Could it be true that this season the Austin Symphony will perform 15 works it has never before played? After all, the ensemble goes back to 1911. That is a lot of concerts, almost all of them consisting of at least three or four musical pieces. Surely, the major works of the classical repertoire have been performed here at least once?
“It’s part luck that so many pieces this season are firsts for the Austin Symphony,” music director Peter Bay says. “I try to include works that are well-known to everyone as well as works that aren’t. Sometimes, the selection of the soloist triggers ideas for the rest of the program, such as (pianist) Anton Nel’s interest in playing Mozart as well as something on harpsichord for our first concert.”
Just how would the symphony staff know what has been played during the past 106 years? Turns out, hundreds of printed programs have been preserved and are stored, high and dry, in a narrow storage room just off the entrance of the symphony’s offices on Red River Street. New public relations expert Rachel Santorelli, who comes to Austin from the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, gave us access to the trove, which includes reproductions of the inaugural program from April 25, 1911.
About the size of a Catholic holy card and printed on gray stock, it announces that the Austin Symphony Society will be led by Dr. Hans Harthan at the Hancock Opera House, a grand venue formerly located at West Sixth Street and Congress Avenue. The second page lists the new society’s “patronesses,” which include some Old Austin surnames, such as Pennybaker, Ramsey, Hancock, Brush, Bremond and Bickler. The list of musicians includes, even then, four women. The group’s first piece ever? W.A. Mozart’s Symphonie in C No. 28.
Taken as a whole, these preserved programs provide a rare look at Austin’s cultural, economic and creative evolution.
This is totally last minute, but singer Gabrielle Stravelli stops by the Sterling Center to perform for Austin Cabaret Theatre on Thursday.
I’ve been listening to Stravelli’s CD “Dream Ago” obsessively for the past couple of days. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a jazz or cabaret voice as distinctive as hers. The special beauty of this album is that it shows off her wide range of modes through mostly original music for which she contributed the lyrics.
Yet her treatment of standards such as “It Might As Well Be Spring” is fresh, fun and musically sophisticated.
While we are on the subject, we’re delighted to learn that Austin Cabaret Theatre is still a thing. In fact Stuart Moulton‘s long-distance project — he if firmly based in New York these days — has announced an Austin season on Facebook that includes Jesse Luttrell, Barb Jungr, Crystal Stark, Sam Harris, Ann Hampton Calloway, Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman.
Add that to the Texas Performing Arts line-up that features Storm Large & Le Bonheur, Seth Rudetsky, Ute Lemper and more, and you’ve got a full plate of imported cabaret this season. Ah, for the days when Austin produced its own cabaret stars!
The organized arts and humanities generally don’t save lives directly during emergency situations. Yet they save our culture — our shared memory — over the long run. Here are some ways the state and national communities are responding to Harvey and where the help will be most needed.
The National Endowment for the Arts is working with the Texas Commission on the Arts to assess the situation. NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu: “As the current situation stabilizes, the NEA is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.”
The Texas Library Association and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working to coordinate a response for the affected library community.
While some smaller arts facilities have been devastated on the coast (see image from Rockport), the massive Houston Theatre District has sustained enormous damage, as it has in previous storms (much of it was built underground not far from Buffalo Bayou).
At the Alley Theatre, the small Neuhaus Theatre and its lobby were flooded. The same spaces were severely beat up during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
The Wortham Theatre Center, where Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet perform, took water on the Brown Theatre stage and out front of the house. The basement with its costume and prop storage, however, was totally flooded.
On the other hand, the Hobby Center and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, came off relatively unscathed, although the parking garages were inundated.
Guitarist Isaac Bustos brings an irreducible point of view to “I/We,” a multifaceted concert on the theme of refugees coming July 28-29 to the Blanton Museum of Art.
“I know what it’s like to have your entire life in limbo,” Bustos says. “As a child, being treated differently because of my refugee status was difficult. Sometimes I fear that we lose sight of the human aspect of being a refugee, but a project like (this) gives a voice to people with diverse and often traumatic life experiences, and shines a light on what they went through.”
Multimedia producer Yuliya Lanina, part of an international group of artists assembled for this project by Austin Classical Guitar, comes to it with a potent personal connection as well.
“I came as a refugee from Russia in 1990, fleeing anti-Semitism and constant threats,” she says. “The U.S. welcomed me and my family, and we were given the freedom to build our lives without being punished for who we are. I want others who are now in a similar situation, or worse, to have that same opportunity.”
During the past season, the stories of refugees have repeatedly gripped Austin artists. …
The latest trend in chamber music — storytelling — might also be the most ancient cultural practice in human history.
