ROCO: Connecting Cultures Through Music

6 Oct

roco orchestra

By ALECIA LAWYER, Artistic Director

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind,” he might have been talking about Houston’s own River Oaks Chamber Orchestra.  Well, OK, the timing’s not right for him to have been talking about ROCO, but the idea is the same.  Through unique programming and unexpected collaborations, ROCO fulfills its mission of “creating personal relationships through the language of music.”   

Now entering its fifth season, ROCO’s opening concert  this coming Saturday  features a timely focus on music from Iranian composer, Bezhad Ranjbaran, and presents artist/photographer, Soody Sharfi, who will be exhibiting her series, “Maxiatures and Persian Delights” at the reception after the concert.   This concert is also in celebration of Daniel Pearl’s World Music Days that is a worldwide celebration of every genre of music.  Also on the program:  ROCO’s own concertmaster, Brian Lewis will perform the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in e Minor, and ROCO welcomes back guest conductor Joel Smirnoff, former Juilliard String Quartet violinist and now President of Cleveland Institute of Music. 

This season, ROCO’s programming has a particular emphasis on using music as a language that connects multiple cultures.   The first concert features music and art from Iran.  In late October, ROCO will partner with Inprint, Musiqa, Lawndale Art Center, and the Mexican Consulate to present a Musical Ofrenda chamber concert in celebration of Dia de los Muertos.   ROCO’s February concert will include a piece by composer, Chen Yi, in celebration of the Chinese New Year.   And in April, ROCO will present a bi-lingual (English and Spanish) performance of Peter and the Wolf at The Children’s Museum.  Through these programs and collaborations, ROCO hopes to use musical communication to increase appreciation and respect for different cultures. 

The ROCO Experience

Cultural programming is not the only thing about ROCO that’s different.  The ROCO experience is unique among concert performances in that ROCO musicians are quite visibly enjoying themselves onstage and while visiting with audience members during intermission and after the concert.  They are a joyful bunch of professional musicians who come together from all over the U.S. and Canada to perform together as ROCO.  They have no permanent conductor, and their concert program includes pronunciation guides, kids’ games, and detailed write-ups about the music and composers.  The result is an innovative chamber orchestra of all-star musicians, distinguished conductors, and famous composers who present unexpected classics, original compositions, and delightful performances.  

There are many ways to ROCO

ROCO dissolves the barriers between audience and orchestra through a range of musical encounters: 

  • ROCO in Concert – The full 40-piece orchestra in performance.  ROCO presents three or four main concerts each season.
  • ROCOrooters – An innovative music education/childcare program for kids 10 and under that runs during and after Saturday concerts.  ROCOrooters has been called “one of the most innovative programs in the nation.” 
  • ROCO in Recital – A new series called “Dowling Music Presents ROCO in The Recital Room” presents ROCO musicians in solo concerts on Sunday afternoons at the newly-built Dowling Music store.  Admission is free and families are welcome.  Although just launched, this program is proving popular with music teachers and students as well as music aficionados. 
  • ROCOco – “Music tasting” events are held in in wine cellars and tasting rooms.  They pair individual ROCO musicians with wine and food in a lively, interactive evening of fun.  This year, for the first time, ROCO presented a “Beer and Brass” music tasting at St. Arnold Brewery.
  • ROCO Music Among Friends – ROCO continues the tradition of small ensembles in intimate environments through chamber concerts and collaborations with other arts and community organizations.   Programs include master classes at HSPVA, a Musical Ofrenda celebration of Dia de los Muertos in partnership with Lawndale Art Center, Musiqa, and Inprint, and a bilingual performance of Peter and the Wolf at The Children’s Museum.  
  • ROCO performances almost always include surprise pieces not listed in the program, and members of the audience are invited to sit inside the orchestra during main concerts.   Small wonder that audience members form deep attachments to the orchestra; some of them even “adopt” musicians through chair sponsorship and by housing musicians who travel to Houston for performances.    

ROCO Season Opener 

Haydn, Miracle Symphony No. 96
Ginastera Variaciones Concertantes for Chamber Orchestra
Mendelssohn Violin concerto in E Minor, featuring soloist, Brian Lewis
Ranjbaran Awakening for Strings – Dr. Ranjbaran will introduce the piece
Saturday, October 10, 2009, 5:00 p.m.
The Church of St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Blvd. Houston TX 77019

With ROCOrooters music education/childcare program.  (Reservations required.)

Tickets are $25 general admission, $10 for students.  (No discounts at the door.) 

Sunday, October 11, 2009, 7pm

Chapelwood United Methodist Church, 11140 Greenbay Drive, Houston, TX 77024.

Evans Arts Series — Admission is free.


One Response to “ROCO: Connecting Cultures Through Music”

  1. John Roco February 28, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    Now, what are the chances, that a Houston, Texas born fella named “John Roco” is running for the U.S. Senate Hawaii, with favorite song as an art song of, “the Vagabond,” and favorite music in the classical genre in the likes of Beethoven’s Choral symphony and Verdi’s Requiem. Just paying heed and respect to my birth and baptismal place. I was born at St. Joseph’s in Houston, TX when my father was doing his residency there; he was a surgical intern from the Philippines. If not for the hospitality and priviledge of being accepted as an intern at St. Joseph’s in Houston, TX, I’d not be running for U.S. Senate Hawaii. Thank you, Houston, and go – ROCO – River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. Keep the music going; if I win I hope to see you perform.


    John Roco, Republican Candidate for the United States Senate Hawaii

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