Pick Five (Plus)

Your weekly guide to Houston: Spanish carols, a French icon and a winter (solstice) wonderland

Your weekly guide to Houston: Spanish carols, a French icon and a winter (solstice) wonderland

If there's such a thing as too much talent, it would resemble the Glassell School of Art studio sale over the weekend. Think of wall after wall filled with paintings, prints, mixed media and photographs crafted by accomplished students, flanking tables of sculpture, pottery, jewlery and more art.

Picking pieces wasn't easy — blame that on the overwhelming task of poring through each work of art.

The Thursday night preview opened the doors to Art Crowd members, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's young professionals group. On Friday and Saturday, it was a buzzing free-for-all, as the annual sale was moved to holiday time rather than end of spring as it has been in previous years.

And that was a very good idea.

One could find the same lively energy at Momentum Audi as Sideline Soiree co-chairs Michael Coppens and Kimberly Rawson, alongside Kimberli Bowman, hosted the 2011 Bowl Selections Soiree as a kick-off to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas set for Dec. 31.

Getting sporty in the crowd were Paul Pettie, Heather Pray, Melissa Seuffert and Kevin Gilbert, Tyson Dunn, Sidney Short, Beth and Carole McGarry, football coach Max Bowman and his wife Beverly and Courtney Pemberton.

A festive and feel-good scene it was, heightened by nibbles courtesy of Don Carlos, Haven, Palazzo's, Pink's Pizza, Sushi King and Nothing Bundt Cakesby and knowing the beneficiary was DePelchin Children's Center thanks to the Sideline Soiree Committee and the American Cancer Society's Victory Gentlemen's Committee.

As a first timer to Lights in the Heights, I can best describe the experience as shock and awe. Hard to tell whether this was an all-out frat party or a holiday street fest, perhaps a little bit of both. Family-friendly at first, filled with genteel strolling, street carolers and costumed pooches, morphing into a risqué after-dark bacchanal.

At least that was the ambiance at Bill Shirley's house, where the afterparty has been an institution for a couple of decades. For admission, a quirky hat was required. Rumor has it that garage band Bubba Coltrane and the Trainwrecks came down from Austin and jammed for a bottle of Jägermeister and perhaps a shot of two from the ice luge.

There, we spotted James Phelan, James Glassman, Karl Lin, Brian Block, Brey Tucker and Chris Boyd amidst Santas on roller skates.

What's on tap for next week? Read on.

CultureMap's Mixers on the Map with Young Texans Againts Cancer (YTAC) and Young Professionals in Energy (YPE) at BlackFinn American Grille

If you haven't yet attended a CultureMap Mixers on the Map, I'd encourage you to check out this double-feature social. These series of happy hours highlight young professional groups, the movers and shakers that support an organization or a cause. This time around, both Young Texans Against Cancer and Young Professionals in Energy join hands to toast the season. Usually on the third Tuesday of the month, the December gathering is on Thursday at 7 p.m.

In the spirit of good doing, monetary donations for Adopt a Family with Candlelighters for Christmas will be accepted. The initiative helps families of children diagnosed with cancer or those who recently lost a child to cancer during challenging times. 

Premiere Screening of Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

It was after MFAH's film schedule went to print that Gainsbourg: Vie héroïque became available for the premiere Houston screening. Winning Best Actor and Best First Film at the 2011 Cesar Awards and Best Actor at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, it was the vision of comic-book artist cum-director Joann Sfar, alongside actor Eric Elmosnino as French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, that gives the film its pseudo-surrealist spunk.

The film tackles the legendary musician, from his early days in Nazi-occupied Paris, his rise as a jazz musician to reaching super stardom, with a soundtrack including many of his most beloved tunes.

On Friday, the screening will also include the short film Gainsbourg: Exterior Night (Gainsbourg: Extérieur Nuit) directed by Patrice Vanoni, cultural attaché at the Consulate General of France in Houston, who will be in attendance, followed by a reception in the galleries. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life also shows on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Houston Grand Opera Studio Recital at Rienzi

The lovely, tucked-away former home of Caroll and Harris Masterson — now the home of MFAH's European decorative arts collection — is the backdrop for Houston Grand Opera Studio recitals, an opportunity to get to know rising stars in the opera scene. Think of Rienzi's exquisite parquet floors, delicate porcelain, delicious period architecture and breathtaking art surrounding you while you enjoy the music of Liszt, Duparc, Marx and Tosti in an ode to the free spirit of the gypsies, passionate love and the mystery of the night.

