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Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is the local nonprofit arts and culture agency that enhances the city’s quality of life through advancing and investing in the arts and diverse cultural programming. The work of HAA encourages Houston’s development and shapes its global reputation by fostering tourism and supporting and promoting the city’s creative economy.

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Houston Arts Alliance’s Folklife + Civic Engagement program identifies and honors the artistic and cultural traditions of the city’s tremendously diverse and various communities and works to address the needs of all residents through engagement, citizen-driven initiatives, and equitable community outcomes. The Folklife program has been in existence since 2010. The addition of Civic Engagement to its portfolio was enacted through an HAA bylaws change in 2016.

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Voices of the Spirit

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Presented in collaboration with Asia Society Texas Center
Houston Arts Alliance Presenting Sponsor: National Endowment for the Arts
Asia Society Presenting Sponsor: Bank of America

Saturday, April 25, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 26, 2015, 3 p.m.
Asia Society Texas Center, Brown Foundation Theatre, 1370 Southmore Blvd.

A concert celebrating devotional music from Houston’s diverse faith communities featuring:

  • The Cortez Family
  • Cantor Daniel Mutlu
  • Chandrakantha and David Courtney
  • Danza Chinelos del Estado de Morelos and Banda Viento Morelense de los Hermanos Campos

While Houston’s diversity has almost become a cliché, the truth of it could not be more apparent as one drives through the city passing churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and the like. The city’s richness is experienced with a sense of immediacy through these architectural icons, but what is most important is what happens inside them and to whom these places of worship lend a spiritual home. And perhaps the most accessible aspect of the varied faith communities that find a home in these institutions throughout the region is the musical traditions they foster.

In a metaphorical sense, the Houston Arts Alliance Folklife + Traditional Arts program has been opening the doors to these sacred places for the last five years by organizing its Voices of the Spirit concert and focusing on entirely new selections of devotional music traditions each year. Presented in the spectacular Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater at Asia Society Texas Center, Voices of the Spirit is an intimate and inspiring exploration that has proved year after year to be immensely popular. Groups as diverse as Mexican devotional dancers share the stage with Jewish cantorial music.

Both performances will feature the same program. Whether through syncopated close harmonies, devotional ragas, classic cantorial song or a vibrant brass band, each tradition voices its unique spirituality through a distinctive musical style with a long history. This fifth year concert will begin with praise music from a cappella gospel ensemble The Cortez Family, followed by Cantor Daniel Mutlu singing repertoire from the Golden Age of American Jewish religious music. The program will continue with David and Chandrakantha Courtney performing Hindustani vocal music accompanied by sitar, tabla, tanpura and esraj. The concert will close with Danza Chinelos del Estado de Morelos and Banda Viento Morelense de los Hermanos Campos, making it the first time a Voices of the Spirit program presents a non-vocal sacred music tradition.

Admission is free and open to the general public with reservations at, limit two per person. For additional requests, please call 713.496.9901. Unclaimed tickets will be released 10 minutes prior to the event.


Voices of the Spirit is made possible by the generosity of the National Endowment for the Arts and Houston Endowment and in partnership with Asia Society Texas Center.


About the Performers


The Cortez Family consists of five siblings who have been singing together for more than two decades. Brought up in their grandfather’s church, Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Acres Homes, this group of brothers and sisters continue a long tradition of gospel music in their family. Zacardi, Erin, Eric, Neesha and Erica began singing when they were three, five, seven and nine, respectively, and all are still singing today — as a group, solo and in several other configurations — in churches throughout Houston. They began as an a capella group and have graduated to a variety of styles. For this performance, they return to their roots with rousing renditions from older repertoire popular in traditional African American sacred music.


Cantor Mutlu is a first generation American born to Turkish parents. Raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, Cantor Mutlu fell in love with music during high school and went on to attend the New England Conservatory of Music. After serving as a cantorial soloist at Temple Emanuel of Worcester, Cantor Mutlu pursued a Master’s Degree in Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. In 2011, Cantor Mutlu was called to Houston and joined Beth Israel’s senior clergy as only the second full-time Cantor in the congregation’s 160-year history.


Cantor Mutlu has performed with many premier musical ensembles. He has sung at venues ranging from Lincoln Center to Minute Maid Park. Cantor Mutlu has had the pleasure of working with such notable conductors as Jane Glover, Simon Carington, Andrew Megill and Owen Burdick, under whose baton he earned two glowing musical reviews from The New York Times. An avid composer, Cantor Mutlu has premiered original works in Boston, Jerusalem, New York and Houston.


Chandrakantha and David Courtney are a husband-and-wife team who have been involved in Indian music for decades.  Based in Houston, they have taught and performed worldwide. They have produced recordings of and authored books on Hindustani and other Indian musical traditions.  


David Courtney has been performing on the tabla since 1972.  He first studied pakhawaj (an ancient barrel shaped drum) under the famous Zakir Hussain at the Ali Akbar College of Music.  He then moved to India and spent a number of years learning tabla under the late Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan of Hyderabad.  He is also well versed in dilruba, and esraj. They are both prolific performers, producers, composers and authors. They are joined for this performance by Neha Gupta on vocal and tanpura and Masood Raoofi on tabla.


Danza Chinelos del Estado de Morelos and Banda Viento Morelense de los Hermanos Campos perform together on various occasions throughout the year, but especially so during the early December days that surround the feast day for the Virgin of Guadalupe. Both groups are family ensembles that draw on the traditions of southern Mexico from which each family originates. In general, chinelos are a troupe of colorfully costumed dancers that reveal a blending of indigenous and Catholic traditions. Their outfits spoof the fancy Europeanized manners of the Mexican elite, while simultaneously bearing beloved images of venerated holy personages from the Catholic world. They “dance” their devotion to these images. Danza Chinelos del Estado de Morelos has roots in the state where the contemporary chinelos tradition is most prominent.


Banda Viento Morelense de los Hermanos Campos plays a style of music popular throughout Mexico and based initially on the village brass bands that can be found throughout Southern and Central Mexico. They brought the music to Houston from their native Morelos and now perform regularly around the region, with and without the chinelos. The two groups have been performing together for over fifteen years. Their special bond involves a shared repertoire of dance steps accompanied by a distinctive set of instrumental pieces that are traditionally associated with each other. The Hermanos Campos are the only banda in the Houston area that know these tunes. They all consider it a lucky coincidence and a heavenly blessing.

July 16
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