Inside the Houston Symphony

Taking you behind the music–one concert at a time!

Posts Tagged ‘Jones Hall

Who Wants to Live Forever

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On July 22, The Music of Queen will join Houston Symphony for a full rock-band concert experience

So, I was recently asked what my favorite Queen memory is … and I honestly didn’t know the answer.

I’m too young to have experienced the greatness in person, but I’ve reaped the benefits of their immortality.  Most Queen moments in my life include singing at the top of my lungs in the car to Queen’s CD’s or to the classics I have loaded on my iPod.  And if you don’t already know, Queen is great running music.  They’re always my first choice, although my urge to sing along can make this difficult. I usually just end up looking like Chad from Burn After Reading on the treadmill.  Air drums are much easier than trying to sing along in that scenario.

I didn’t really know anything about Queen until I was in high school.  Of course, I knew some of their songs due to various happenings throughout my life, like “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World and “We Are the Champions” through back-to-back Houston Rockets Championship. And I also knew that “Under Pressure” sounded a lot like “Ice Ice Baby” (just as much as I know you die hard fans are cringing right now at that admission).  But I didn’t even know who sang those songs.  My big brother was the one who introduced me to the band, and I’m eternally grateful to him.

The thing I love the most about Queen is how they can relate to my everyday life.  I like to listen to “Fat Bottomed Girls” while running and “Bicycle Race” while riding the bike.  My husband and I like to duet to “Don’t Stop Me Now”  cause we’re “Havin’ a good time, havin’ a good time…”.

Anyway, once I became a Queen fan, I was always impressed how their music has stayed relevant and engaging.  As recently as last year, Queen music has been featured in TV shows, movies and even Broadway.  From Glee (Yes, I’m a proud Gleek) to Lady Gaga (who got the inspiration for her fame name from Queen’s “Radio GaGa”), to Wayne’s World, Moulin Rouge, Shaun of the Dead and Happy Feet. Did I mention they also got their very own Broadway and West End show? Their music is all around us even today.

Why is this the case?  Well, the music is just plain FUN.  It’s also relatable, sing-along-able, iconic and … well, fun.  The other reason it is picked to be in so many movies is because you can pretty much find a Queen song to go into any scenario.  Perhaps I am such a fan because of the theatricality of the group and their music, especially Freddie Mercury.  I feel like I’m in the midst of a BIG SHOW whenever I hear one of their songs.  It makes people (at least it makes me) want to sing and dance and put on lots of eyeliner.

Needless to say, I’m super excited that the Music of Queen is coming to the Houston Symphony.  And as a marketing person all I want to do is project this excitement to other people so they will come see the show.  Luckily, Queen has given us lots of tools to get the word out — what more could a marketing person ask for with songs titles like “The Show Must Go On” and “We Will Rock You” and one-liners like “It’s a kind of magic”?

If you join us on July 22nd at Jones Hall, we can promise a fun, sing-along-able, theatrical and still relevant concert that everyone can enjoy, and “We Will [definitely] Rock You.”  I’m living proof that you don’t have to be of the Queen era to love this music.  It transcends the 70’s and 80’s and lives on today!

So to all you Queen fans, since I was so lame and couldn’t think of just one favorite Queen moment, I want to hear your’s.  Comment and let us know what you remember about growing up with (or getting thrown into) The Music of Queen!


Written by Allison Gilbert

July 1, 2010 at 9:25 am

I Heart Tchaikovsky: A Not-So-Torrid Love Affair

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Have you ever played the game with your friends where you can pick one person, living or dead, to have dinner with and discuss anything you want?  Some people may pick a celebrity – maybe Marilyn Monroe to find out if all the rumors were true, or Justin Bieber to see if his hair moves at all (am I the only person fascinated by this kid’s hair?) Some people may pick a president or other world leader to discuss deep, significant topics.  But I don’t really fit into either category, because I would pick a dead composer to stare at and then giggle like a school girl.

I’ve always loved Tchaikovsky.  I remember watching the TV version of The Nutcracker as a kid, more enthralled with the music than the dancing.  At one point, my sister and I made up a whole dance routine around the music for Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (yes, we still remember how to do it, and no, I won’t perform it in public for anyone).  My high school private lesson teacher, Mrs. Hackney, was the piccolo player for the Houston Ballet, and I remember being so envious that she got to play the amazing piccolo part for the Nutcracker every year.

Once I got to college, I developed a serious crush on this composer.  I was introduced to his concertos and symphonies.  I wrote several papers on his life and musical style.  It is hard for me to explain, but I connect with his work in ways that just do not compare to other composers.  My personal favorite is Symphony No. 4 in F minor.  I can pretty much sing the entire symphony to you, and I’m always trying to find a way to tell someone about this piece.  Before I worked for the Houston Symphony, I was the Education Director for the Akron Symphony Orchestra in Akron, Ohio.  I did a few elementary school presentations and used this piece to demonstrate how you can be inspired by music to create your own story with your imagination.  We listened to the first few minutes of each movement, and then developed our own story based on what we heard.  My favorite was a story that involved a princess who was lost in the woods and had to battle Were-Mice.  In case you do not know what a Were-Mouse is, it is basically a werewolf, but a mouse instead of a wolf.  The teacher loved the whole presentation, and she told me it was a great way to make the students think creatively.  I loved that I had exposed my favorite composer to a group of students in a new way.

