It was a turnout any organizer, administrator and performer would have died for.
At dusk, the Rothko Chapel plaza was packed with listeners both young and mature engrossed in the thunderous sounds of Kaminari Taiko, a rowdy local troupe that makes no apologies for its merciless treatment of Japanese drums (take that you filthy thing), the players summoning their inner warrior to deliver a primal performance that was contagious to those present and to those who could hear the beats more than few blocks away.
You had no choice. You had to get up and sway, clap and holler as each taiko drummer took a turn in the spotlight, sometimes in a lunge position, arching back, arms outstretched to have follow-through space to strike the skins right on their sweet spot. Though it was an al fresco performance, the resonance echoed in the distance.
Thrilled at the number of guests enjoying the celebration, Rothko Chapel executive director Emilee Dawn Whitehurst said in passing, "I am not sure how we got everyone here, but we are certainly doing this again."
Though I had experienced Kaminari Taiko's power at the yearly Taiko Drumming fest at Miller Outdoor Theatre, there was something more ancient, tribal and ritualistic about seeing them up close and personal.
"As a counterpoint to the Rothko Chapel's quiet serenity, throughout the summer we will present an array of exhilarating performances that feature Indian, Brazilian and African diaspora drumming traditions."
On the occasion of the summer solstice, Rothko hosted the first of a series of summer concerts that honors the drum's history as a medium of communication used in wars, religious devotion and community celebrations. Almost every culture has a drum, every culture has it's own rhythms and every rhythm carries unique significance.
"As a counterpoint to the Rothko Chapel's quiet serenity, throughout the summer we will present an array of exhilarating performances that feature Indian, Brazilian and African diaspora drumming traditions," she said.
The series continues on July 12 with Baba Ifalade and D.R.U.M. (Divine Rhythm, United Motion) in an hour-long family-friendly program of African diaspora music, singing and storytelling. Kirtan Indian devotional chanting, alongside tabla (drum) and harmonium (keyboard) music, follows with Mahamandaleshwar Swami Nityananda on July 30.
The Brazilian Arts Foundation closes the summer concerts on the plaza on Aug. 9 with an interactive (that means you'll have a chance to participate) show-and-tell of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art, usually practiced by two players inside a circle, accompanied by live drumming.
The program concept is aligned with the sanctuary's dual vocations of contemplation and action.
"As a sacred space dedicated to cross-cultural understanding, the Rothko Chapel wanted to create an opportunity to amplify Houston's unique beat as its diverse cultures and spiritual traditions come together," Michelle Ashton, public programs and marketing director, said. "We researched local bands and drumming groups in order to find a representative mix of the many drumming traditions that now call Houston home."
All the events are free, with a suggested $10 donation for those able to contribute to Rothko Chapel's offerings. If you need to cool off, indulge with a treat from Fat Cat Creamery, which will be selling homemade ice cream on-site.
Bring a blanket. Better yet, have a picnic and make it a family outing. And if you are the singing-in-the-car type of clan, try this tune on your way there.