part One of a two-part series.

Misha Penton. photo credit: Kerry Beyer

I’ve been extremely lucky in my brief, post-grad school months. Right out of the chute, I’ve had several extraordinary musical opportunities essentially fall into my lap. Being that this seems like a rather unusual occurrence of coincidences for a young composer such as myself, I’m devoting two separate posts to two of the projects that I am currently involved with here in Houston. For those who might not be aware of some of the happenings in Houston’s music scene, there are some great things happening in the classical community. My posts are going to focus primarily on two of these things: Divergence Vocal Theater and Scordatura Music Society. This first post will be about DVT.

I’ve linked to the Divergence Vocal Theater website above. For any Houston musicians who haven’t heard of Misha Penton and DVT, I strongly advise you to cease all other activity and head on over to her site right this instant. Misha, a singer and entrepreneur, is definitely one of the freshest creative forces in Houston, in that she has not only founded her own opera/mutli-disciplinary company (Divergence Vocal Theater), but has also created one of the coolest new venues in town (Divergence Music & Arts) wherein a multitude of artists and performers throw down, located at Spring Street Studios in Houston’s cultural arts district. Her artistic focus with Divergence Vocal Theater centers around the creation of new music, particularly chamber opera. Having collaborated with composers such as Elliot Cooper Cole and Dominick DiOrio, Penton has quickly become a local favorite amongst many of us in the Houston-based composer community. DiOrio, by the way, just recently won Houston Press’ Best Composer award for his collaboration with Misha on the opera-dance-theater piece Klytemnestra. Misha’s attitude towards creating new art through building and developing a community of artists and musicians embodies exactly what is needed in a city as diverse and musically fractured as Houston.

The venue is easily one of the more interesting performance spaces in Houston. Situated in the corner of a large interdisciplinary arts complex, Divergence Music and Arts provides an atmosphere that is immediately intimate and engaging for both the audience and the performers. Complete with an acoustically treated 20 foot ceiling, wood floors, and the complete lack of a raised stage, the space invites audience members to receive an up close and personal experience that puts themselves at arm’s length from the performers. While most patrons park their rears in standard “chairs,” Divergence also offers the option to put one’s self right in the thick of it all on cozy and stylishly arranged pillows “down in front.” To boot, I have been amazed at the clarity of sound at this venue. Not one note was lost at a recent premiere of the Houston Heights Orchestra, who gave their inaugural performance in the space.

The project that I am involved with will be an upcoming Autumn Soirée, which will feature vocal and instrumental music spanning the 19th-21st centuries, dance, puppetry, poetry, and theater. Being an autumnal theme in October, there will be much reference to spooks, specters, and decapitation. My roll has been to create music that more or less provides continuity throughout the evening. The instrumentation for this feat, as I have mentioned in a previous post, is electric guitar, piano, and tabla. My initial thought when proposed the idea to compose some music for the evening was something like, “what the hell do you write for THIS group that could possibly hold this thing together?” I of course welcomed the challenge with open arms. The thought of juxtaposing electric guitar and tabla with 19th Century French art song is just way too good to pass up. The performers for the evening include: singers Misha Penton and Alison Greene, dancer Meg Brooker, puppeteer Kelly Switzer, actor Jon Harvey, pianist Jeremy Wood, tabla player Mini Timmaraju, and myself on electric guitar. Heads will roll!

Please spread the word:

October 14th and 15th, 2011

8pm – $20 @ Divergence Music & Arts

1824 Spring St.

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