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Monthly Archives: June 2012
Conducting the “Sounds Like Fun!” concerts is really fun for me. As a person who is relatively new to Houston, the concerts have given me the opportunity to get to know the city, and more important, lots of great people throughout the metro area. One of the things that makes these concerts special to me is that there is a question and answer period when members of the audience get to ask anything they want of me or of a member of the orchestra. There is no way to know what might be asked, and I really enjoy the spontaneity of that. The orchestra and I love to share what we do, and love to talk to people about being a musician. I’m often asked if I like what I do. I always reply, “no, I don’t like what I do. I love it!” And that’s the truth.
This year’s Sounds Like Fun! concerts are a bit unusual for me. Almost always when I put these together I begin with a theme. Perhaps stories in music, or dance-like music. This year was completely different. I started with a single piece of music and each piece of music that followed somehow connected to it. Sometimes the connections are super obvious (Like a piece called Turbulence next to the flight music from E.T.) and sometimes the connections aren’t that obvious at all (like Chicken Reel next to The Overture to the School for Scandal). Either way, the music is great, the orchestra sounds terrific, and what’s better than being able to drive to a location in your own neighborhood to hear the Houston Symphony?
These concerts have become such a tradition for me, that I can’t imagine a June without Sounds like Fun!
For more information on this week’s FREE Sounds Like Fun! concerts in your neighborhood, CLICK HERE!
This weekend kicks off several weeks of free concerts that will run throughout the month of June. Our concerts this weekend are both at Miller Outdoor Theatre, and Saturday evening’s concert will feature soloist Xiayin Wang, performing the Piano Concerto in G major by Ravel. Saturday’s concert offers a little something extra- it is a Tweetcert! What is a Tweetcert, you ask? Tweetcert is an interactive musical event where the audience has the opportunity to read maestro Robert Franz’s mind! As the musicians play, audience members are invited to follow @HouSymphony on Twitter and regularly refresh their Twitter feeds on their smart phones to read minute-by-minute program notes from the conductor.
Pre Concert Rituals
It is such a thrill to be here in Houston to play my very first outdoor concert with the amazing Houston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Robert Franz. And together we will be playing one of my favorite concertos, the Ravel in G major! Just like the weather here, this piece is full of passion and fire, it will be a wonderful evening on Saturday night. I was recently asked about my pre concert rituals. I travel a lot, and I always look for good food everywhere I go. I’m always sure to get my Chinese food fix everyday. Going to the gym every two days is also a priority, but resting and eating well is more important before a concert. I usually eat a nice big meal the night before a concert- sometimes a steak will give me a energy boost! On the day of the concert, getting a good nap is almost a guarantee of a fun and enjoyable performance. Not a long nap but a good one. After practicing, food is my next priority, but the day of a concert I won’t eat anything heavy that would give the stomach heavy to digest. This way, my mind is fresh and clear for the concert.
Pre Concert Rituals
By: soloist Xiayin Wang
I am very excited about the concert and hope I can give you a fun and memorable evening!!!!
For more information on this month’s free concerts: ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights at Miller Outdoor Theatre and Sounds Like Fun! Community Concert Series
While in Moscow, our musicians had a little bit of time to explore the city before their performances on Friday and Saturday nights. Below, violist Daniel Strba offers an interesting perspective of how Moscow has progressed since his last visit there, over 20 years ago.
Impressions of Contemporary Moscow
I was excited to learn that The Houston Symphony had been selected to perform two concerts in Moscow at the “Festival of the World’s Symphony Orchestras.” For me, this meant a return to Russia where I had performed with Sir Georg Solti and The Chicago Symphony in 1990 just prior to the collapse of the USSR. Back then, 22 years ago, things were bleak. Signs of the Soviet Union’s imminent downfall were everywhere. Restaurants were few and far between, and CSO was cautioned to eat only at the new Marriott hotel where we were staying. Shops had little inventory and Moscovites stood in blocks- long food lines. What a difference two decades has made!
Impressions of Contemporary Moscow
By: Daniel Strba
I could not help being impressed by the changes the new oil wealth has brought the Russian people. Upscale designer shops like Prada and Armani flourish, and a plethora of ethnic restaurants line the once neglected streets. Moscow is a wild combination of crumbling Soviet-era buildings and brand new sparkling glass skyscrapers. The constant rush-hour traffic is not to be believed!The orchestra had a free day on Thursday, so my colleagues Fay and Mark Shapiro and I trekked to the Novodevichy Cemetery, an exquisite sculpture garden where Russia’s elite artists and heroes are buried. The trip was a pilgrimage of sorts to the grave of Dmitri Shostakovitch (the HSO performed his 11th Symphony on Saturday night). Finding individual graves was a challenge because all of the headstones are distinguished in the Cyrillic alphabet. Aided by an English map, our hunt began. Our search was complicated because sections of the cemetery were marked, but the individual rows were not. This meant that we had to meticulously count each row to find our target. Eventually, we did find Shostakovitch’s grave along with many others including Serge Prokofiev, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Nikita Khrushchev, Mstislav Rostropovich, and David Oistrakh.
It was a whirlwind tour, and it’s sure good to be back in the U.S.A!
