to keep it that way. However, my first ministry trip to Cuba in 2009 motivated me to broaden my horizons.tammy linn

I travel to my sister church in Havana at least one time each year. One morning during my first visit, our group was waiting to depart for a day filled with activities. Eventually our trip leader, Jack, boarded the bus and announced that we would not be attending a performance by the National Ballet that evening as the ballet was on tour. Instead, Tammy and John Winkler would perform a concert and we would invite all of our church friends in the neighborhood to attend. Then, Jack turned toward me and said, “Tammy, is that okay?” What I wanted to say was “Jack, you have a lot to learn about high strung classical violinists!” However, I opted for the more gracious reply and said that I would be happy to.

Later that day, as this impromptu concert was underway, Jack opened his mouth again. “Tammy, why don’t you play some Bluegrass for our Cuban friends?” My brain was racing with thoughts such as “What could you possibly be thinking? How could you make such a request? WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?!” This time I opted for the stunned, deer in the headlights look. I could not think of a single tune that I could even attempt to pass off as Bluegrass. Shortly thereafter, I resolved that I would have at least a passable rendition of “The Orange Blossom Special” ready by the time I returned to Cuba the following year.

A dream come true for me has been making music with my Cuban counterparts. We perform concerts together every time I travel to Cuba. Apart from music that has been bootlegged into the country, Cuba has been quite isolated from American music since the time of the 1959 revolution. It has been one of my great joys to bring and share American music with Cuban audiences. Equally wonderful is my being exposed to Cuba’s rich musical heritage and bringing their music back to the US. These musical exchanges aid in building bridges above the animosities of our two governments.

So in 2010, I made my fiddling debut in Havana. It is still slightly frightening to think that I may be setting the standard for Bluegrass in Cuba, but I am fortunate that my audiences lack a point of reference. As it turns out, the Cubans have an insatiable appetite for “The Orange Blossom Special,” now more affectionately known as “El Tren.”

River Oaks and Havana are a world apart, but now they are linked by this classical violinist (and occasional fiddler) and a mutual appreciation of “The Train Song.”

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The Horn LIVE!

By Gavin Reed

Danielle Gavin Alecia

If you never knew that the horn can sing, come find out during the ROCO Chamber Series performance of The Song and the Wind on Sunday, November 17, 4:00 pm, at Gremillion &Co. Fine Art Annex.  Joining me will be violinist Andres Gonzalez and pianist Timothy Hester performing several works showing the wonder of chamber music and the great range of the horn.

We’ll begin with several works for the horn and piano, including Alla Caccia by Abbott and Romanza by Koetsier.  The Abbott piece is fun to hear and play — a great opener — while the Koestier piece is in the pastoral style.  Always present when I play Romanza is the sound of my teacher, Gail Williams.  Hearing her play with all the subtlety of a great soprano inspired me to be better.  It is her sound that I hear in my head.

The first half also includes two Schumann transcriptions and a setting of a Shakespeare Sonnet by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. Although the pop music industry claims Wainwright, his songs defy classification.  He uses very sophisticated compositional techniques, and I am very excited to perform this piece.

Completing the program is one of the greatest pieces of music featuring the horn, the Brahms Horn Trio.  A deeply personal piece born from the grief of losing his mother, the Brahms Horn Trio is a masterwork that is nearly impossible not to love. It will complete the afternoon and, hopefully, convince you that the horn is an instrument of great expression!

Buy Tickets Here

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ROCO Sousa Style to be a bang…literally!

By Alecia Lawyer

I never thought, as an oboist, I would be shopping at a gun store for fancy earplugs.  Nor did I know that I would have to practice my “guns” for a concert.  Yes, ROCO’s principal percussionist Matt McClung knows I am a wanna-be drummer, but this goes beyond even his job description.

