Moores School's AURA Ensemble Presents a Different Kind of Chamber Music

Courtesy of Rob Smith
Left to right: Sonya Matoussova, cello; Shelby Thompson, viola; Ingrid Hunter, violin; Roberto Trillo, violin

Asked to expand on the theme for the upcoming AURA concert, entitled Multifaceted, University of Houston music composition professor Rob Smith was at a loss to describe it in words other than what it is -- a three-dimensional shape with flat surfaces.

"Every single work on the program looks at something from a variety of different angles. That's the deal behind something that's multifaceted, it's got a bunch of different ways you can view it," said Smith, director of the ensemble.

AURA is UH's chamber music ensemble for new music, generally meaning music that has been composed since the 1990s.

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Maiden Houston Voyage for Yellowjackets Drummer Will Kennedy

Categories: Concerts, Music

photo by Jaime Olmo via Flickr
Will Kennedy (r) drumming with Lee Ritenour (l) and Melvin Davis.
Will Kennedy, drummer and producer for L.A. jazz fusion giants Yellowjackets, is stepping out into the Houston jazz scene this Friday and Saturday at Cezanne. After three years living quietly in Katy, Kennedy says his schedule has finally opened up so that he can get a taste of the local scene.

"I grew up in Oakland and until three years ago had never lived outside California," he explains. "I got to exploring more options for my son's education and my wife has some family in the Katy area, and we just decided it was the right time to move and the right move to make.

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Audra McDonald Wows at UH's Madison Artist Series

Photo courtesy of the University of Houston
Audra McDonald
She's played a doctor in a Grey's Anatomy spinoff, Billie Holiday in a new musical commemorating her life, the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd, and so many other disparate roles that even she probably can't keep track of them.

Singer and actress Audra McDonald, holder of six Tony Awards and two Grammys on the side, brought her talents to Houston for a one-night-only performance Tuesday to benefit the University of Houston's Moores School of Music through the Madison Artist Series.

Singing at the Wortham Theater, McDonald showed off her strong vibrato and sliding glissandi amid an assortment of show tunes and blues numbers, accompanied by her touring pianist and music director Andy Einhorn.

"The last time I was singing here was in 2006, and I got one of the worst reviews of my life," McDonald said after her opening number.

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Complexions Contemporary Ballet Is Moving to the Unexpected

Sharon Bradford

People don't usually associate ballet with the music of Prince and Stevie Wonder, but Complexions Contemporary Ballet isn't interested in replication. "We are not afraid to entertain," says Co-Artistic Director/Co-Founder Desmond Richardson.

Hailing from New York City, Complexions Contemporary Ballet was founded in 1994 by Richardson and Dwight Rhoden--two directors who both value multiculturalism as well as breaking artistic barriers. Their focus is to be continuously evolving, a group that changes with the culture and time. Their success in doing this has brought them such honors as the New York Times' Critics Choice Award.

Rhoden, the company's resident choreographer, has worked with The Joffery Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and The Dance Theater of Harlem.

"Dwight often begins his creative process with the music, which informs what he has to say...the current social climate also affects the work at times," says Richardson, former principal dancer with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, and Ballet Frankfurt. "I assist in the studio by workshopping movement before we teach it to the dancers," says Richardson, who also choreographs on occasion.

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The 2014 Houston Press New Year's Eve Guide: Where to Party in the Bayou City

Each holiday season has its schedule. We eat turkey and stuffing, then we decorate a tree and open presents to the tune of constant Christmas music. But those are just the opening acts. The main event is New Year's Eve, where you count down the seconds until a new year, make a champagne toast, and dance and laugh while reflecting on the past year's ups and unavoidable downs. As always, we've provided you with a list of the best events of Houston to ring in the new year. From masquerades to comedy shows, four-course meals to kids' parties, there's something for everyone.

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When Brilliant Met Divine: A Healthy Conversation with Bette Midler

Photo by Jonathan Pushnik
Bette Midler
She sings. She dances. She acts. She jokes. She cleans up decrepit, crumbling urban properties. She wins awards for all those things. And she also, simply, talks.

