Inside the Houston Symphony

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

Posts Tagged ‘The Planets–An HD Odyssey

A Celestial Summer in the City

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One thing that is always fun for us while we’re planning our Summer in the City concerts, is that we’re able to go a little bit outside of the box with our programming and marketing. It’s our hope that by doing so, we’ll get some people to experience the Symphony who may have never done so before, and also offer up programming that has a fun and relaxing vibe perfect for the summer months. Fresh faces, new concert experiences and a varied audience are what make our July concerts great for everyone!

Think of it as a 3-week span in which you can not only hear famous, well-known classical pieces such as Gustav Holst’s The Planets, but also get sprung forward to hear the Star Wars Suite, followed the next weekend by a double whammy – a symphony “rock concert” highlighting a classic band, and a video gamers dream concert (complete with a composer who attends the performance!)

Clarinetist Stanislav Golovin

Coming up next week, Hans Graf will be back in town, wholeheartedly welcoming you to the annual Houston Chronicle Dollar Concert on July 10. For only $1 per ticket, come hear your Orchestra in Jones Hall, as well as Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, performed by Stanislav Golovin, the grand prize winner of the Ima Hogg Competition.

And of course, we’re all excited to bring back two performances of The Planets — An HD Odyssey plus Star Wars on July 16 & 17. Those of you who didn’t make it to the January world premiere event now have the chance to experience this multi-media project before we take it to the U.K. in October.

So the question is: Will you be joining us?


Going Lady Gaga Over Summer Concert Tickets

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So as many of you have probably heard, dance-pop superstar Lady Gaga’s July 25th performance at the Toyota Center sold out within…hours, I think.  It’s no secret then that Houstonians are gaga over the 23-year-old singer/songwriter with a flair for theatrics.  Not to worry, though, since the famed artist added another date on July 26th for an extension of the Houston portion of her “Monster’s Ball Tour.”

But what of fanatics are clamoring for Houston Symphony tickets?  I know what you’re thinking…”C’mon, that doesn’t happen with a Symphony concert,” you say.  Well, although we haven’t yet had a sell-out a la Gaga, I’d say the Symphony’s experienced its share of a ‘Gaga Effect’ of sorts this season.

Our four sold-out January performances of The Planets—An HD Odyssey (and praised performance in New York’s Carnegie Hall) resulted in a series of concerts to be unmatched in the Symphony’s history.  And it’s these performances that have inspired the addition of a fifth concert this summer (only a week before Gaga’s concert, in fact.  Hey, nothing prevents you from catching two concerts in two weeks, right?!)  Be sure to attend The Planets—An HD Odyssey plus Star Wars this summer for a taste of what Houston concert-goers have dubbed a true hit, with the addition of all-time favorite John Williams music from the legendary Star Wars movies.

In fact, we’ve just announced our 2010 “Symphony Summer in the City” concert series, which will also feature Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY.  Within hours of the announcement, Final Fantasy fans were on our site clamoring to get the best tickets in the house, together with an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity with composer Nobuo Uematsu.  I think I may smell a sell-out.  Houston – let’s make it happen!

But back to Lady Gaga.  If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy an interesting synergy with our third “Symphony Summer in the City” concert.  Gaga nicked her name from Queen’s song “Radio Gaga,” and has gained inspiration from the British rock band described as giving the greatest live performances ever.  You’ll not want to miss the Houston Symphony performing The Music of Queen on July 22.

Hear singer Brody Dolyniuk, who captures the sound and essence of Freddie Mercury, while the full orchestra and a rock band provide the power and harmony for a complete concert experience, including concert lighting and sound. This concert will feature music from albums such as Classic Queen, A Night at the Opera, Sheer Heart Attack, Jazz, News of the World, A Kind of Magic, The Works.

Houston, when was the last time you went ‘Lady Gaga’ over concert tickets?  We want to hear about it.  Leave a comment to share your story, and the writer of the best comment will win two tickets to their choice of one of our July concerts.

Written by glenn taylor

April 19, 2010 at 10:40 am

Is it summer already?!

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Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

This post comes from Melissa, one of our marketing directors. She lives and breathes anything having to do with special projects, including The Planets — An HD Odyssey, the summer concert series as well as our holiday concerts, to name a few. Is it summer already? Melissa’s excited for you guys to come see us!

I took my 7-year-old daughter to her first, in her words “grown-up concert” last night — Eschenbach and Lang Lang.

She’s been to many of the Sounds Like Fun! and Weatherford Family series concerts over the years. She remembers fondly when conductor Robert Franz was wheeled out on stage dressed as Toto to start the Wizard of OZ concert, and  I thought for sure her favorite piece that day would be the Orchestral Suite from the Wizard of Oz. But it turns out it was Mosolov’s Iron Foundry from Stal’ because it “sounded just like I think a factory would sound, Mom.” With that comment, I thought she’d be ready to attend a Houston Symphony evening concert.

