Ars Lyrica Houston, Bach Society Houston, Houston Early Music and Mercury - The Orchestra Redefined will host the Second Annual Houston Early Music Festival (HEMF) from February 8-16, 2014 at venues across the city. The festival will feature four main-stage performances, two ancillary performances and four lectures.Seeking to capitalize on the local growth of early music programming and period-instrument expertise, HEMF is an international platform for showcasing Houston’s growing talent pool and flourishing early music organizations. A longtime goal of Artistic Directors Matthew Dirst (ALH) and Antoine Plante (MO), the success of the initial HEMF in March 2013 encouraged partner organizations to expand into an entire week’s worth of activities in February 2014.Featured HEMF soloists include a number of local and international early-music experts and recording artists including Grammy–nominated conductor Matthew Dirst; Dresden music scholar and conductor, Peter Kopp; Texas-based vocalists Meredith Ruduski, Randall Umstead and Timothy Jones; Canadian soprano Meghan Lindsay; internationally renowned countertenors John Holiday, Jay Carter, and Ryland Angel; British harpsichordist Richard Egarr; and the UK-based ensemble Orlando Consort.The combined efforts of four distinctive and innovative early music organizations will provide an excellent educational platform and multiple opportunities to bring greater awareness to Houston’s extraordinarily diverse and robust arts scene.Houston Early Music presents Houston Early Music: The Orlando Consort - Forward to the Past: 25 Years of the Orlando Consort (25th Anniversary Tour Concert: Vocal works from the 13th – 15th centuries), Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:30pm at Zilkha Hall, The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts 800 Bagby Houston, Texas 77002.The Orlando Consort (pictured) anniversary celebration begins with the chansons from Guillaume de Machaut’s master work, Le Voir Dit - a story of the extraordinary epistolary exchange between the aging poet and his young female admirer, Peronne.Next, the British male vocal quartet offers up an indulgent review of the Consort’s favorite fifteenth-century composers. Featuring some of the finest examples of late medieval composition, the group showcases the sacred works of Dunstaple, Ockeghem, Compère, Josquin and many others featured in their extensive recordings.Enjoy an evening of captivating entertainment and fresh scholarly insight. The unique imagination and originality of their programming combined with their superb vocal skills has marked The Orlando Consort one of Britain’s most important chamber music ensembles.Houston Early Music continues its commitment to its Emerging Artists Series and Hispanic Heritage Series this season. Each performance features a discussion program with ensemble members prior, as part of Houston Early Music’s educational outreach initiative.Nancy Ellis, artistic director, said that the new season continues the group’s mission of bringing world-renowned early music performances to the Bayou City. “By illuminating and showcasing the centuries of rarely heard music from the Middle Ages through the 18th century, we provide a unique musical perspective for modern Houston audiences,” Ellis said. “The sounds may be of ancient origins, but their ability to inspire and transport audiences remains powerful and timeless.”WHAT IS EARLY MUSIC?Early Music is music from the mid-18th century and before, music from the Baroque, Renaissance and Middle Ages. From the Gregorian chant to Bach’s organ works, Handel’s operas, and Vivaldi’s concertos, it is the most beautiful and exciting music from our Western heritage. Early music experts strive to revive forgotten masterpieces of past eras and give us a glimpse of how this music was performed: "what are those angels singing and playing in medieval paintings…what did queen Elizabeth I dance to, what entertained Louis XIV at dinner?" (Forrest Kelly, Thomas. Early Music: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.)Early music is performed on historical period instruments (or their replicas) because they produce livelier and more authentic sounds than their modern equivalents.