I was perplexed when Hope Stone's Jane Weiner opted to convert a rough, unfinished commercial space at Houston Pavilions into a performance space for the company's January show. But I should know better than to question one of the city's artiest movers and shakers.
After entering through an unassuming single solid door, I was met with a bohemian pop-up theater overlooking the hustle and bustle of downtown. Piles of crates flanked a stage with homey rugs and mismatched chairs provided the seating. The collaboration with Mercury Baroque and Houston Boychoir rendered la vie à pleines dents, loosely translated as "getting the most out of life," a lavish banquet for the senses.
Perhaps it was the intimate setup where audiences lounged a few feet, sometimes inches away from the artists. Or the juxtaposition of contrasting energies finding repose at each musical and kinesthetic cadence. Or Ana Treviño-Godfrey's lyrically stunning performance of Handel's "Ombra mai fu" from Xerxes that brought ceaseless contemplation from dance and music devotees.
It was the tender four-hand duet between Graf and Gerstein — like father and son — that stole the hearts of concert goers.
Amid competitive athletic feats and warm pas de deux, the full-length performance lingered on as I deciphered the many layers of meaning suggested.
Piano god Kirill Gerstein rocked the Rachs, and so did Hans Graf leading the Houston Symphony. RachFest continued with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concert No. 1 and No. 4 alongside the tone poem The Isle of the Dead.
Tickling the ivories with absurd wizardry, Gerstein's brawny athletic coup looked effortless.
It may have been the musical pyrotechnics that impressed, but it was the tender four-hand duet between Graf and Gerstein — like father and son — that stole the hearts of concert goers.
For spectators of the Chevron Houston Marathon, cheering on runners as they tested their endurance didn't get old, hour after hour. Yes, watching top runners beat records and cross the finish line was welcomed by merry shout outs, but it was the personal stories of overcoming difficulties that touched many.
Like a man recovering from spinal injuries now able to complete the 5K walk. Or a cancer survivor kicking ass and taking names. Or the team of runners selflessly giving their time and money to benefit charities.
I felt like a slacker.
So this week, no more goofing off. On tap is an ambitious lineup of gotta-do, gotta-see affairs brought to you by your favorite CultureMappers.
Iranian Film Festival at Museum of Fine Arts Houston
It's an annual tradition now at MFAH. The best Iranian films are screened in a week-long festival beginning Friday with Mohammad Rasoulof's Good Bye, literally translated as "hope to see you again." The silver screen festivities go on through Jan. 28.
Good Bye has autobiographical elements. The film focuses on issues of gender inequality, political exile and freedom of the press, and in a way, shadows Rasoulof's troubles with the law in 2010-11, when he received a one-year prison sentence and was banned from producing films for 20 years.
For a complete schedule, click here.
Dance Month at Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center
It's been 23 years since the artsy center began showcasing a smorgasbord of local, national and international dance talent on the Kaplan Theatre stage. Aside from a thrilling lineup of performances, dance enthusiasts can participate in workshops and master classes to refine their moves and grooves.
The first Mixed Bag bash is set for 8 p.m. Saturday during which Houston Met Too, Inertia, Kennedy Dance Theatre/Jeté and Uptown Dance Company II will tear up the stage with contemporary choreography.
There's a lot going on through Feb. 9, so check the schedule and make a date with dance.
Rienzi Foodie Fest: English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century with Present-Day Delights
If you've been reading and following my adventures, you know that I am tickled by anything and everything Rienzi. Attribute that to the classic interiors and impressive collection of European decorative arts, painting and artifacts, from a delicious Williams Cripps silver epergne to an Angelica Kauffman oil on canvass.
Rienzi's first exhibition, English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century, sets the dinning room just as it was preferred by the period's Martha Stewart (Elizabeth Raffald). On Saturday, t'afia's Monica Pope re-interprets these delights via wine, historic punch and small bites.
Go for the backdrop, stay for the food. What's not to love?
I ♥ HYPA: Houston Young People for the Arts Homecoming Gala at Advantage BMW Midtown
High school sucked, at least for me. I keep telling myself I was just too mature for the idiocies of cafeteria drama. I preferred the music room. And as such, you can understand why there's no way I'll be missing the Houston Young People for the Arts Homecoming Gala.
