The Legend of Big Bend Brings West Texas to Discovery Green

A Prairie Home Companion with a Texas twist, this program from Indie classical group Montopolis tells the stories and myths of our rugged state.

By Holly Beretto September 20, 2019

West Texas is a place of contrasts, where open skies melt into desert vistas, train whistles moan into the dark Lone Star night, the hipster haven of Marfa snuggles up to rugged mountains, and where brushland slopes into the meandering Rio Grande. And at its heart lies Big Bend National Park.

Big Bend’s craggy canyons and high peaks are the stuff of legend. That breathtaking beauty, combined with Texas’s love of being the star of its own story come together in an evening of music, spoken word, and adventure as Discovery Green hosts "The Legend of Big Bend" tomorrow night. Indie classical group Montopolis leads the multimedia concert.

“We tell stories about the Texas Rangers, Native American legends, ghost stories, alien abductions, and myths about the Marfa Lights,” says composer Justin Sherburn, who leads Montopolis. “One of my favorites concerns the Kilpatrick train robbery, a heroic tale of a foiled train robbery in West Texas.”

Sherburn wanted to encapsulate those stories. "The Legend of Big Bend" is the group’s third piece about places in Texas. Montopolis started out as an orchestra that performed original scores to silent films. When filmmakers began asking the ensemble to perform with their contemporary films, Sherburn says the group began by scoring documentaries about Texas. Montopolis’s previous shows feature the San Marcos River and Enchanted Rock.

“The Big Bend is an iconic and epic landscape that reminds you just how trivial our day-to-day troubles are,” says Sherburn. “It has a timelessness that can give you a new perspective on how you see the world. It is a very isolated place, and folks that have made the pilgrimage to experience it feel like they belong to an exclusive club of adventurers.”

Sherburn thinks audiences will feel the full scope of the Big Bend in the performance, which incorporates science, history, poetry and personal stories into music, all accompanied by video footage of the vast high desert wilderness.   

“I also love collaborating with so many terrific artists,” he says. “The band has some of the best country, rock, and classical musicians from Austin. The filmmakers have not only captured Big Bend's beauty, but also have created an artistic journey through the region that is really fun.”

Sherburn says the concert is the first one with the group’s new actor, and he says the team has had a blast developing the script for the evening.

“Our narrator has become a bit like a west Texas version of Garrison Keillor's character from A Prairie Home Companion,” Sherburn explains. “He's a hoot.”

Sherburn enjoys seeing how audiences react to Montopolis’s offerings, which be believes are completely different from other classical and live music performances, given the multimedia parts they incorporate—and Montopolis isn’t finished with stories of Texas. Sherburn says the group’s latest show is about the Texas Gulf Coast. Look for it in the Bayou City next spring.

September 21, free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. 713-400-7336. More info at discoverygreen.com

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