This weekend, Houston Grand Opera will bust out of its Resilience Theater home and into Discovery Green as artists mezzo-soprano Tahanee Aluwihare and baritone Wesley Landry will sing selections in concert with Hello, Trees!, the interactive exhibit combining light and music and voice along the park’s oak-lined promenade. The exhibit’s archways allow visitors to record their thoughts about life or the trees or, well, anything, and have it echoed back as they walk along the path.
“We are always looking for ways to partner with the community,” says HGOco director Carleen Graham, "and this was a fabulous opportunity to partner with our downtown neighbor and look at how we engage with public art.”
HGOco is the opera company’s outreach arm, long known for bringing the art form into communities across Houston. Whether it’s through performances in schools or working with a group entity to write and premiere operas, HGOco has been committed to meeting people where they are. Through its Song of Houston initiative, HGOco launched Houston Grand Opera’s highly acclaimed premiere, The Refuge, an opera that told the stories of recent immigrant groups to Houston. It also conceived a multiyear effort called Veterans Songbook, creating a series of chamber operas that tell the experiences of Houston’s veterans. Last November’s Glory Denied was part of that effort.
So, while working with its Houston neighbors is part of HGOco’s mission of collaboration and education, this event is a different kind of performance. Houston Grand Opera Studio artists Aluwihare and Landry will sing selections set to music by composer Austin Brake, a UH graduate composition student. Brake selected text representing the 10 most-spoken languages in Houston and set them to music. Audience members are invited to choose a phrase from the menus located at each input station along the Hello, Trees! path. Aluwihare and Landry will then sing the selections as guests proceed through the installation.
Phrases include La unión hace la fuerza (Spanish; from Emmanuel Strauss’ Dictionary of European Proverbs), Một cây làm chẳng nên non - Ba cây chụm lại nên hòn núi cao (Vietnamese; “One tree is nothing. Three trees together can raise a mountain.”), हाथ से हाथ िमलाने से मजबूती। (Hindi; “We grow stronger hand in hand.”), and “Unity is strength” from The Fables of Aesop.
“It’s a very simple idea, but I think it will be profound,” says Graham, who hopes visitors to the exhibit will both consider the meaning of the phrases chosen as well as hear the power of live vocals. “We wanted something that would bring people in, but wouldn’t interfere with the natural flow of the exhibit.”
Harmony of Trees, Feb. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. (rain date Feb. 18 at 6 p.m.) Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. 713-400-7336. More info at discoverygreen.com.