Houston Symphony Celebrates Houston's Refugee Communities with RESILIENT SOUNDS

By: May. 02, 2019

Houston Symphony Celebrates Houston's Refugee Communities with RESILIENT SOUNDS

The Houston Symphony and Composer-in-Residence Jimmy López partner with the Rice Shepherd School, the University of Houston (UH) Moores School of Music, and Interfaith Ministries to celebrate the determination and hope of Houston's refugee communities in a project called Resilient Sounds.

Six young composers from the Rice Shepherd School and the UH Moores School are paired with members of Houston's refugee community, so that each composer can tell his/her refugee partner's story through the universal language of music. Under the supervision and mentorship of Houston Symphony Composer-in-Residence López, each young composer is creating a chamber orchestra work that celebrates how Houston derives strength and character from its diverse community members.

"I feel like this is an opportunity," said López. "The need of refugees is very high, and some people don't really know about it. We will be retelling these stories through music, which is an international language. I hope great things will come of it."

Each composer also collaborates with a creative partner whether that be solo voices, writers, poets, dancers, filmmakers?brought on board to help bring these stories to life, resulting in a performance of all six works featuring musicians of the Houston Symphony at White Oak Music Hall on June 11, 2019, leading up to World Refugee Day.

"When I was first called to be composer-in-residence at the Houston Symphony," explained López, "we tried to figure out how to make an impact beyond just performing my music with the orchestra. One of the things we thought of was cooperating with students. I remember being mentored by composers and how important that was to me, so I think there is a sense of responsibility to also share my knowledge, and that is very exciting. We also had this idea of involving the composers even deeper into the community by connecting them with refugees who are Houstonians as well. They are both part of the fabric of this society, but they haven't had any contact with each other. We want diversity, but we also want integration. We are trying to create a tighter network within Houston."

"The Resilient Sounds project helps further the Symphony's mission of relevance and accessibility," said Houston Symphony Executive Director/CEO and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair John Mangum. "A big part of what we try to do at the Houston Symphony is be reflective−in what we're doing artistically−of the diversity and energy of Greater Houston. In terms of accessibility, this is an opportunity for us to bring the orchestra to a different part of the community."

The participating composers are:

Patrick Lenz, whose refugee remains anonymous. His artistic partner is writer Logan Butcher, who is creating narration to be delivered by Muhammad Khaerisman,

Erin Graham, paired with refugee partner Salemu, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her artistic partner is creative writer Stallina Villareal, writing text that Graham is setting to music for soprano Julie Moore to sing,

Alejandro Basulto, whose refugee partner is a self-identified El Salvadoran asylee named Marjori. His artistic partner is choreographer Bethany Garcia, who is performing her own choreography,

Victor Rangel, who is telling the story through music of Syrian refugee Dayana. His artistic partner is filmmaker Erica Cheung,

Kyle Rivera, paired with Congolese refugee Shinga. His artistic partner is author Brendon Stephens, whose prose will be projected during the performance,

Erberk Eryilmaz, whose piece is inspired by music from Syria. His artistic partner is violinist Evie Chen.

For more information about Resilient Sounds, as well as tickets to the performance at White Oak Music Hall on June 11 at 7:30 pm, go to houstonsymphony.org/resilientsounds.

During the 2018-19 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its fifth season with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and continues its second century as one of America's leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $33.9 million, the full-time ensemble of 88 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony's four Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 900 community-based performances each year, reaching hundreds of thousands of people annually in Greater Houston.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Naxos, Koch International Classics, Telarc, RCA Red Seal, Virgin Classics and, most recently, Dutch recording label PENTATONE. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg's Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.

Photo Credit: John Carrithers (Carrithers Studio)


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Sarah Hookey is a two-time published fiction author with a Niagara Falls background but a New York City heart and a love for all things theatre and pop culture. With a Diploma in Journalism (2019... (read more about this author)


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