Mercury Celebrates A MEXICAN BAROQUE CHRISTMASJoin Mercury for a joyful celebration of music in the New World in A MEXICAN BAROQUE CHRISTMAS, curated by Artistic Director Antoine Plante, November 26 to December 3 at venues around Houston. Mexico in the 17th century was a time of great cultural and musical diversity, producing music infused with festive indigenous rhythms and dances. This family-friendly holiday concert, a part of Mercury's Neighborhood Series, features four vocalists, percussion and strings performing the works of Mexican Baroque composers Salazar, Murcia, Padilla, Sumaya and more.


Hannah Celeste Lu (soprano) received her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Rice University and her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her favorite opera roles include Gretel, Calisto, Pamina, Adina, and Anicia Eritea in the U.S. premiere of Cavalli's ELIOGABALO with the Aspen Music Festival. For her work in ELIOGABALO, Opera News Magazine wrote that her "pliable, floating voice was ideal for the role of Eritea." She loves concert work, and has been soprano soloist multiple times with the South Dakota Symphony, as well as Houston's Masterworks Chorus, the Houston Chamber Choir, and Cantare Houston. Hannah was the soprano in HGO's educational outreach program, "Opera to Go," for four seasons. She has been a member of the HGO Chorus for seven seasons and was a member of the Houston Chamber Choir for four seasons.

An early music enthusiast, Cecilia Duarte (alto) often performs with the Bach Society of Houston, Ars Lyrica Houston, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Festivalensemble in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Festival de Música Barroca de San Miguel de Allende, México. Her latest appearances include Isabella (RAPPACCINI'S DAUGHTER) with University of Houston; Daniel (Handel's SUSANNA) with Ars Lyrica Houston, Zerlina (DON GIOVANNI) with Opera in the Heights; Jessie Lydell (A COFFIN IN EGYPT) with Houston Grand Opera and the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills, CA; and the creation of Harriet/First Responder in HGO's world premiere of AFTER THE STORM. Cecilia created the role of Renata in Houston Grand Opera's world premiere of CRUZAR LA CARA DE LA LUNA, the first opera with mariachi music, and has toured with it at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Diego Opera and Arizona Opera. She lives in Houston, where she is also active in the contemporary music circle, performing and collaborating with composers and premiering their works. Future performances include Renata in CRUZAR LA CARA DE LA LUNA at the Fort Worth Opera.

Mark Thomas (tenor) is from the great state of Texas. In the 2015-2016 season he made his Houston Grand Opera debut as Isaiah in the world premiere of David Hanlon's AFTER THE STORM, and sang the roles des Grieux in Massenet's MANON, Ruggero in Puccini's LA RONDINE and Konstantin Levin in David Carlson's ANNA KARENINA with the Moores Opera Center. He also won the Houston District of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and received a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Houston. In previous seasons, Mark sang twelve productions with the Minnesota Opera including the world premiere of Kevin Puts' Pulitzer Prize-winning opera SILENT NIGHT. He has also performed with HGOco's Opera to Go!, and took part in HGO's workshop of Carlisle Floyd's THE PRINCE OF PLAYERS.

Andrew Gilstrap (bass-baritone) hails from sunny Nashville and has lived in Houston since 2012. He recently began his Master's degree in Opera and Vocal Pedagogy at the University of Houston. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance, also from the University of Houston. Andrew's recent performances include Alexei Karenin in the university premiere of David Carlson's ANNA KARENINA, Guglielmo in Mozart's COSI FAN TUTTE, and Sir Marmaduke Poindextre in Gilbert and Sullivan's THE SORCERER. He is very excited to make his concert debut with Mercury.

Jesús Pacheco (percussion) obtained his Bachelor Degree in Percussion from the Superior Conservatory in Seville, Spain. Soon after he was part of the Andalusian Youth Orchestra, as well as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, under the baton of Michael Thomas and Daniel Baremboim respectively, for several years. A versatile percussionist, he performed with the Festival Ensemble in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Bach Collegium (Stuttgart Bachakademie) under the direction of Helmut Rilling, touring through Europe and China. He arrived to Houston in 2012, where he is a prolific performer and music educator. A versatile percussionist, he has already performed with many ensembles and companies in town such as the Bach Society Houston, Mercury, Ars Lyrica Houston, Octave Illusion, the Latin American Philharmonic Orchestra, and Houston Brass Band, among others. Jesús is the current Assistant Band Director at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston while maintaining an active life as a performer.


Founded in 2000, Mercury has a mission to serve the community by celebrating the power of music, Baroque and beyond, teaching, sharing and performing with passion, intimacy and excellence. The orchestra offers performances of a broad repertoire of music on period instruments and has garnered critical acclaim around the world through innovative and accessible performances, domestic and international tours, and award-winning music education programs.

Mercury's Neighborhood Series brings casual, affordable and intimate performances to four Houston neighborhoods - Memorial, Museum District, Midtown, Memorial and The Woodlands. Freeing classical music from the formal concert hall, Mercury performs in unique small venues, ranging from Dosey Doe's 165-year-old honky-tonk barn to MFAH's Baroque gallery, where audiences sit amongst masterpieces of the 17th century. These hour-long performances are family-friendly and accessible.


Mercury musicians perform on period instruments similar in style and sound to those used by composers of the Baroque, Classical, and early Romantic periods. Differences between modern and period instruments can be seen in the string section where players use gut rather than steel strings and often utilize a Baroque bow that is shorter and more curved than a modern bow. Brass instruments have no valves and are more modest in shape than their modern equivalents, and the timpani drums utilize leather skins rather than synthetic heads. Perhaps the most recognizable differences can be seen in the woodwind section; these instruments have fewer keys and are actually crafted from wood as opposed to metal or plastic like many modern instruments. Mercury chooses to perform with period instruments to create a distinctive and exciting sound, true to the composer's intent. Mercury musicians also perform standing to better express the passion and vitality of the music. All of this provides a singular listening experience for our audience.

Experience a holiday event unlike any other, with music from the cathedrals of Puebla and Mexico City, on November 26 at 7 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; November 27 at 7 p.m., Dosey Doe's Big Barn; December 1 at 8 p.m.; The MATCH; and December 3 at 2:30 p.m., Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit or call 713-533-0080.

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