'Mekong: SOUL'VIEW EVENT DETAILS
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Friday, February 17, 2023
7 p.m. Artist Talk
7:30 p.m. Performance
Saturday, February 18, 2023
7 p.m. Artist Talk
7:30 p.m. Performance
In their new multi-disciplinary performance piece Mekong: SOUL, Emmy Award-winning musician Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ and composer Jonathan Berger tell three powerful and multi-sensory stories about life on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. Through music, the audience follows a journey along the river and hears the sounds of Vietnamese, Khmer, Thai, Lao, and Burmese communities. Through dance, they see the pains of departure from the homeland, as well as the struggles faced by those torn from the river. Through spoken word and moving images, they appreciate the bonds of the mother who sustains life whether on the river or in diaspora. Joined by artists from Southeast Asia, Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ and Houston’s Apollo Chamber Players present stories about one of this planet's greatest natural phenomena, which sustains not only life, but also mind, body, and soul.
Asia Society Texas is thrilled to present the exclusive, in-progress Houston premiere of Mekong: SOUL, prior to its world premiere at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Artistic Director, Lead Composer, and Performer
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ
Apollo Chamber Players:
Matthew J. Detrick, Founder, Artistic & Executive Director, violin
Anabel Ramirez Detrick, violin
Matthew Dudzik, cello
Molly Wise, viola guest artist
Burmese Harp, Percussion, Vocalist
Su Wai Maria Hliang
About the Artists
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ is one of the finest performers of Vietnamese traditional instruments in the world, and a rapidly emerging composer. She dedicates her life to creating music by blending the wonderfully unique sounds of Vietnamese instruments with other music genres, and fusing deeply rooted Vietnamese musical traditions with fresh new structures and compositions.
Vân-Ánh has been composer, collaborator and guest soloist with the Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Southwest Chamber Music, Oakland Symphony, Monterey Symphony, Golden State Symphony, Apollo Chamber Players, Flyaway Productions for aerial dance works, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, jazz artists, rap artists, and other world music artists. Additionally, she has been co-composer and arranger for the Oscar® nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner for Best Documentary, Daughter from Danang (2002), the Emmy® Awards winning film and soundtrack for Bolinao 52 (2008), and the winner of multiple “Best Documentary” and “Audience Favorite” awards, A Village Called Versailles (2009).
She has presented her music at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center (2012, 2014, 2016), Lincoln Center, NPR, Houston Grand Opera, Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center, UK WOMAD Festival, and London Olympic Games 2012 Music Festival. She has been invited and participated as a screening judge in the World Music category for both the 2015, 2016 & 2018 Grammy® Awards. Under President Obama's administration, Vân-Ánh became the first Vietnamese artist performed at the White House, and received Artist Laureate Award for her contribution to communities through the arts. In addition to the zither (đàn Tranh), Vân-Ánh also performs as soloist on the monochord (đàn Bầu), the bamboo xylophone (đàn T’rung), traditional drums (trống) and many other traditional instruments.
For more information, please visit www.vananhvo.com
Described as “gripping” by both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, “poignant”, “richly evocative” (San Francisco Chronicle), “taut, and hauntingly beautiful” (New York Times), Jonathan Berger’s recent works deal with both consciousness and conscience. His chamber operas, Theotokia and The War Reporter explore hallucination and haunting memories, while his monodrama, My Lai portrays the ethical dilemmas of an individual placed in an impossible situation. His most recent opera, Leonardo traced da Vinci’s search for the soul. In addition to Mekong, the 2021 season will feature the premiere of his opera,The Ritual of Breath is the Rite to Resist, which addresses the murder of Eric Garner. Berger’s string quartets have been performed and recorded by the Kronos, St. Lawrence, Spektral, Arneis, and Jack quartets.
Berger’s “dissonant but supple” (New York Times) compositions are often inspired by science and the human condition, including the adaptation of satellite imaging data to turn the dispersal of an oil spill into music (Jiyeh), spatial representation of brain activations of a schizophrenic hallucination (Theotokia), and sonic expression of the chemical spectroscopy of cancer (Diameters).
Berger is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and the Elliot Carter Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.