Yet as Michelle Schumann, artistic director of the Austin Chamber Music Center, sees it, a new-fashioned style of storytelling is the perfect complement to an intense, intimate and often misunderstood form of music.
“Audiences often crave more from a concert,” Schumann says about the narrative impulse as she expects it to play out during the upcoming Austin Chamber Music Festival. “They want to take away a deep understanding of the music, rather than just a sonic-emotional experience. They desire a personal connection with the artists and the art they are creating, a narrative that ties together different composers, eras, countries and styles. It gives audiences a context that they can relate to and therefore feel closer to.”
A picture of Austin’s fall arts season is falling into place. The latest booking news is from the Long Center for the Performing Aarts. We rearranged, condensed and edited for style their fine descriptions of the following.
Notice that the fall season begins in July. Why not? We only wish the weather would comply.
Also, there’s a lot of other offerings, including Summer Stock Austin, at the center that aren’t part of this season package, so stay alert.
Coinciding with the newly released “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and Nintendo’s new Switch, this returns to the Long Center stage on July 7 for one performance only. Now in its fourth season and featuring new music and video, the concert comes to life with a 66-piece orchestra, 24-person choir.
Austin native Carrie Rodriguez is a fiddle playing singer songwriter who approaches her country-blues sound with an “Ameri-Chicana” attitude. Her latest release, “Lola,” takes her back to her ranchera musical roots and was hailed as the “perfect bicultural album” by NPR’s Felix Contreras.
Hailed by Rolling Stone Magazine as “a genre unto herself,” composer, guitarist, and recording artist Kaki King performs her latest work — a simultaneous homage and deep exploration of her instrument of choice. In this bold new multi-media performance, Kaki deconstructs the guitar’s boundaries as projection mapping explores texture, nature, and creation.
Part coming-of-age story and part divine commentary, Terrence Malick’s star-studded and slow-burning art film, “The Tree of Life,” sparked a dialogue within the industry about memory, the meaning of life, and the role that film can play in representing those ideas. Screening with live score performed by Austin Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Austin.
John William’s legendary “Star Wars” score didn’t just enhance a great story, it gave life to an entire galaxy. From “Binary Sunset” to the “Imperial March,” the themes of “A New Hope” ushered in a renaissance of film music, the likes of which Hollywood had never seen before. A special screening with live score performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
This lights up the stage in this premiere live production packed with show-stopping performances featuring the Shoppies and Shopkins characters taking the stage with an all-new storyline, music, and videos. Join Jessicake, Bubbleisha, Peppa-Mint, Rainbow Kate, Cocolette, and Polli Polish as they perform the coolest dance moves, sing the latest pop songs, and prepare for Shopville’s annual “Funtastic Food and Fashion Fair.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, Maureen Dowd, and award-winning author and the Times’ Chief Washington Correspondent, Carl Hulse, will examine the state of the nation one year following the most divisive presidential election in American history. Join us for an evening of incisive dialogue as Dowd and Hulse discuss how we got here and what lies ahead.
Bring the family and join us on the City Terrace and take some time out of the busiest holiday of the year to celebrate the season. Bring the kids for a free photo with Santa and enjoy holiday treats, activities and entertainment, all overlooking the best view in Austin!
The favorite TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage in this beloved adaptation. Come see all of your favorite characters from the special including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, and of course, Rudolph brought to life.
Composer and bandleader, Graham Reynolds, along with some of Austin’s best musicians wreak musical havoc with an explosive set of holiday favorites. By playing most of them in a minor key, Reynolds and his band bring a new perspective to these season standards.
After a smash-hit Broadway run garnering three Tony-Award nominations including Best Musical, this Christmas classic returns for another year. Based on the perennial holiday movie favorite, the story takes place in 1940s Indiana, where a bespectacled boy named Ralphie wants only one thing for Christmas: an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot range Model Air Rifle.
The National Endowment for the Arts today announced almost $83 million in grants nationwide.
Of that, $2.5 million went to Texas. Almost $1 million of that was given to the Texas Commission on the Arts to pass along to artists and arts groups statewide. In fact, of the $83 million that the NEA handed out today, almost $51 million went to its state partners like the Commission.
Austin’s share of the NEA grants is distorted by the fact that the Texas Commission is located in the city but benefits artists statewide. Some of that will be spent here, but we don’t know yet how much.
