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Houston Chamber Choir

A Grammy winner, a funny sackbut and Baltic love: This new music lineup stands out — with many firsts

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Houston Chamber Choir
Houston Chamber Choir's 19th season, themed "Voices of Houston," is curated to highlight the innate flair of the professional group. Photo by Jeff Grass
Sacabuche
"The Splendor of Venice" is in partnership with the Canadian sackbut, string and vocal ensemble ¡Sacabuche!. Courtesy photo
Paul Hillier
"Baltic Sea Change" welcomes internationally acclaimed maestro Paul Hillier for his debut engagement with the Houston Chamber Choir. Photo by Ditte Capion
Robert Simpson, Houston Chamber Choir, Joel State of the Arts Photo Essay
Artistic director Robert Simpson. Photo by Jeff Grass
Houston Chamber Choir
Sacabuche
Paul Hillier
Robert Simpson, Houston Chamber Choir, Joel State of the Arts Photo Essay

As the Houston Chamber Choir sings into its 19th season, the troupe of talented choristers, led by the towering force that's artistic director Robert Simpson, have unveiled a 2014-15 lineup that offers music lovers many firsts.

The season, themed "Voices of Houston," is curated to highlight the innate flair of the professional group in a miscellany of music genres while marking the beginning of a number of new tuneful friendships, including notable Grammy Award-winning guest conductor Paul Hillier, who's recognized as a remarkable interpreter of early and contemporary scores.

"The Splendor of Venice" (Sept. 16), in partnership with the Canadian sackbut (permission to laugh granted), string and vocal ensemble ¡Sacabuche!, is a program of antiphonal music written for two and three choirs by old masters such as Gabrieli, Hassler and Schütz. The out-and-about visiting early music specialists are known for digging deep into the bottom of the musical barrel to expose a lesser-known world of compositions for baroque trombones (aka sackbuts, from the French sacquer, to pull, and bouter, to push), organ and voice.

With works that yearn for peace, "Farewell to Arms" (Nov. 8) pays homage to the centennial anniversary of the groundswell that resulted in the beginning of World War I. The concert consists of compositions by Richard Rodney Bennett, Francis Poulenc and Karl Jenkins, the latter of whom you may know as the melodist responsible for the catchy soundtrack to the De Deers diamond commercials.

 "Baltic Sea Change" welcomes internationally acclaimed maestro Paul Hillier in his debut engagement with the Houston Chamber Choir. 

Music of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania takes center stage in "Baltic Sea Change" (Feb. 21, 2015), a playbill that welcomes internationally acclaimed maestro Paul Hillier for his debut engagement with the Houston Chamber Choir. Officials promise a soiree of passionate music by Arvo Pärt and his contemporaries.

While Handel's Messiah is traditionally performed as part of December festivities, the oratorio was originally intended to commemorate Easter. Think of "Mozart's Messiah Magic" (March 28, 2015) as Christmas in March, a concert that features Mozart's rarely heard "modernized" adaptation.

In collaboration with Da Camera of Houston, "Sacred Visions" (May 2, 2015) presents Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms in an obscure setting for chorus and two pianos. Adding to the program's emotional prowess are dramatic effects courtesy of Jennifer Tipton, who's a Tony Award-winning lighting designer.

As part of Houston Ballet's "Morris, Welch & Kylian" (May 28-June 7, 2015), choreographer Jiří Kylián's Svadebka will be accompanied by what many arts cognoscenti say is one of the most important compositions in the history of ballet. The Houston Chamber Choir collaborates with the Houston Ballet Orchestra to perform Stravinsky's Les Noces.

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Season subscription packages, $200 for adults and $180 for seniors ages 65 and over, can be purchased online or by calling 713-224-5566. Individual tickets will be offered for sale beginning Aug. 1.

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