Celebrating its 15th season, Houston-based APOLLO CHAMBER PLAYERS “performs with rhythmic flair and virtuosity” (The Strad) and “recasts music for a diverse and multi-ethnic generation” (Strings Magazine). The ensemble’s globally-inspired programming and multicultural new music commissions have garnered international acclaim, including sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall and in Havana, Cuba, a Chamber Music America Residency Partnership award, and regular features on American Public Media’s Performance Today.
Released on the Grammy-winning Azica Records label, Apollo’s With Malice Toward None album reached No. 1 on Amazon’s "Hot New Release" chart, and the ensemble’s catalog of records has been featured on hundreds of radio and media stations worldwide.
A passionate advocate for contemporary music and underrepresented composers, Apollo successfully concluded a bold initiative to commission 20 new multicultural works by the end of the last decade. 20x2020 features a diverse roster of the world’s leading composers and instrumentalists including Jennifer Higdon, Libby Larsen, Pamela Z, Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, Hector del Curto, Vân Ánh Võ, and Tracy Silverman.
The ensemble’s community partners include schools and universities, at-risk youth centers, refugee and veterans service organizations, and public libraries. Apollo was founded in 2008 by violinist and music entrepreneur Matthew J. Detrick.
Doy Charnsupharindr was born and raised in Thailand. He started learning music at the age of nine, and fell in love with the performing arts ever since, from music to singing to acting to dance. As a vocalist, he has performed a wide range of styles--classical, choral, gospel, Broadway, and Polynesian music. While studying at Stanford University, he directed Stanford’s Mixed Company a cappella group and was a Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA) winner. As an actor, he now performs with San Francisco Bay Area theatre companies. His theater credits include “Harold Hill” in The Music Man (PSP), “Mike Masaoka” in Allegiance (CCCT), Miss Saigon, Les Misérables (BBBay),and the world premiere of Conrad Panganiban’s Welga! (Bindlestiff). Offstage, he’s a teacher and a coach specialized in leadership, communication, presentation, and storytelling. He utilizes his training as an actor to help others develop their communication skills and stage presence.
Dr. Alexander M. Cannon is an ethnomusicologist with research expertise in Vietnamese music and creativity studies. He holds a B.A. in music and economics from Pomona College and a Ph.D. in music from the University of Michigan. He currently is Lecturer in Music at the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom), where he teaches classes in ethnomusicology and Asian music studies and supervises M.A. and Ph.D. students. He also serves on the Board of the Society for Asian Music. Since 2007, he has studied Vietnamese traditional music with musicians in central and southern Vietnam, including Nguyen Vinh Bao on the dan tranh (zither) and Tran Minh Duc on the dan sen (plum blossom flower lute). Cannon has published research articles on southern Vietnamese don ca tai tu (music for diversion), musical creativity, and practices of the Vietnamese diaspora in the Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Ethnomusicology, and Asian Music. He expands this work in a forthcoming monograph titled “A Music Without a Name”: Creativity from Seed to Ruin in Southern Vietnam. He contributes to the artistic vision of Mekong by lending expertise on cultural practice inside of Vietnam and among the Vietnamese diaspora.
Charya Burt is an acclaimed master dancer; choreographer, vocalist and teacher of Classical Cambodian Dance who has injected new life into the dance form by creating classically inspired, inventive new works. Her training began shortly after the Khmer Rouge genocide with the foremost surviving dance masters of Cambodia at the Royal University of Fine Arts, serving on the dance faculty there from 1989-1992. As a member of Cambodia’s Royal Dance Troupe, Charya toured nationally and internationally. After emigrating in 1993, Burt has performed throughout the USA, including LA’s Getty Museum, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Opera House and has been featured countless times at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. Her original works have been presented by Jacob’s Pillow Festival, World Arts West, CounterPULSE, San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and many others.
Performing Arts and Culture programs at Asia Society Texas are presented by Syamal and Susmita Poddar. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment, and The Brown Foundation Inc. Generous funding also provided by AARP, The Anchorage Foundation of Texas, The Clayton Fund, The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, and the Wortham Foundation. Additional support provided by the Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and through contributions from the Friends of Asia Society, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing exceptional programming and exhibitions to Asia Society Texas.
Performing Arts and Culture Presenting Sponsors
Syamal and Susmita Poddar
Performing Arts and Culture Program Sponsors
About Asia Society Texas
Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diverse perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating the vibrant diversity of Asia, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Spanning the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community — trusting in the power of art, dialogue, and ideas to combat bias and build a more inclusive society.
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