That person is Matthew Detrick, and the group he founded is Apollo Chamber Players. The group will wrap up its 15th year anniversary with We Will Sing One Song at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13 at Rice University’s Stude Hall. On the program are the live world premiere of the titular program title, Armenian and Greek Rembetika folk songs, and the same Bach piece that started it all.
“I think this shows the programmatic arc of Apollo the last 15 years…how we started, where we’ve been, and the journey to where we are now,” Apollo Founder Detrick said.
His assessment rings true. When Detrick was teaching music lessons as a recent graduate, one of his students wanted to hear Bach’s Chaconne live and offered to underwrite the concert if Detrick could bring it to fruition.
Detrick did, and he said the performance welcomed a decent crowd. That sparked an idea to create a concert series, which was the inception of Apollo.
Originally, Detrick played a solo during Bach’s work for Apollo’s first performance. This weekend, Apollo has punched up the performance, with a little help from frequent partner Mark Buller, by including a reading of Scottish poet Euan Tait’s ten-word poem while joined by vocalists from Houston Chamber Choir: Wayne Ashley, Rameen Chaharbaghi, Ryan Stickney and Emily Wolfe.
Apollo’s gravitation toward multicultural music started becoming more of an emphasis throughout the group’s 15 years, but Detrick suggests his interest in world music has always been present.
“I’ve always wanted to play different genres of music. I grew up in a family of musicians. That was always a part of my musical heritage,” he said. “I attended a very classically-oriented conservatory at Rice, and at the same time, I was reading about how Houston was becoming a multicultural city. I thought that was something that we could do to differentiate ourselves from other organizations…to find our niche.”
He stuck to that instinct. The organization has been recognized by industry peers for recasting music for a diverse and multi-ethnic generation through globally-inspired programming and multicultural new music commissions.
It continues that tradition with this weekend’s series of Armenian and Greek Rembetika folk songs – a nod to the heritage of the first concert’s underwriter – with special guests, the Olympian Dancers of Houston.
The final piece, “We Will Sing One Song”, is an Armenian fantasia written by Eve Beglarian. It originally premiered online as part of the groups 20X2020 initiative and is included on Apollo’s 2021 album With Malice Toward None. This weekend will premiere the piece with a live audience with all musicians in one room – including renowned musicians Arsen Pertrosyan on the duduk (an instrument that resembles a clarinet) and Pejman Hadadi on percussion.
“I wanted to do this particular performance at Stude Hall. Even though it’s rather large and less of a chamber music setting, the acoustics are fantastic. The duduk in particular will shine in that space,” he added. “The audience is going to hear many different sonic soundscapes.”
Beglarian’s concept was inspired by Armenian-American writer William Saroyan. He wrote about the experience of longing for his homeland while living in the United States, Detrick explained, and Belgarian juxtaposed that with a young African American boy at the back of the train in her piece.
Between the dudek’s yearning, soulful quality and the glissandi effect of sliding between the notes, the audience will exhibit rapt attention at the storytelling quality of the instruments and the composition.
With 15 years soon to be under its belt, Apollo Chamber Players and Detrick look to the future. He said, “We’ll continue mixing different genres and cultures as well as keeping the Western tradition alive in different contexts.”
Apollo Chamber Players ‘We Shall Sing As One’ takes place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13 at Rice University’s Stude Hall, 6100 Main. For tickets or information, call 832-496-9943 or visit apollochamberplayers.org. $40.