In My Top 5, we highlight Houstonians shaping the sounds, culture, and flavors of the Bayou City and ask them to reveal their own favorite ways to enjoy Houston when they’re not hard at work. This week we’re pleased to feature Matthew Dirst, artistic director and founder of Ars Lyrica Houston, a chamber ensemble known for its specialization in Baroque music and its innovative programming.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Matthew Dirst
- Going to cultural events – I’m a regular at virtually all the Downtown venues, from the Wortham Center to the House of Blues, and I love the diversity of local arts programming. A Wagner opera one night, a Ru Paul drag show the next, and a new exhibit at the Menil are my idea of a great weekend in Houston.
- Drinking good coffee – Houston is lucky to have so many artisanal coffee houses. My regular haunts include Catalina, Siphon, Blacksmith, and Southside Espresso — but there are many more to choose from!
- Running in Houston’s parks – We live near both Buffalo Bayou and Memorial Park, and I’m a regular user of the running trails in both. Over the years I’ve learned how to run in the humidity and heat; you just get used to sweating a lot!
- Dining out – The diversity and high quality of the local cuisine has made Houston into a serious foodie town. It’s a major selling point for recruiting new colleagues to move here! I’ve had some wonderful meals recently at Xochi, Kitchen 713, and Brasserie 19.
- Getting out of town efficiently – Having lived in cities whose airports are much less convenient, I’ve come to appreciate the convenience of Houston’s major airports. It’s nice to be able to leave the house and be taxiing down the runway, all before breakfast.
About Matthew Dirst
Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director Matthew Dirst is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). In 1998 he founded Ars Lyrica Houston, which presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Opera 2011.