I once had a friend who scoffed at my admiration for Tchaikovsky, declaring that most of his work was “fluff at best.”  I could not believe it.  I was in too much shock to argue in the heat of the moment, though this particular friend would probably not be swayed as Mahler and Wagner are his go-to ‘easy listening’ composers.  I thought about his comment for awhile, and I came to this conclusion: some people may find Tchaikovsky’s music fluff because it is, above all, else accessible and popular.  Tchaikovsky (in my humble opinion) is a master when it comes to grabbing your ear.  Almost any individual can hum one of The Nutcracker themes, or instantly recognize the love theme from Romeo & Juliet.  The opening of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor is classic and instantly commands the audience’s attention.  What little girl didn’t dance in a ballet class to the music of Swan Lake (or later, as a teenager, drool over Saved By The Bell’s Zach Morris dancing in the Bayside High production of Swan Lake)?  No July 4 picnic is complete without a performance of the 1812 Overture, cannons and all.  Accessibility is the name of the game, and it is a great tool for orchestras to utilize when trying to draw in more patrons.  Like Tchaikovsky?  Here, you might like Mendelssohn or Beethoven or Shostakovich or any number of composers.  To say he is merely fluff is truly short sighted (and given my crush, kinda mean).

This weekend’s concert opens with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.  I, of course, know the piece inside and out, and I am very excited to hear our orchestra play it live.  However, I’m also equally excited for the Barber Violin Concerto and Shostakovich Symphony No. 5.  If you don’t know the works, you should definitely try to come out to Jones Hall for a listen.  Don’t be intimidated – allow Tchaikovsky to hook you and then just sit back, relax and enjoy!

Written by Meredith Williams

April 6, 2010 at 8:08 am

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Welcome to the 2010-2011 Houston Symphony season!

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Frank Huang, new Houston Symphony concertmaster

The new Houston Symphony season promises to be a momentous one.  With several new collaborations, a new concert master, orchestra member solo spotlights and unique explorations of works, Hans Graf and the Houston Symphony have brought new ideas and innovation back to the concert stage.  This is a season you will not want to miss!

Classical guest artists include returning friends of the Houston Symphony Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham and Yefim Bronfman, while debuting a new generation of musical talent in pianists Gabriela Montero and Markus Groh and conductors Juanjo Mena and Juraj Valcuha.  Classical season highlights include Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem, Scheherazade and Ravel’s Bolero.

Among the POPS line-up, Kenny Loggins, Chris Botti, and Broadway’s Mary Poppins, Ashley Brown, will visit Jones Hall in the new season.  The POPS season also includes an homage to Frank Sinatra with another Houston debut artist, Matt Dusk.  Ellis Hall, an American artist also making his Houston Symphony debut, will perform a tribute concert to Ray Charles.  Hall was a former protégé and friend of the great Ray Charles.

New Concertmaster

In addition, the Houston Symphony is proud to announce our new concertmaster, Frank Huang, an award-winning violinist who grew up in the Houston area.

“Growing up in Houston, I loved going to symphony performances, and I feel so honored to be able to come back now and actually be a part of them!” said Mr. Huang.  “It is so exciting to return to my hometown, and I am really looking forward to getting to know all the wonderful musicians and staff at the symphony.”

He debuts with the Symphony on Opening Night Saturday, September 11, 2010, performing Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante with Wayne Brooks, principal violist.


Joshua Bell, violin

The Houston Symphony is also proud to announce several new collaborations this season.  In November, 2010, the Houston Symphony will perform Lawrence Siegel’s Kaddish “I Am Here” in partnership with the Holocaust Museum Houston.  The oratorio includes lyrics derived from interviews with 15 Holocaust survivors – four of whom live in Houston.  In February of 2011, Hans Graf will conduct the concert Ravel’s Spain with Bolero where singers from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, featuring Susanne Mentzer, will join the Houston Symphony for a night of comedy with Ravel’s comedic one-act opera, The Spanish Hour followed by one of the most popular works ever written, Bolero.  In the POPS arena, we’ll team up with the University of North Texas’ One O’Clock  Lab Band in November to form the biggest band in Texas.  This extravaganza, titled One O’Clock Swings! will feature songs from jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and John Coltrane.  Plus, include standards from the Great American Songbook with songs from Cole Porter and others.


This season, hear solos from your own Houston Symphony orchestra members: Frank Huang, newly appointed concertmaster; Brinton Averil Smith, principal cellist; Wayne Brooks, principal violist and Aralee Dorough, principal flute.


The Classical season includes the concert Exploring Mahler 10, in which Maestro Graf and special guest, Fred Child, host of American Public Media’s Performance Today, will explore Mahler’s Symphony No. 10.  This work was left unfinished at the time of Gustav Mahler’s death and was completed by British composer, Deryck Cooke,  Join the Houston Symphony as we explore the completion with musical examples, images and discussions.

Tickets to these stellar concerts and more are available now through subscription only.  As a subscriber, you get the best seats, added subscriber benefits and a season you won’t forget.  Renewing subscribers receive FREE parking if you renew by March 5th.  Click here for full details of the 2010-2011 Season and to purchase your subscription.

Written by Houston Symphony

February 23, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Happy 2010!

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Houston Symphony would like to wish all of you out there a Happy New Year full of happiness, health, and of course — great music!

Did you ever wonder how a musical vision–say Very Merry Pops–comes to life in a full-fledged concert experience? Now’s the chance to find out! Check back soon for a look Inside the Houston Symphony, where insiders are  going to bring you an inside look at to what life is like at Jones Hall.

Written by Houston Symphony

January 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Posted in 2010

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