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Meet Yvonne Smith of La Speranza in Midtown and the Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yvonne Smith.

Yvonne, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
La Speranza is a group of string and wind players that bring chamber music performances on period instruments of repertoire spanning from the Baroque to early Romantic eras. Named after the Italian word for “hope”, La Speranza seeks to promote physical and emotional healing through their historically informed performances in Houston communities.

La Speranza began in 2016 out of a love for the unique experience of playing chamber music on period instruments coupled with my passion for promoting physical and emotional wellness through music. Period instruments refer to the instruments on which composers like Bach or Mozart who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries, would have heard their music performed. Stringed instruments from the 17th and 18th centuries had warmer-sounding gut strings instead of today’s steel strings and were tuned lower. Wind instruments were built with less keys and different materials, giving them a more mellow, intimate sound, and harpsichords and fortepianos of the 17th and 18th century have a much different response than today’s grand piano. Performing on instruments (or very close copies) from that time period gives us a different perspective on how the music would have been performed which we love sharing with our audiences. The special sound of these instruments also helps us illuminate the connection between music and wellness, as audiences comment on the instruments’ relaxing, intimate timbres.

La Speranza started out with giving small concerts in and around Houston at different private homes, support groups, retirement communities, and hospitals. Now in our third full season, La Speranza presents four concerts a year as part of a concert series at First Lutheran Church in Midtown, as well as several free concerts in the Glazier and Fonteno Senior Education Centers. In January 2018, we began monthly performances in Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. Each of our musicians, tied to Houston by work or residence, have made historically informed performance practice (HIPP) a focus of their careers and are active performers in the United States and Europe.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Even though Houston has a thriving arts scene, one of the challenges, as with any new arts organization, has been bringing in audience members and donors so that one can apply for grants. There are so many concerts for music lovers to choose from (an amazing “problem” to have!) that it can take a couple of seasons for new groups, ours included, to build a base of followers and donors. However, now we are grateful to have a loyal, enthusiastic audience and fantastic board members. Some of the other groups I perform with, like Ars Lyrica Houston, have also helped promote La Speranza and we are extremely appreciative! We have also received grants from Houston Arts Alliance.

La Speranza – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
La Speranza adds a unique element to Houston’s up-and-coming HIPP (historically informed performance practice) music scene by being its only strings-based chamber music group. Groups that specialize in HIPP study treatises and other historical documents and perform on period instruments with the goal of presenting their audiences with close to what the composer would have had in mind.

La Speranza utilizes a core group of string players (Joanna Becker on violin, myself on viola, and Fran Koiner on cello) and adds other string players, wind players, and keyboard players for each concert based on the repertoire for that performance.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career is hard to choose because I am so grateful to work with such amazing colleagues that make every performance an incredibly delightful experience. However, if I had to choose one moment, it would be the week I was able to spend at the Smithsonian Museum in January 2020 playing and performing Haydn string quartets on Stradivarius, Gagliano, and Amati violas (all famous Italian makers). It has been so rewarding to take that unbelievable experience back to my work with La Speranza.

Contact Info:

  • Address: La Speranza c/o Fresh Arts
    1502 Sawyer Street, Suite 103
    Houston TX 77007
  • Website: www.la-speranza.com
  • Phone: 443-847-6136
  • Email: lasperanzahouston@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @lasperanzahouston
  • Facebook: /lasperanzamusic
  • Twitter: /lasperanzahou

Image Credit:
Kelly Hearn

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