My daughter has been taking piano lessons for almost 2 years and loves listening to classical music, mainly Baroque—because she can dance her latest ballet moves to Bach, Vivaldi and Handel. So I thought she would enjoy hearing young musicians in the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra and Lang Lang.

Last night, she marveled at the speed at which the violins played Prokovfiev’s First Symphony. And we were close enough to the stage that when Lang Lang sat down to the piano she openly worried “Mom, he forgot something!”  I then explained to my young piano student that Lang Lang has memorized what he is going to play—and that comment was met with the certain all to familiar look of “are you sure?”

You may be wondering how this all ties in to the title of this blog. Well, after intently listening to Prokovfiev’s First Symphony and the first two movements of the Piano Concerto, my 7-year-old was fast asleep in her chair. As I looked over and watched her, I shook my head in wonder at how fast time flies, how another school year is almost over, how we are planning summer camps and family vacations, and how I am planning the marketing campaigns for another Symphony Summer in the City season.  I debated if I should end that last sentence with a period or an exclamation mark—-I haven’t decided how I actually feel about that just yet! You’ll have to ask me when I am working out the marketing plans for our Christmas concerts in June!

Check out the Houston Symphony website, where we’re announcing the Symphony Summer in the City schedule. You will be able to see when we are performing free concerts in a neighborhood near you as a part of our Sounds Like Fun! series and at Miller Outdoor Theatre — both for our June classical concerts and our annual 4th of July concert.

If you are anything like me, you’ll wonder “where did the time go?” But you’ve enjoyed every minute of that wild, wonderful, hectic and beautiful journey called life.

Written by Houston Symphony

April 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Downtime between concert times–what do we do now?

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Principal Harpist Paula Page warms up ahead of Saturday evening's performance at the Kravis Center.

From a wind-chill in the teens in New York yesterday morning to the sunny shores of Ft. Lauderdale yesterday afternoon, the Houston Symphony has finally made its way back to more reasonable weather! Our time in New York—and especially our concert at Carnegie Hall—was phenomenal, but there’s only so much cold weather we Houstonians can take!

Orchestras on tour are very interesting organisms. Every musician and staff member has his or her own way of dealing with life on the road. I’m sure you and your family have taken family vacations, and have witnessed firsthand how differently every family member handles the stress of cars, flights, hotels, etc. Now multiply that by the more than one hundred of us currently on the road, and add to that the stress of playing three concerts in three separate venues over four days, more than 3,500 miles in the air, two different hotels, and countless bus rides, and you’ll have some idea of the craziness a life on the road entails.

While we’re all focusing on the task at hand—namely, playing our final two concerts this weekend here in Florida—we all have our own, unique ways of spending our downtime.  Some of us practice or study for upcoming concerts or recitals (while still keeping this week’s music in our heads and fingers – no easy task); from my personal experience, holing myself up in my hotel room with none of the usual distractions that home affords is one of the best ways I know to ensure that I get good work done!  Some take advantage of the time away to simply relax and recharge before heading back home to the full-time grindstone.  Some of us visited old friends while in New York, and some are doing the same here in Florida.  As Kiju pointed out in a previous entry, some of us take advantage of the great restaurants each city has.

The amazing thing is that no matter how we all choose to spend our downtime during the day, we refocus and come together each night to give the finest performance we can for each audience in each city we visit.  Orchestras bear their cities’ names, and we couldn’t be prouder to represent the city of Houston up and down the East Coast this week!

Written by bwmconductor

January 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm

It’s almost showtime!

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After a beautiful, snowy morning here in New York City, the Houston Symphony finally took to the stage of Carnegie Hall this afternoon for a quick rehearsal before tonight’s concert.

Setting up the stage pre-rehearsal

As Assistant Conductor, when I’m not on the podium myself, my job is to do anything and everything musically necessary in rehearsal to support Hans and the orchestra’s work onstage.  One of those jobs is to be an extra pair of ears out in the hall, especially when we’re on the road, playing in a venue other the Jones Hall.  Orchestras get accustomed to playing in their “home hall,” and a different hall—no matter how great it is—takes some adjusting.  Every hall is different, and responds in its own, unique way to the sounds coming from the stage.  Helping to make sure that everything is balanced the way Hans and the orchestra want and are accustomed to takes some serious, in-depth listening, first at home (so you know what you’re listening for), then on the road (comparing it to our “home sound”).

One extra wrinkle in this program is that not only do we have our orchestra onstage, but we also have our women’s chorus offstage to sing at the end of “Neptune” in The Planets.  First and foremost, we have to ensure that they can be heard in the hall and that the aforementioned balance is satisfactory; in order to achieve that, the chorus’s actual physical placement changes from hall to hall.  Because every backstage area is different, finding a place where the chorus can both see and hear everything they need is always a challenge.  Here at Carnegie, the chorus is in a tiny alcove (no bigger than the living room of my Montrose apartment back in Houston) just offstage right.  In more ways than one, our chorus is definitely growing closer on this tour!

