There are so many incredible performance groups here in the Brazos Valley that it takes several months to announce all the new seasons. This week we take a look at one of the premier performance organizations, the Friends of Chamber Music.
For the past 21 season, the Friends of Chamber Music has sponsored the Community Chamber Concerts and the 22nd season promises to be one to remember for a long time.
All the concerts will be in the acoustically brilliant sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church at 1100 Carter Creek Parkway in Bryan.
The four-concert season kicks off Oct. 3 with the Zorá String Quartet, a truly international group with members from Thailand, South Korea, China and Spain.
Dechopol Kowintaweewat, violin; Seula Lee, violin; Pablo Muñoz Salido, viola; and Zizai Ning, cello comprise the Zorá String Quartet.
The quartet has earned a number of awards, including first prize in the 2015 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the Sander Buchman Award, the grand prize and gold medal of the 42nd Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the Coleman-Barstow Prize at the Coleman National Chamber Music Competition in 2015 and four concert prizes: the Friends of Music Concerts Prize in Connecticut, the Hayden's Ferry Chamber Music Series Prize in Arizona the Paramount Theatre Prize in Vermont, and the Vancouver Recital Society Prize.
In the summer of 2015, Zorá String Quartet was a part of Chamber Music Residency at the Banff Centre and Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Zorá String Quartet also participated at the Center for Advanced Quartet Studies of the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 2014 and worked intensively with Earl Carlyss, Takács Quartet, Pacifica Quartet, and the American String Quartet. Zorá String Quartet also performed in master classes for London Haydn Quartet, Keith Robinson, Koichiro Harada, members of Cleveland Quartet, The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma and Noah Bendix-Balgley.
The New York Times raved, "From the first phrase of the opening movement, played by the Zorá String Quartet with rich sound and wistful beauty, I knew this would be an eloquent and probing performance."
The Zorá String Quartet has performed in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, at venues including the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and Duke's Hall at the Royal Academy of Music in England.
The Oct. 3 concert will be at 7 p.m.
• The second concert of the new season will be at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 with the Heinavanker Estonian Vocal Ensemble. Beloved around the world, Heinavanker presents a mix of ancient Estonian runic songs and folk hymns, as well as European early polyphonic music.
Elaine Schmidt in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said, "Singing the entire program a cappella, Heinavanker delivered gorgeous melodies with pure, ringing unisons and beautifully balanced harmonies, colored by free, deftly woven ornaments.
"Contrasting male and female voices and solo voices with the full ensemble sounds, the group presented a constantly shifting tapestry of elegant dynamics, timbres and colors."
Heinavanker is celebrating its 21st year under the direction of composer Margo Kõlar.
• We'll have to wait for the new year for concert number three, but it will be worth the wait. The Quarternaglia Guitar Quartet will be joined by piano virtuoso James Dick on March 1 at 7 p.m. in collaboration with Concerts on Carter Creek.
The March 1 concert will include the world premiere of Sergio Molina's Quintet no. 2 for piano and guitar quartet.
Sidney Molina, Thiago Abdalla, Fabio Ramazzina and Chrystian Dozza comprise the Quarternaglia Guitar Quartet, which was formed in 1992 in São Paulo, Brazil. Its members work closely with Brazilian composers such as Quaternaglia has developed a canon of original pieces and arrangements with the collaboration of a variety of Brazilian composers such as Egberto Gismonti, Leo Brouwer, Sérgio Molina, Almeida Prado, Paulo Bellinati and Marco Pereira
If you have lived in this area and not celebrated a performance by the incredible James Dick, this will be a perfect introduction to his prodigous talent.
• The final concert at 5 p.m. on April 8 will be big, not only in talent but also in the number of musicians performing. The Ars Lyrica Houston will be joined by the Moores School Concert Chorale for the rarely heard Trauerode cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, which was written for the funeral of Christiane Eberhardine of Saxony. Also on the program will be George Frideric Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne of Great Britain.
The concert will feature 28 voices in the chorale, 25 instrumentalists -- including harpsichord, organ, two violas, da gamba and lutes -- and five soloists.
Ars Lyrica Houston, formed in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, specializes in music of the Baroque Era performed on period instruments. Ars Lyrica Houston has been nominated for a Grammy for its sacred and chamber works.
Under the direction of Betsy Cook Weber, the Moores School of Music Concert Chorale earned world championship honors at the Grand Prix of Nations in Magdeburg, Germany, in 2015.
You might expect to pay a premium price for tickets to any of these concerts, but you won't have to. As always, Community Chamber Concerts are presented free of charge. Thanks to grants from the Gilbert and Thyra Plass Arts Foundation, hotel tax grants from the cities of Bryan and College Station through the Arts Council of Brazos Valley and contributions by area music lovers make the free concerts possible. I've said it before: Gilbert and Thyra Plass gave so much to this community while they were alive, and now that they are gone, their generosity continues to enrich us all.
There will be free child care at each concert and the audience is invited to join the artists at a reception after each concert.
Aren't we lucky to be living here in the Brazos Valley?
• Friday and Saturday -- Brazos Bluebonnet Guild's judged quilt show, Brazos Center, vendors, scissor sharpening, raffle baskets. $5. (BBOG.org)
• Through Oct. 1 -- Steel Magnolias, Navasota Theatre Alliance, 104 W. Washington Ave. in downtown Navasota, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. through Sept. 30. Matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 1. There will be a special Thursday performance at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 and an added Saturday matinee on Sept. 30. Tickets are $7 to $14 and are available by calling 936-825-3195 or online at navasotatheatre.org.
• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)