I was oboist for Keith Brion’s New Sousa Band for a number of years.  We would go on tour regularly and play to the most enthusiastic crowds of people taking great joy in Keith’s incredible portrayal of John Philip Sousa.   When building ROCO, I found inspiration in Keith’s programming and in the fact that he flew in people from all over the U.S. to gather this band together. (He also has an infectious laugh!)

Now, back to the guns…starter pistols are surprisingly hard to shoot in rhythm, especially when one is a bit stiffer than the other.  In U.S. Field Artillery March, there are seven shots at the end of the chorus. Keith had asked me to do it because he thought, with my red hair, I looked like Annie Get Your Gun.  He did not know, however, that the first time I shot them in performance, I was going to aim at the audience……Not a good idea!  And just so you know, those earplugs are definitely necessary!

Come see us November 9th at 5pm and find out if we decided to try the guns at St. John’s.

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Thoughts on Britten’s Serenade

By Danielle Kuhlmann
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I remember hearing this piece for the first time years ago and how it opened up the world of Benjamin Britten to me. I had heard of him, but I had never heard or played any of his music. Britten is like some kind of magic combination of Bach, Schubert, Schoenberg and Gershwin. There is so much depth to his work but, at the same time, he gives you the most enchanting and simple melodies to work with. The harmonies are familiar and also fantastical. There is something truly magical about his music. He really transports you to a different world which is perfect for Around the World in ROCO Ways.
In the Serenade, Britten has such an incredible way of using the voice alongside the horn and strings. It is effortlessly comforting, haunting and joyous at the same time. He has an incredible sense of rhythm and pulse that makes you feel like you’re floating without making you feel vulnerable. Each movement embodies an entirely new universe of creatures and characters through text, timbre, structure and counterpoint. His melodies are so beautiful and full of intent — it’s such a joy to finally get to play the Serenade! I’ve been jonesing to play it ever since I first heard it years ago and to have the opportunity to perform it with my ROCO colleagues is something I’ve dreamed about since joining the orchestra.
This piece is incredibly personal and requires immense communication and trust to perform. I’ve never felt more welcomed and supported in an ensemble than the way I do when I’m with (or in front of) ROCO. For me, it is actually a dream come true to perform Britten’s Serenade!
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Explore the world during our 2013-2014 Chamber Series

Written by Suzanne LeFevre, head of the Chamber Series program

Get ready to explore the world during our 2013-2014 ROCO Chamber Series!

This season, entitled “Around the World in ROCO Ways”, we will take you on six Sunday voyages spotlighting many of our very own, talented ROCO musicians.  The ROCO Chamber Series compliments the ROCO in Concert orchestra concerts, while transporting you a bit deeper into the composer’s world.

You will personally experience how Asian music and composers influenced the work of  Britten, Debussy, and Bartok.  You will hear how the great Viennese composers were not only masters of the symphony but were devoted to creating some of their personal bests for the chamber environment. A personal favorite of mine is the Prokofiev/Anderson program in March. Both pieces use the same unique combination of instruments and are full of high energy, beautiful melodies and jazzy rhythms.

What is most exciting to me about this season is that it allows you, the listener, to get to know each ROCO musician as an individual. As I was putting together the programs, I was struck by how many amazingly talented players ROCO has. I thought of the diverse and unique personalities and about how each person fits into each program. More importantly, I became really excited about what would happen when these musicians were able to rehearse, converse and play together in smaller ensembles. The final result will be six very exciting programs.

I hope you can join us for this musical adventure.  In 2013-2014,  getting there will be all the fun!

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Get your boarding passes for “Around the World in ROCO Ways!”

Written by Alecia Lawyer, ROCO Founder and Artistic Director

The creation of ROCO has always been an adventure, which is why I am excited to name our 9th season “Around the World in ROCO Ways!” We invite you, our wonderful audience, on the journey with us.  Some destinations may seem foreign, but the familiar faces in ROCO will share the universal language of music to transcend our differences of culture, race, religion and politics.