View from the Carnegie Hall stage ahead of the orchestra's rehearsal this afternoon.

Sometimes assisting Hans and the orchestra takes a different shape altogether.  After rehearsal proper finished this afternoon, Hans and the cello section stayed to work on an interlude in the Dutilleux work that we’re playing this evening.  There’s also a small celesta part in this interlude, and as our principal keyboardist Scott Holshouser had already left the hall, Hans had me play the part…thus marking my inauspicious onstage Carnegie Hall debut!

Now that we’ve got orchestra and chorus balances adjusted to everyone’s liking and the sound of Carnegie in our ears, we’re ready for tonight’s concert.  Then we start all over again on Saturday for the first of two concerts (in two different venues, no less) in Florida.  Thus the lives of touring orchestras!

Written by bwmconductor

January 28, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Taking it on the road

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We’d like to introduce you all to Meredith Williams–the first of our Symphony staffer bloggers! Meredith is still considered a newbie (as many of us are by comparison–you wouldn’t believe how many people have been here 10, 20, even 25+ years!), and is the assistant to our general manager. She’s been the go-to gal for everything related to this week’s tour to New York City and Florida, and wanted to share a little bit with you all about the planning that went into it.

Surely everyone in Houston felt the excitement that radiated from Jones Hall this weekend!  It was difficult to not get pumped about the Planets concert series.  I’ve only worked here at the Houston Symphony for 10 months, and I cannot recall a single day when the Operations and Production staff has not discussed or worked on The Planets – An HD Odyssey.  It amazes me that for some members of our staff, this weekend was the culmination of years of dedication and work.  Despite our successful weekend, our department has not quite celebrated – we aren’t done yet.  In case you had not heard, we’re taking it on the road.

As I mentioned, I’ve only been a staff member a short period of time.  In this brief period, I have had two major projects.  The first was to schedule ground transportation for the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela back in April. (Why is that a major project, you ask?  Well, that is a story for another blog…) The second project, and what I have considered my baby for the past seven months, is this tour.

In June I found out that I was to be the “Unofficial Tour Travel Agent and Schedule Coordinator.” Since then, I have booked 150+ flight reservations, over 200 hotel rooms, and 30 buses to accommodate all of the musicians, staff and guests that will be traveling between Houston, New York and Florida.  On the surface, booking travel arrangements is not a huge project, until you realize just how many people and details are involved.  I’ve had many hurdles and obstacles since I landed in the post of unofficial tour travel agent.  There were days (like the day we realized the Pro Bowl is in South Florida the same weekend we are in South Florida) that I wanted to pull out my hair and scream “REALLY?!?” at the top of my lungs.  However, I’m not whining.  In fact, as I sit here in my little cubicle under the stage of Jones Hall, I am quite happy to know that I played a part in helping the Houston Symphony (literally) get to New York and Florida.

The weekend was amazing, but the excitement is not over.  The orchestra officially left this morning to fly to New York and perform on that great stage known as Carnegie Hall.  Then, they’re flying to the sunny shores of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach to play for NASA’s Cape Canaveral neighbors.  I wish I could see it in person, but I know that this tour will be a huge success and will make Houston proud.

You didn’t think we were going to leave you hanging, did you? Violinist Kiju Joh, Assistant Conductor/American Conducting Fellow Brett Mitchell and others are going to be blogging from the tour—so keep an eye out to read the latest updates!

Written by Meredith Williams

January 27, 2010 at 11:41 am

Houston, we have lift off!

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It’s a very exciting time for everyone here at Houston Symphony. Not only is today the World Premiere of The Planets—An HD Odyssey, but we’ve just announced the 2010-2011 season! In the spirit of sharing, we thought it was time to bring our fans a bit closer and give you an inside look into the day-to-day happenings here at Houston Symphony (for instance: did you know that Hans Graf’s baton has just returned from space in time to conduct The Planets?). In addition to our talented conductors, musicians and chorus, there is a dedicated and hardworking staff behind-the-scenes that make all of your favorite concerts come to life.

I’d like to officially kick off the newest Houston Symphony endeavor—the Inside the Houston Symphony blog—where you’ll be able to read first-hand accounts from all of us here at Jones Hall—musicians and conductors included! From concert fun facts to the stories behind the music, we hope you’ll learn a little something with us, too. As I have a music background and have worked in the Symphony industry for a long while, I am very excited to be a part of this organization at a time when there is so much to look forward to. Please take the time as well to check out our newly launched Web site, and to download the free Houston Symphony iPhone App. Those are two of your best sources for staying up-to-date with your Houston Symphony.

I’d like to end my first blog with a heartfelt thank you for all your support of the Houston Symphony. I hope to see you all at Jones Hall soon!

Best wishes,
Dick Hoffert
Interim Executive Director/CEO

Written by Dick H.

January 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm