The Arts of Intimacy
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06:30 PM

Inspired by Houston Grand Opera’s winter production of La favorite, join us for an evening of lecture, music, art and poetry from 14th c. Castilian culture. Rice University professor Dr. Maya Soifir-Irish will provide context on the history and interfaith relations of the period that will also feature performances by Houston Poet Laureate Leslie Contreras Schwartz, writer and artist Tamara Al-Qaisi-Coleman, soprano Chabrelle Williams, Michael Fares, oud, and Kyle Comer, guitar.


January 16, 2020 – 6:30pm

Brown Auditorium Theater, Law Building
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Free and open to the public



Headshots + bios



Tamara Al Qaisi Coleman, Poet

Creator and former Editor of Shards through the University of Houston, Tamara Al-Qaisi-Coleman is a biracial Muslim writer and artist. She holds dual bachelor’s degrees in English and History. She is the Administrative Coordinator at Writers in the Schools, the Marketing Director of Defunkt Magazine and creator of Brown Girls Book Club. Her interests are Middle Eastern History, culture, linguistics, and biracial identity. She primarily writes from the Arab-American perspective. Her fiction and translation publications can be found or are forthcoming in: Scintilla Magazine,Paper Trains Journal, The Bayou Review: The Women's Issue, and Glass Mountain, Volume 21, Dead Eyes Literary Magazine. Her visual Artistry can be found in Cosumnes River Journal and Sonder Midwest Review.


Dr. Maya Soifer Irish, Lecturer 

Dr. Maya Soifer Irish has received her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University, and is currently an Associate Professor of History at Rice University. Her research focuses on the history of interfaith relations in medieval Spain and the Mediterranean. Her first book, Jews and Christians in Medieval Castile: Tradition, Coexistence, and Change, explores the changes in Jewish-Christian relations in the Iberian kingdom of Castile between the 11th and 14th centuries. She is currently working on a book about power and society in Seville during the century before the anti-Jewish riot of 1391 and serving as President of the American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain (AARHMS). 



Leslie Contreras Schwarts, Poet

Leslie Contreras Schwartz is the fourth Houston Poet Laureate, serving from 2019-2021, and a native Houstonian. She is a multi-genre writer whose third collection of poems, Who Speaks for Us Here, is scheduled for spring 2020 publication with Skull + Wind Press. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Anomaly, The Missouri Review, The Collagist, [PANK], Iowa Review, Verse Daily, and the anthology Xicanx: 21 Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century edited by ire’ne lara silva, (University of Arizona, 2022), among others. She is also the author of Nightbloom & Cenote and Fuego (St. Julian Press, 2018 and 2016). She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor's at Rice University.


Chabrelle Williams, Soprano

Soprano Chabrelle Williams is a three-time District winner of the New York Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and an avid arts advocate. Chabrelle most recently sang the soprano solo in Verdi's Requiem with Citymusic Cleveland and is also an alumnus of the Holland Community Opera Fellowship program at Opera Omaha. Other recent engagements include her debut with Out of the Box opera as a contestant in their Diva Cage Match series and her debut with the Lincoln Symphony as a guest soloist for their A Night at the Opera concert. Chabrelle has also performed a variety of operatic roles, which include: Sadie Donastrag Griffith/Cousin Blanche in Champion, the title role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Elle in La voix humaine, La Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Marenka in The Bartered Bride, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Pamina in The Magic Flute. 



Kyle Comer, Guitar

Kyle has been a top prizewinner in numerous competitions around the U.S.  He has performed for a wide range of audiences, including a performance in the presence of two former U.S. Presidents.  Kyle has been featured on KUHF’s Front Row promoting Guitar Houston at Jones Hall for the Houston Symphony’s Free Day of Music event.  He has been a featured guest artist and teacher at the Summer Guitar Conservatory, a project of Guitar Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free guitar education opportunities for students throughout Houston.  Kyle was one of Da Camera’s "Young Artists" for the 2016 through 2018 seasons. 



Michael Fares, Oud

Aside from being a musician and lover of the oud, Michael Fares is an Instructional Assistant Professor of Arabic at University of Houston where he has been teaching Arabic language since 2012. He always looks forward to any opportunities to share the oud and its repertoire in celebration of Arabic heritage and culture.