Asia, America, Austria and France:  Lots of frequent flier miles available!

You will experience some of your favorite ROCO musicians as soloists this season:  Danielle Kuhlman, french horn; Matthew McClung, marimba; Thomas Hulten, trombone; Joseph Foley, trumpet; and Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bassoon.

Returning to our stage are favorite guest conductors Mei-Ann Chen and Alastair Willis.  New to ROCO are Keith Brion and Andres Cardenas and our wonderful guest artists Zach Averyt, tenor; and Alicia Gianni, soprano.

SUBSCRIBE NOW and save 10% off the single ticket price!

Get your boarding passes now!

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Have a blast with us at Miller Outdoor Theatre!

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We’re celebrating our season finale with a BANG! Join us at Miller Outdoor Theatre on Sunday, April 21st for a free concert featuring the 40-piece River Oaks Chamber Orchestra and dynamic guest conductor Andre RaphelROCO will present the Houston premiere of a ROCO co-commissioned double percussion concerto by internationally-acclaimed composer Jonathan Leshnoff, performed by percussionists Matt McClung and Todd Meehan.  And in ROCO fashion, there will be some traditional classics by Mendelssohn and Respighi along with a few surprises!

Free, assigned seat tickets are available at the Miller Theatre Box Office on first-come first-serve basis while supplies last between 10:30 am and 1:00 pm on the day of the performance . Remaining tickets are given out one hour before curtain, 7:00 pm. Or bring a blanket and sit on the lawn!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

8pm, Miller Outdoor Theatre
6000 Herman Park Drive
Houston, TX 77030
Admission is FREE.
Sponsored in part by the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board 

Program

Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4, “Italian”
Ottorino Respighi The Birds
Jonathan Leshnoff Concerto for Two Percussionists
Plus a few Surprises! 

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ROCO’s season finale is a BIG BANG!

We’re topping off our 2012-2013 season with an action-packed program that includes a commissioned double percussion premiere by Jonathan Leshnoff.

Andre RaphelOn Saturday, April 20, and Sunday, April 21, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (“ROCO”) will present “Big Bang!” with dynamic guest conductor Andre Raphel and the 40-piece River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. Featuring traditional classics by Mendelssohn and Respighi paired with bombastic drums, the ROCO season finale will be a blast for classical music aficionados and families alike. ROCO will present the Houston premiere of a commissioned double percussion concerto by internationally-acclaimed composer Jonathan Leshnoff, performed by percussionists Matt McClung and Todd Meehan.  And in ROCO fashion, there will be a surprise or two!

André Raphel has established a reputation as an exciting and versatile conductor.  Described by the New York Times as “An agile, demonstrative conductor who is physically drawn into the music,” Raphel is currently in his tenth season as Music Director of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. Raphel has also served as Assistant Conductor to Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic for two years.

Jonathan LeshnoffJonathan Leshnoff has earned an international reputation as one of America’s most gifted young composers. Named by the Baltimore Sun as an “Artist to Watch,” Jonathan Leshnoff’s music has been lauded by Strings Magazine as “quite distinct from anything else that’s out there,” The New York Times declared in a November, 2008 review that “the afternoon’s keenest discovery was Mr. Leshnoff.”The award-winning composer is a Professor of Music at Towson University.

ROCO in Concert: “Big Bang! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013
5pm, at the Church of St. John the Divine
2450 River Oaks Blvd. at Westheimer, with valet parking available
Houston, TX 77019
With ROCOrooters music education/childcare program
Tickets are $25 general admission, $10 for students at HERE or 713-665-2700

Sunday, April 21, 2013
8pm, Miller Outdoor Theatre
6000 Herman Park Drive
Houston, TX 77030
Admission is FREE. Tickets for covered seating are available HERE.
Sponsored in part by the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board 

Program
Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4, “Italian”
Ottorino Respighi The Birds
Jonathan Leshnoff Concerto for Two Percussionists
Plus a few Surprises!

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