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“Achieving civic stature”


by Jerome Weeks 14 Mar 2008

The Houston Grand Opera has it, says Henry Vogel, CEO of the League of American Orchestras. It means making “the orchestra important to your whole community, not just your main-series audience.” And the HGO did it with The Refuge, a commissioned piece about immigrants coming to Houston from Pakistan, India, Vietnam, Mexico and Central America. […]

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The Houston Grand Opera has it, says Henry Vogel, CEO of the League of American Orchestras. It means making “the orchestra important to your whole community, not just your main-series audience.” And the HGO did it with The Refuge, a commissioned piece about immigrants coming to Houston from Pakistan, India, Vietnam, Mexico and Central America.

The HGO spoke to the mayor, got introductions to the different communities. With the artistic team in place, then they —

mounted multi-disciplinary school-based projects in the communities, involving painting and poetry projects, with those works to be displayed during the performances. The librettist spoke to hundreds of people from the chosen communities and created the text from those conversations, using the words of the participants. The premiere was a success, and now two more performances are scheduled for May in the Miller Theater, an outdoor amphitheater with very large capacity. A recording will be released.

The Refuge struck me as the kind of large-scale project that could be adapted to any community and done by any orchestra, and it’s a model of what the League means by civic stature.

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