It's a Saturday night event where music dorks, like me, can be the in-crowd, alongside jocks, emos, goths, punks, cheerleaders, class clowns, teacher's pets, T-birds, valley girls, geeks, drama kids, gamers, hackers, artists and gleeks. It's all good when tunes by DJ James Reed spin out of control and wine, beer and cocktails flow.
Chairs Cindy Rodriguez, Kelser McMiller, John Andell and James Sivco will not disappoint as honoring Sophia Arabani, Paul Pettie and Brian Thorp is quite the tall order.
Aperio, Music of the Americas presents Exquisite Decadence - The Twilight of American Romanticism at Texas Gallery
Houston Symphony's RachFest may have had the beat on Russian Romanticism. But when it comes to American traditions of the swooning era, it's Aperio that knows the ins the outs of the genre. Having just finished the half-marathon, artistic director and pianist Michael Zuraw has the chops to pull this off with the help of Quartus Chamber Players and mezzo-soprano Faith Sherman.
Who are these so called American romantics? The Sunday afternoon concert showcases music of Arthur Foote, Charles Martin Loeffler and Amy Beach.
Staff writer and architecture savant Tyler Rudick's pick: Jerry & Marvy Finger Lecture Series: "Building Modern Houston" by Anna Mod
Tyler says: "Pick of the week for me is definitely Anna Mod's Building Modern Houston talk at the Heritage Society at noon Thursday. As co-founder of Houston Mod and a seasoned 20th century preservationist herself, Mod explores the architectural expressions of a city that shift from an agricultural economy to one based on oil. The event's only $5 too — free for Heritage Society members."
Arts smarty pants and dance maven Nancy Wozny's pick: A Crack In Everything at DiverseWorks
Nancy says: "As a ancient Greek freak, I was jazzed to learn that Zoe|Juniper's A Crack in Everything enlists Aeschylus' trilogy of tragedies The Oresteia as a lens to explore the emotional spectrum of justice and retaliation.
"The Seattle based husband and wife team consists of choreographer Zoe Scofield and visual artist Juniper Shuey. The performance and installation opens this weekend at DiverseWorks. I had the great privileged of watching the DVD of the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival world premiere, and I have to say it's a visually stunning adventure. Performances run Thursday through Sundaty, and the installation opens Thursday and runs through Feb. 25.
"Local artists will perform a special version each Saturday afternoon through Feb. 25."
Staff writer and adorable Houston explorer Whitney Radley's pick: The Mountain Goats at Fitzgerald's
Whitney says: "I'll never forget the first time I heard The Mountain Goats — sitting in the hallway outside of my freshman dorm, listening to it on my neighbor's stereo. I've been a fan ever since. See them play with Nurses at Fitzgerald's, Friday at 9 p.m."
Assistant editor, nightlife expert and party gal Caroline Gallay's pick: The Civil Wars at Wortham Center
Caroline says: "My pick this week is The Civil Wars at Wortham Center. Although tickets are sold out, don't count the scalpers out just yet. Check StubHub for passes to see the bare-boned duo perform beautiful ballads like '20 years' and 'I've got this friend.' " Friday at 7 p.m.
Photo editor, design junkie and eco-happy Barbara Kuntz's pick: 26th Annual Arbor Day Celebration
Barbara says: "It's the year of Re-Plant Houston, and I can't think of a more satisfying and rewarding way to kick off my new year of civic responsibility than by participating in the 26th Annual Arbor Day Celebration on Saturday at 9 a.m.
"I'm getting my hands dirty at one of four parks helping plant 25,000 trees throughout the day. Choose your favorite picnic, running or walking spot to re-green: Hermann Park, Memorial Park, Mason Park and MacGregor Park. Sponsoring organizations are The Hermann Park Conservancy, Trees for Houston and HPARD."
Associate editor and CultureMap's resident gourmand Sarah Rufca's pick: Mid-Winter Repast
Sarah says: "The only thing more interesting than what chef Randy Rucker is saying on Twitter is what he does in the kitchen. Those who miss his inventive locavore fare at Bootsie's and can't wait to see what he and Chris Leung bring to the forthcoming conāt shouldn't miss this preview dinner." Sunday at 5 p.m.