Spring break is over, school is back in session and Houston events are in high gear. Get back into the swing of things with this week's lineup of CultureMap editors' picks for how to have fun in the Bayou City. On tap are a film that tells a story of hope, a rowdy dance party, a local pub crawl with international flavor, a wine binge, energetic classical music and a conference that lauds all things Italian.
Film screening: Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven's Final Symphony
I must have been 5 or 6 years old when, with a recorder on hand, I squeaked the first few notes of the "Ode to Joy" chorus. I'll never forget my teacher's bewildering look, a supportive castigating smirk that suggested I didn't quite get it. Why wasn't it appropriate to over blow with all my might while twirling in what I thought was a fitting interpretive dance?
Anyone who's ever played a musical instrument encounters the tune at a young age; it's somewhat of a rite of passage, As it turns out, my understanding, as jejune as it may have been, was indeed appropriate for what has become a universal song that symbolizes humanity's yearning for brotherhood.
Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven's Final Symphony is a deeply emotional account of how Beethoven's strife morphed into a global plea for hope. With historical footage of the protests of Tiananmen Square in 1989 and similar events worldwide, Kerry Candaele's film illustrates music's power to unite and heal.
Spotlight Asia: Cocktails and Cultural Fusions 2014
There's no such thing as a social affair that fades into lameness when New York-based DJ Kalkutta is at the turntables. This energetic gal always mixes the right thumping remixes to rouse a boisterous dance party. Also featuring Vietnamese-American, Houston-based Baohaus, the hip gathering that spotlights the Asia Society Texas Center is where many Houstonians will be seen rubbing elbows on Friday night.
Chairs Janae and Kenneth Tsai, with the help of Zulu Creative, have organized a fundraiser that includes goodies from Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar, Glen Gondo & Sushi, Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, 13 Celsius, Little Soya and Uchi.
Our Global Village's "Pub Voyage"
Just as I did, you'll fall in love with the mission of Our Global Village and one of its programs, The Community Cloth. By giving refugee women an opportunity to use their indigenous craft of weaving as means to earn a living, The Community Cloth is an indispensable initiative through which these displaced persons regain control of their destinies. Despite their stories of struggle and survival, the weavers whom I met beamed with positive energy at the prospect of thriving in a city that offers them freedoms they lacked in their homeland.
Think of this "Pub Voyage" event — which starts at Batanga and crawls to Clutch City Squire, Little Dipper, Dean's and El Big Bad — as an adventure in which you'll learn about the grassroots efforts of Our Global Village. Solve all the riddles in the scavenger hunt and you'll be entered in a raffle to win prizes.
Brenner's on the Bayou's Annual Wine Festival
The bucolic ravine of Brenner's on the Bayou is the backdrop for a grape fest that would no doubt quench the thirst of Dionysus. Wine, food, wine, music and wine — get it? — combine for a pleasant afternoon that features varietals from Diageo, Mark Wine Group, RNDC – Diamond Division, Serendipity Wines, Constellation Wines, Terlato and many more.
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra presents "ROCO Celebrates France"
Illinois Symphony Orchestra music director Alastair Willis, a graduate of Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, has quickly become a popular conductor in Houston, his concerts with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra fusing just the right amount of casual charm and wicked music making. Audiences melt when hearing the darling British accent from the Massachusetts-born dirigent who lived and studied in England for most of his life.
You don't need to know the specifics of the program; that's not why ROCO fans attend concerts. Music buffs love this chamber orchestra because they hear something they love and they learn to love something they've never heard before.
Editor in chief and CultureMap resident style guru Clifford Pugh's pick: ExhibItalia 2014
Clifford says: "Despite intense global competition, the Italian fashion industry is still the best at producing high-quality handbags and other accessories. This weekend's ExhibItalia at the George R. Brown Convention center offers Houstonians a rare chance to shop for unique 'Made in Italy' items. The two-day event, on Saturday and Sunday, also offers Italian food, entertainment and exhibits, so it's a lot less expensive than an overseas jaunt — and you don't have to go through security.
Staff writer and resident gourmand Eric Sandler's pick: Second Annual Houston Barbecue Festival
Eric says: "If the smell of smoke gets you salivating, you won't want to miss the Houston Barbecue Festival. Instead of a competition, this event celebrates the best of our city's barbecue scene by bringing together 18 pitmasters from across the Houston area and two special guests. The first, Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller BBQ in Taylor, has announced plans to open a second location somewhere in Houston. The second, John Avila of Morgan's Barbecue in Brooklyn, is a Houston native who trained with Aaron Franklin and plans to open a restaurant here, too.
"As for me, I'll probably start with a beef rib from Killen's BBQ, then head to Corkscrew for some brisket and Gatlin's for a rib. Then I'll dash over to Louie Mueller's for whatever Wayne wants to feed me before checking out some of the newcomers such as Pappa Charlies and Feges BBQ. Then I have to get to Ray's BBQ Shack for smoked boudin and I can't miss John Avila. Guess I'll be eating salad for dinner Saturday night to prepare."