In Covid Times, Symphony Reimagines Opening Night

Guests enjoy lovely, thoughtfully scaled-down performance, and home-delivered dinners.

In Covid Times, Symphony Reimagines Opening Night

As the Houston Symphony hit high notes at its Opening Night Celebration on Saturday night, it also raised a high bar — the scaled-down, socially distant and live-streamed event was lovely, and a Covid-era model for performing arts groups struggling to find their way through tough times. The memorable program was curated to highlight small groups of musicians on stage at a time, rather than the entire orchestra.


Indeed, with its chairs Sippi and Ajay Khurana, and with major sponsorship from ConocoPhillips for the 34th year, the Symphony raised more $500,000 — about twice its goal.

A group of about 60 patrons and journalists were invited to don black ties, gowns and mandatory masks, and spread out in Jones Hall, which normally fits nearly 3,000. Many others watched from home, as Executive Director John Mangum, with his perfect NPR-style delivery, narrated the proceedings from the back row, introducing the various musical pieces and discussing their history and importance. Perhaps this is one of those smart, coronavirus-era innovations that will outlive the pandemic?

Opening Night socially distanced marker

The program, deviating from typical opening-night shows highlighting big works by old masters, instead presented music by pre-eminent women composers—including Jessie Montgomery's Banner for string quartet and string orchestra (based on the Star Spangled Banner and Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing) and Jennifer Higdon's Autumn Music for wind quintet. Notably, Keiko Abe's Conversations in the Forest for two marimbas was also on the set list; rarely featured instruments, marimbas are kind of a wooden xylophone whose haunting vibrations thoroughly filled the hall Saturday, dazzling guests.

Gabrieli's Duodecimi Toni, Ravel's Introduction and Allegro, and Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins were also performed. In lieu of the traditional grand seated dinner following the Opening Night concert, City Kitchen caterers home-delivered dinners and charcuterie trays with wine selected by John Rydman's Specs Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods to patrons after the event.

AT TOP: Event chairs Sippi and Ajay Khurana

People + Places

SOUTH FLORIDA-BASED Italian shoe line Concetto Limone will make its Texas debut at a cocktail reception at Valobra Master Jewelers (2150 Westheimer Rd.) on Thursday, April 29 from 5-7pm. The evening of "All Things Italian" will transport guests immediately to the coast of southern Italian as they sip on Italian wines, Aperol Spritzes, Negronis and Limoncellos while feasting on an assortment of Italian hors d'oeuvres from Houston's beloved Tony's. Invited guests will have the first glance in Texas on the Concetto Limone line and the opportunity to purchase unisex styles on Thursday evening and all day Friday at a trunk show at Valobra.

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Abbie Preston Edmonson gives a special presentation this weekend

DESPITE SOME APRIL showers, there's still plenty of fun to be had! From art-centric and Earth Day activities to family-friendly fests, check out a rundown of the weekend's best bets.

LEARN FROM AN ARTIST Tune in tonight for an hour-long talk by ceramicist and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft resident artist Abbie Preston Edmonson about her creative process. She'll give a virtual presentation about her work and a special demonstration in her studio space.

Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez (photo by Kimberly Park)

TAKE A VIRTUAL PAINTING LESSON OR COOKING CLASS Be inspired by the great state of Texas during a virtual painting lesson hosted by Honey Art Cafe on Friday night. For only $20, stream a two-hour virtual lesson and make a series of stylized mini paintings inspired by West Texas and Big Bend National Park. Honey Art Cafe also has supply kits available for purchase for beginners or artists low on supplies.

And if painting isn't quite your speed, see what you can cook up in the kitchen! Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez leads a "date night" cooking lesson for couples on Friday at 6:30pm. Hosted at the restaurant, the socially distanced demonstration, which costs $150, includes a reception, followed by an interactive demonstration and seated dinner.

CELEBRATE EARTH DAY! Join the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center from 10am-4pm on Saturday for a fun- and information-filled day! Explore informative booths, nature hikes, fun displays in the Discovery Room, and Earth-friendly take-home activities. Or join Discovery Green on Sunday from 12-5pm, when the park will screen a series of short films about Houston's environment, host a panel about February's freeze, and showcase a live painting demo by local artists working on murals to decorate the park.

GO ON AN OUT-OF-THIS WORLD ADVENTURE Fifty-one years ago, the Apollo 13 crew splashed down safely back on Earth after their famously harrowing mission to the moon and back. Space Center Houston is celebrating that anniversary on Saturday, hosting two livestreamed panel discussions with current NASA experts as well as Apollo-era legends.And now through May 2, local NASA and Apollo 13 fans can check out the center's new spring exhibition, titled "Apollo: When We Went to the Moon," that looks at the legacy of the Apollo era through the lens of the engineers and astronauts who actually lived the experience.

FIND FUN AT THE INTERNATIONAL KIDS FEST Traders Village hosts Kids Fest on Sunday, with games, activities, interactive shows, live music, acrobats, magicians, clowns and more. Parking is $5, but the event itself is free, sure to keep the whole family entertained from 12-4pm.

People + Places