Houston Grand Opera Pays Tribute To The Workers Along The Ship Channel

“On This Muddy Water” features seven songs that paint a portrait of the industrial waterway and those most closely connected to it.


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The Houston Grand Opera on Wednesday presents the world premiere of a set of songs that celebrate the centennial of the Houston Ship Channel. And the lyrics are focus on much more than just the waterway.

The work is titled “On This Muddy Water,” with music by D.J. Sparr and words by Janine Joseph. It features seven songs that paint a portrait of the Houston Ship Channel using the words of those most closely connected to it.

The Houston Ship Channel.

Brittany Duncan is programs director for HGOco, the opera company’s community collaboration initiative.

“The song cycle is based on hours and hours of interviews done through the folklife department at the Houston Arts Alliance,” Duncan said. “And they’re interviews with people who work on the Ship Channel in all different capacities: boatmen, longshoremen, pilots.”

The song texts are not necessarily taken verbatim. Each has been crafted from an amalgam of stories. But, Duncan said, the effect is the same.

“The song cycle is really a portrait of the people who work on the ship channel,” she said.

The new song cycle has been created in conjunction with the Houston Arts Alliance exhibition “Stories of a Workforce” which celebrates the Ship Channel’s 100 years.

“On This Muddy Water” will be presented on three more occasions after the world premiere.

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