Interestingly, the $100,000 that Austin’s Creative Action garnered was for a partnershiip with Six Square, a group that seeks to preserve and promote the historical and cultural legacy of African-American in East Austin. Six Square is a designated Texas Cultural Arts District, but the state legislature declined to fund $5 million for the more than 30 such districts statewide.
Unless I’m missing something, these are the Austin beneficiaries:
Listen up, Austin Muggles: We’re about to get the biggest musical treat thanks to the Austin Symphony Orchestra, which is performing the score from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” this fall at Bass Concert Hall.
The symphony plans to perform every note from the score of “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first film based off J.K. Rowling’s magical series about a boy wizard, while the movie plays in high definition on a 40-foot screen. Composer John Williams created the score for the first three films, and his “Hedwig’s Theme” is the song perhaps most associated with the overall series, even after other composers took over writing the score for the remaining movies.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the “Harry Potter” books. “The Sorcerer’s Stone” was first published in June 1997.
This review written by freelance arts critic Luke Quinton
A blue light glowed on a pillar at the center. We were inside the gallery at Canopy, where Line Upon Line Percussion was hosting its February show, part of their ongoing series, blending the music and art worlds. This program featured three newly commissioned pieces.
The crowd circled the room’s perimeter in chairs, while metal cables fell from the ceiling pillar, attached to a rope that draped across to the music stands and percussion instruments below. An arresting visual, and more than a prop, as the ensemble would explain.
“When we play the piece, we are reading off the ropes,” Line Upon Line’s Matt Teodori said.
They had commissioned UK composer Claudia Molitor for a new piece, “and she sent us these” — he paused — “ropes.”
The crowd gave a quick laugh. This is the sort of playfulness people seek out at these shows. Ingeniously, it turned out that the ropes contained information, knots tied into the rope that could be read as music.
“Entangled” was a piece that had as much in common with music as it did with experimental theater. The trio grabbed the ends of the ropes, and that’s when you realized that the ropes weren’t just hanging in a straight line from the ceiling but were draped like a messy spiderweb throughout the music stands, cymbals and vibraphone.
The performers started from the loose end and felt the rope with their hands. They would stop to perform the action indicated by the knots and then move on to the next knot. The lines crossed, hanging over other ropes, making obstacles as the three players walked over and under the strands.
The performance consisted of whispered sentences and short rhythms played on a sort of leafy dried palm (surely there is a name for this instrument, but internet searches for experimental percussion can be rather inscrutable) and tapped prescribed rhythms on their bellies or forearms like bored teenagers.
As they went forward, the trio wrapped the rope around their bodies. Finally, at the end, they reach the pillar and the carabiner holding each strand. On cue, they released.
They whispered phrases like “intangible places of reference” and “ceases to exist” — words, the program notes, that come from George Perec, the late French member of the literary experiments group Oulipo.
As an artistic exercise, “Entangled” was worthwhile, though, as it’s largely silent, it’s also an exercise in audience patience.
“Alchemy Test,” by Central Texas composer Brett Kroening, was more typically musical and a little more satisfying. At its center was an eerie, rapidly punctuated interplay between a vibraphone and glockenspiel. It seemed straightforward, until this meshing was interrupted by loud tom toms that banged in out of left field. It could conjure up the oddball machinery in a chemist’s studio.
More experimental again was “Engraving on Bronze” by Pablo Vergara, which took the idea of engraving seriously. Teodori, in his introduction, linked this piece to the famed cymbal company Zildjian, a company that has made cymbals for 300 years.
The musicians were scribbling madly on these cymbals as if they were paper. It sounded like the act of creation. Like cymbals being born. Smoothing over everything was the occasional booming gong, seeming to symbolize the rough dawn of … something.
A fourth piece came as a surprise, as it wasn’t listed on the program. Turned out it was a preview of a soon-to-be-premiered work at the Brown Symposium, in March, at Southwestern University in Georgetown.
This work was a bit of an odyssey for the listener. The symposium’s theme is “Art and Revolution,” so this work, “Revolve/Retract” by Jason Hoogerhyde, “revolves” around key changes. At times it sounds as though there are three unique players that each sound like they’re tumbling down Alice’s rabbit hole at the same time. It moves from frantic to thoughtful and even has a bit of a humorous intrusion when a comical section brings deadened mallets to play. It all ends in a moment of calm and chill, when a bowed vibraphone returns. If you make your way to Georgetown for this event in March, it will be worth your time.
This isn’t the meat and potatoes show that we are sometimes spoiled by when it comes to percussion music; the big, pulsing works with shifty rhythms and addicting arpeggios. These more experimental concerts are opportunities to push out boundaries, shake off the doldrums and try new things.