Houston Grand Opera announced today that it has commissioned its newest Song of Houston project, an extended song cycle in celebration of the eightieth anniversary of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Andrea White - noted author and wife of the former Mayor of Houston, the Honorable Bill White- has been invited to create the texts that will be set to music by selected students from the University of Houston Moores School of Music.
For 80 years, the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ has been managed by a growing community of volunteers; nearly 26,000 people annually contribute their time, resources, and talent as part of the world's largest livestock exhibition, world's richest regular-season rodeo, and the Southwest's premier entertainment event. It has brought together cowboys and cowgirls, entertainers, and educators, and has played a notable role in enhancing the lives of thousands of young people in the state of Texas through scholarships and educational programs.
Andrea White will develop her song texts from many hours of in-person interviews conducted with HLSR volunteers and participants. She noted, "The Rodeo is a bridge between the old west and our community today. There are many volunteers who are involved because their families have been involved for generations. I am excited about gathering some of their stories and helping to tell them in song; it honors the traditions of trail riders and cowboys and connects to our community in a special and very contemporary way."
Student participation is central to the project as it reflects the Rodeo's mission as well as Houston Grand Opera's. HGOco Director Sandra Bernhard, who heads the Song of Houston project, stated, "We are pleased and excited that the composition students at the University of Houston Moores School of Music, through its Director David Ashley White and Associate Professor Rob Smith, will bring their talent and skill as composers to this unique project." She added, "We are also very thankful to HLSR's Director of Educational Programs, Catherine Hauck and Scholarship Director, Ashley Corn, who have helped us to connect with all the stories and storytellers at the Rodeo." The new song cycle will be completed over the summer, and HGOco will perform it at Rodeo events in 2013, including Rodeo committee and volunteer gatherings.
Since 2000, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has provided invaluable leadership support and funding for HGOco. Its current FY12 grant of $75,000 supports HGOco's Student Performance Series, Opera to Go!, and Storybook Opera. These programs align with the Rodeo's focus on youth education and literacy and reach over 60,000 students each season. Bernhard said, "Education and youth engagement are important priorities for Houston Grand Opera, and we are deeply grateful for the support from Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. With their help, we are able to deliver innovative and rewarding experiences for all students and teachers involved in the HGOco programs."