In a bit of a departure from her standard high-production fare, on April 29, Bette Midler, the aptly monikered Divine Miss M, addresses the equal-parts anticipatory/participatory audience of the Brilliant Lecture Series.

"I'm happy to be doing this event. I've been doing them for a couple of years now, I kind of enjoy them," Bette Midler remarked on her upcoming Q-and-A appearance with the series which this year has also welcomed luminaries Betty Buckley, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton. "I've been to Minneapolis, I went to Niagara Falls, I mean, I've been around.

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Poems from Jailed Youth Set to Music in a Performance at the Hobby Center

Categories: Concerts

mary carol warwick.jpg
Composer Mary Carol Warwick
Houston composer Mary Carol Warwick has a skill unique within the world of classical music: She's worked out how to compose music to accompany the word nigga.

Warwick has set the words of 17 poems by incarcerated youth to a song cycle with classical, gospel and Latin influences. In a number of the poems, the youth used the controversial word to describe themselves or their friends.

"I'm white and Anthony Turner is African American. I said to him, 'I don't know if I can do this. I can't even say that word.' He said, 'I chose you to work with me on this because I thought you had the balls to do it. Do you?'"

New York baritone Anthony Turner had long been an admirer of Warwick's opera, choral and musical compositions and felt this was the perfect collaboration for them. The poems had first appeared in a 2007 book called The Gathering: City Prayers, City Hopes, curated by artist and educator Jeannine Otis.

The world premiere of Turner and Warwick's collaboration -- "The Gathering / Who Am I?" song cycle -- will be on Saturday, March 30, at 7.30 p .m. at the Hobby Center's Zilkha Hall. It will feature Turner, Paul Boyd (piano), Luke Hubley (percussion), Elise Wagner (bassoon) and others. A second performance is planned for New York City later in the year.

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See Roscoe Mitchell Play a Saxophone for 10 Minutes Straight, Without Breathing, During His Houston Residency

Categories: Concerts, Music

Roscoe Mitchell: An inventor of free jazz skronk.
If you're going to make a career out of playing a not-always-well-received genre of music, one must link with like-minded musicians, says avant-garde woodwind player and Art Ensemble of Chicago member Roscoe Mitchell, who continues to experience financial and artistic success by playing and composing creative, original music.

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Oliver Lake Talks About the Black Artists' Group, His Upcoming TRIO 3 Concert Presented by Nameless Sound

Categories: Concerts, Music

Photo by Richard Conde
TRIO 3: Andrew Cyrile, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman
Before saxophonist Oliver Lake co-founded the overlooked-until-lately Black Artists' Group (BAG), before he appeared on records with Anthony Braxton and Michael Gregory Jackson and helped establish the World Saxophone Quartet, the heavy-hitting jazz musician dealt with the rigors of being a developing unknown, playing informal jam sessions in St. Louis nearly every day with fellow musicians, dancers and filmmakers.

It was worth it, says Lake, and some of the best times in his successful career.

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Tango Master Hector Del Curto Plays iFest

Voted the best bandoneonist (player of a type of small accordion) under 25 in Argentina when he was only 17 years old, Hector del Curto is today a world-class musician. He has played with most of the biggest names in tango, from pianist Osvaldo Pugliese to fellow bandoneonist Astor Piazolla. Representing this year's theme country Argentina, Del Curto's current project Eternal Tango will perform at the Houston International Festival on the Center Stage April 21, 22 and 29. We caught up with the 41-year-old maestro at his home in New York City.

Art Attack: We are always fascinated by people who decide very early on what they want to do, then stick to it and master it.

delcurto quintet.jpg
Hector Del Curto: [Laughs] It was not my decision. I never thought, "I will be a famous tango musician" or anything like that. I started learning guitar when I was five, and switched to bandoneĆ³n when I was 11. But I just liked to make music. The other kids thought I was odd because I would stay in and practice when they were outside playing.

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