Rethinking Strings; Two Star Symphony

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Two Star Symphony
Photo credit Sarah Prikryl

Two Star Symphony is not your average string quartet. The fearless foursome is breaking new ground in reframing the “what, where, and how” of string music. The renegade quartet has charmed audiences at Rudyards, Helios, M2 Gallery, and Super Happy Fun Land. Recently. they opened for Jose Feliciano at a benefit for Texas Children’s Hospital.

Two Star members include Jo Bird (viola/toy piano), Margaret Lejeune (cello/harp), Debra Brown (violin/percussion), and Chenoa Mauthner (violin). Their eclectic training encompasses just about every musical genre. John Duboise, Cathy Power, and Kirk Suddreath join the troupe for special projects.

Two Star writes all of their own music. They function artistically and administratively like a collective. Bird is the PR queen, Brown, the onstage talker, Lejeune, the financial whiz, and newcomer, Mauthner, books their gallery performances.

Known for their collaborations, Two Star has performed with some of Houston most noteworthy artists and troupes. Two-Star composed the music for Dominic Walsh’s Dance Alchemy, which he set on ABT Studio Company in 2004. Two Star traveled to New York to rehearse with Walsh and the company. “Having them in the studio with me almost every day as I created the work was wonderful,” Walsh said. “Not only are they gifted composers and musicians, but the intensity behind their playing has such a palpable energy that I felt we were truly telling the same story through dance and music.”

Two-Star is also a frequent collaborator with Houston’s notorious puppet troupe Bobbindoctrin. “We fell in love with Bobbindoctrin; Joel Orr functions like a muse for my writing,” says Lejeune. So far, they have composed music for first two sections of Danse Macabre and will continue this collaboration this March in part three.

“We write visually. I have a story in my head when I write a piece, which makes our work perfect for film scores,” says Lejeune. “We want to be the next Danny Elfman; he scores Tim Burton’s films. We would love to score The Passion of Joan of Arc or Haxen-an old silent Norwegian film on witchcraft,” say Lejeune. Marian Luntz, Curator of Film and Media at the MFAH, thought Two Star would be a perfect match for UNSEEN CINEMA, a set films surveying American avant-garde films from 1894-1941. “I thought the creativity of Two Star would work well with this particular program and I was totally delighted with what they came up with,” remarks Luntz. “It was imaginative, absolutely appropriate for the different types of films, and completely engaging for the audience.”

Two Star is consistently gathering momentum with audiences often yelling for an encore. “Stringed instruments are sexy,” says Houston Chronicle blogger Sara Cress after attending one of their Helios shows. “I can only tell you that they sound like thunder and violence, Tim Burton, corsets, red fingernails, and just the slightest rays of sweetness, like actual music,” writes Cress.

Bird, Lejeune, and Brown all live together so their 4-times a week rehearsal schedule is convenient. “We’re in a partnership for life. We have all played in other bands but this one just seems right,” says Lejeune. Two Star has built a growing fan base; audiences seem to love what they do. “We get lots of people at our shows because we answer all of our emails.”

Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre and Two Star Symphony present DANSE MACABRE PART III: THE DANCE OF THE DEAD, The Last of Three Puppet-Orchestral Collaborations, on Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 8pm, March 17, 18, 24 and 25 at Talento Bilingue, 333 S. Jensen Drive, Call at 713-526-7434 or visit http://www.bobbindoctrin.org/. You can contact Two Star at twostarsymphony@yahoo.com or visit http://www.twostarsymphony.org/.

Reprinted from artshouston and Spacetaker

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