We wanted to get an insider’s perspective on what keeps the band Three Dog Night so great after all these years, so we asked their fan club president, Madonna Nuckolls, to share her thoughts. Read on for her personal perspective as well as photos, a video, and information about their upcoming performance with your Houston Symphony!
My Name is Madonna and I’ve been the Three Dog Night Fan Club President and editor of their quarterly newsletter for 17 years. When I agreed to manage the fan club, I thought it would be fun to do for a couple of years, not realizing I’d make friends all over the world. The guys in the band and their families are great people, and it wasn’t long until my friend, Barbara and I became a solid part of the team through our work on the newsletter and the club. We enjoy traveling to see the concerts and meeting up with good friends we’ve made along the way.
The Three Dog Night concerts with the Symphony are a “take your breath away” experience! It’s the best thing that could ever happen for the fans. The symphony instruments add yet another element to the feast; and while they aren’t featured in every number, there’s just enough to emphasize how timeless and all-encompassing these beautiful songs are! The overture is a very moving piece arranged by Larry Baird that includes “Eli’s Coming,” “One,” “Family of Man,” “Liar,” and “Celebrate.”
Three Dog Night recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and has a CD by the same name. The combination of their beautiful melodies, along with their amazing harmonies is a winning combination for the symphony. The project, recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios in London, added exciting new orchestral arrangements to Three Dog Night’s signature sound and was released to coincide with the band’s 35th Anniversary.
What an outstanding choice the band made in selecting Larry Baird, who arranged for the famous “Moody Blues” symphony concerts as well. It’s always a treat to see Mr. Baird conduct and quite impressive to hear the symphony performers. And those amazing men of Three Dog Night … they never disappoint! The songs you’ve loved for a lifetime coming at you full throttle is an experience not to be missed! The band has performed at many symphony venues around the country and it’s a magnificent treat for both the fans and the orchestra. The symphony concerts definitely bring out the musicality in me. I hope there are many more of these concerts in the future.
Three Dog Night has always been a number one, first class STAGE BAND! They are very animated and enjoy what they are doing, and their expression and emotion on stage has always captivated me and still holds true today. No other group can compare to the beautiful voices and harmonies of Three Dog Night! If you enjoy great entertainment, exquisite music, awesome singers and a band that rocks your world– then be sure to see Three Dog Night perform with your world-class Houston Symphony!
For more information and tickets CLICK HERE.
Here at the Houston Symphony, we are fortunate to have wonderful musicians who are also wonderful writers, willing to share insights from their personal experiences and performers. Below is the third and final blog post submitted by Mark Hughes, Principal Trumpet. It was written shortly after the orchestra finished its second and final performance as a part of the “Festival of the World’s Symphony Orchestras” on Saturday night. As you read, you will notice how much the audience’s participation means to our musicians while they play. If you, as an audience member, ever think that all you’re doing is just sitting there, think again!
More photos from our time in Column Hall
By: Mark Hughes
I am safely back in my room and looking forward to two hours of sleep before we start our trip home. Tonight’s concert was a performance to remember! The Doctor Atomic Symphony by John Adams is always a treat to play for me and the other brass principals because Adams chooses to give the important solo lines from the opera (by the same name) to the Tuba, Trombone, Horn, and Trumpet soloists. While a difficult piece, it allows us brass principals an opportunity to get a bit more exposure than we are usually afforded. What a pleasure it is for me to share the stage with Dave Kirk, principal tuba; Allen Barnhill, principal trombone and William (Bill) VerMeulen, principal horn. Three of the best in the world at what they do!
After intermission, the orchestra performed our first piece of Russian music on the tour. While the audience here has been very attentive, you could sense the increased excitement of the audience in hearing an American orchestra interpret some of their music. Those in the balcony were literally leaning over the railings and as I looked out over the audience, I was reminded of something I have heard Dave Kirk (tuba) say before, “We could hear them listening!” The orchestra responded with a beautifully inspiring performance of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 11. Any time 100 or so people are of a like mind, you are going to have quite a momentous product. But when you add the subject matter of the 11th Symphony to the current political environment here in Russia, you are just ratcheting up the emotional impact that is possible in such a performance. And that is obviously what occurred.
While standing ovations are common in the U.S., they are extremely rare in Europe, and Russian audiences tend to behave like those in Eastern Europe. In fact, one of our more experienced musicians told me that this orchestra has never received a standing ovation on any European tour before, but that is exactly what happened tonight. European audiences frequently show their pleasure after a concert by clapping in rhythm, but this night, they were on their feet demanding more from this American orchestra. After several curtain calls, Hans turned to the audience and spoke to them in Russian, announcing that we would play another piece of Russian music, the Baba-Yaga by Liadov. Immediately, you could hear the pleasure the audience felt in the selection of the encore. Afterward, the orchestra received several more curtain calls and again Hans led the concertmaster off the stage, indicating that the concert was indeed over.
After the concert, the festival treated us to a wonderful dinner at our hotel. After several heart warming speeches by the presenters, Hans and new Board President Bob Peiser both thanked the presenters and the orchestra for all of the work involved in making this trip possible. Much merriment followed and now all we have left to do is to make our flight home and prepare for this week’s concerts at Miller Outdoor Theatre.
See you on Friday night!
More photos from our time in Column Hall