"The rachenitsa saved my life."
These words, imparted by a concert-goer in York, Pennsylvania during Apollo's 2013 East Coast Tour, came following a performance of Karim Al-Zand’s Fantasy on Bulgarian Rhythms, a work based upon the spirited, irregular rhythms of Balkan dance music. Gail, the concert patron, has a chronic nervous system disease called neurosarcoidosis: she explained to us that during her recuperation from a particularly severe episode, she would listen to rachenitsa dances songs continuously. She credits the music with helping her to cope with and to recover from her ordeal. That evening, she found comfort in our rendition of this new work, connecting in a special and deeply affecting way.
Less than a month earlier, at our Carnegie Hall send-off performance at Rice University, there were over three dozen people of Balkan ethnicity in attendance. These included members, students, and friends of the Houston-area Bulgarian Cultural Center and the folk dance group Bulgarian 'Rose', many of which dressed in traditional clothing for the occasion. A Bulgarian family seated at the very back of the concert hall even munched on take-out pizza during the concert! Of course, this is not encouraged concert etiquette, but it is gratifying to have reached those who may have never before been in a concert hall or experienced a chamber music performance. Our Carnegie Hall debut program on October 11, 2013 attracted one of Apollo's most diverse audiences to date - including dignitaries and families from the Bulgarian and Czech Consulates of New York City, as well as individuals of Basque ancestry.
The above stories exemplify the inspiration behind Apollo's multi-year 20x2020 commissioning project and illustrate our vision for the creation of new music in the 21st century. Owing in large part to the response and success of our first commissioned work, the aforementioned Fantasy on Bulgarian Rhythms - featured on multiple Houston-area concerts and educational programs, during the East Coast Tour, and on Apollo's critically-acclaimed European Folkscapes album - we were inspired to 'think big'. When planning our 2014/15 season, we thought it would be a meaningful goal to premiere a new work at all (four) season concerts; however, over the course of much discussion, we decided to shoot for an idea even more ambitious and far-reaching: to commission 20 new works by the end of the decade. And not just any new music, but new works of art - inspired by ethnic and world music - that have the capacity to touch the lives of countless individuals, students, and children. We feel passionately that new works influenced by folk music traditions provide a gateway to deeper understanding and experience.
20X2020 | 2014/15 SEASON
20x2020 was launched in September 2014 with a new string quartet work by Grammy-winning composer Libby Larsen. The work, Sorrow Song and Jubilee, explores the creative partnership between Czech composer Antonín Dvořák and African-American composer Henry Thacker Burleigh. (Burleigh shared with his mentor Dvořák spirituals, which Dvořák used in many of his most famous works.) Our 2014/15 Ancestral Voices season also sees the creation and premiere of Splash of Indigo by Marty Regan, a work exploring the nexus between Japanese folk music and French Impressionism and a new work by Turkish-born composer Erberk Eryilmaz, the winner of our inaugural International Commissioning Contest. The contest drew an incredible response: 254 submissions from 30 different countries, including representation from 36 US states.
In 2014, Apollo reached 3,300 children and young people in Houston-area schools, including over 1,200 minority students; we look forward to augmenting this engagement in the coming years. Education Director Whitney Bullock and Board Member Janet Harasim, who served HISD for 30 years as an educator, are curating new programs integrating the commissioned works. One such program, Identities in Counterpoint, will illustrate how race and ethnicity can serve as inspiration for creative expression. This program will debut next season and be presented in partnership with Young Audiences Houston.
Kindly consider a tax-deductible gift to 20x2020. Your generous contributions will help Apollo measurably impact the lives of a diversity of individuals and students in the HOUSTON community, around the country and world.