The studio has produced such stars as Albina Shagimuratova, Joyce DiDonato and Scott Hendricks, so opera's next diva just might emerge from the program. Post-concert guests can indulge in a wine and sweets reception in the main gathering areas. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Winter Solstice Wine and Cheese Night Hike

With the hectic nature of the gift-giving season, a night off to regain sanity is sometimes in order. There's no better place to do so than in Houston's urban wilderness. In the heart of the city you'll find the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, a 155-acre nature sanctuary that makes anyone who walks its trails forget that you are in the midst of inner loop action.

At the Winter Solstice Wine and Cheese Night Hike on Saturday, nature lovers will head to the meadow deck, which borders the pond. After warming up with a little cheese and wine, Tai Chi instructor Dale Napier will discuss cultural traditions celebrating the solstice. He might also let you try a hand at ritualistic Tai Chi movements appropriate for the time of year.

Foundation for Modern Music An Afternoon of Spanish and Latin Carols and Dance at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Who says Christmas has to be so holy, so well behaved? Why not infuse a little rhythm and dance action in the celebration? At Foundation for Modern Music's first presentation at MFAH, the music presenter partners with Flamárt — a fiery performance troupe that spotlights European and African influences on Latin American and Spanish musical genres — to put a little skip on that Christmas step.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., "Navidad Latina" mingles all things saucy and high energy found in the musics and dances of Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean with performers Solero Flamenco (cante y toque), percussionist Jorge "Cro-Cro" Orta and baritone Raúl Orlando Edwards, among others. 

Houston explorer and CultureMap's adorably awesome Whitney Radley's pick: Discovery Green Flea

Whitney says: "Another year, another holiday shopping procrastination. I hope to prevent impending panic by picking up one-of-a-kind treasures and locally-crafted goods for my loved ones at the Discovery Green Flea on Saturday afternoon."

Arts smarty pants and beer lovin' lovable Dancehunter Nancy Wozny's pick: Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft and Soundforge at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Nancy says: "Usually, I'm the last person to be handed a hammer, but the wonderful folks at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft offered me several as part of Soundforge, an installation piece by metal artist and former artist in residence Gabriel Craig and Michael Remson, artistic director of American Festival for the Arts. Metal is all about sound, according to these two guys, hence hammers are left for you to play.

"While you are there, also stop in to see Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft, inspired by Arts & Crafts Movement founder William Morris' famous words, 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.' I especially loved Lauren Mayer's porcelain slips in Between What I Say and What I Keep Silent and Alison Owen's wallpaper sprinkled throughout the exhibition. Both shows remain open until Jan. 8."

Arts and architecture savant and all around awesome guy Tyler Rudick's pick: Houston Arboretum's Winter Holiday Shrub and Tree Sale

Tyler says: "The drought has done a number of my gardening attempts, so I'm definitely hitting up the Houston Arboretum's Winter Holiday Shrub and Tree Sale which runs through Sunday.

"With scores of native plants as well as reasonably-price organic compose and mulch, the sale is historically a wonderful place to stock up for any winter green-thumb efforts. All proceeds go to the education and conservation programs at the Arboretum, which itself needs some serious love in light of our recent dry spell."

News_Joel_Arboretum_Tapas on the Trails
Why not slow down a bit and enjoy an evening rekindling your love for all things natural? At the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, the Winter Solstice Wine and Cheese Night Hike explores cultural traditions celebrating the solstice with a little Tai Chi. Photo by Joel Luks
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
If you don't know who Serge Gainsbourg is, you should. You can learn all about this legendary French singer-songwriter at the premiere screening of Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life.
Foundation for Modern Music presents <i>Navidad Latina: An Afternoon of Spanish and Latin Carols and Dance</i>
Foundation for Modern Music partners with Flamárt for its debut at MFAH. An Afternoon of Spanish and Latin Carols and Dance uncovers high-energy Christmas traditions in Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean. 
Mixers on the Map YTAC YPE
CultureMap's Mixers on the Map bring together young professionals doing good things in Houston.