“…Reminds me of the one I love… Deep in the heart of Texas,” I sing in a hushed voice to my daughter, Sasha. The song, written in 1941, is now part of our bedtime routine, thanks to the Houston Symphony.
We learned the lyrics, inspired by the symphony's family concert Perfect Pitch: The Music of Baseball. Conductor Robert Franz invited the hundreds of families assembled at Jones Hall, to sing along, and clap along, while he weaved the orchestra’s 87 musicians through nostalgic baseball favorites.
“The key to the success of our family programs is that we present some of the best music for a symphony orchestra but we present it in bite-size chunks,” says Franz. “We do it in ways that families of many generations from grandparents to the smallest of children, and parents in between, can enjoy together.”
“The key to the success of our family programs is that we present some of the best music for a symphony orchestra but we present it in bite-size chunks,” says Franz.
For a prelude, the symphony sets up an instrument petting zoo and an art station for families. Children can touch and try playing trumpets, trombones, violins, cellos and various percussion instruments. They can also direct their energy and imagination towards creating crafts.
During the concert, the families were treated to a baseball-themed song selection including "The Star Spangled Banner," "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," "Star Wars’ Attack of the Clones" and the theme from Batman.
Getting in the spirit of the great American past time, members of the orchestra wore baseball caps in different colors. Red caps went to the strings section, green caps to the woodwinds, blue caps to the brass instruments and orange caps to the percussionists.
Franz wore a baseball uniform. “I always wear a costume in the theme of the concert. It’s a fun and interactive way for us all to have a great time together,” he says. ”Sometimes I have complete make-up on my face. I’ve been an alien, a chicken. I love it, they love it.”
The crowd also loved the concert highlights that featured two low-pitch voices: Houston Astros announcer Milo Hamilton and KHOU anchor Len Cannon. Hamilton narrated the popular book, Casey At The Bat, accompanied by the orchestra. And Cannon got up on stage with a bat, to swing at pretend pitches from Franz during John Philip Sousa’s The National Game.
Cannon’s symphony debut was my daughter’s favorite part. She was especially excited to see a family member on stage - Cannon is her dad, and my husband. This concert will certainly be a treasured family memory for the three of us.
We look forward to attending more of The Houston Symphony’s family concerts. Tickets are already available for 2012-2013 Family Concert Series. The four shows in the series follow different themes.
In October, magic takes over Jones Hall as the Houston Symphony performs “Wands and Batons: The Music of Harry Potter and More." In December, the INERTIA dance company joins the performance of “Hip Hoppin’ Nutcracker” for a modern jazz twist to the classic Christmas favorite.“Aladdin and The Arabian nights” is the theme for the January 2013 family concert. And finally, next April, the spotlight’s on the percussion family and music from Jurassic Park as the Houston Symphony performs “Dinosaurs!”
This summer, the Houston Symphony's performances include 12 free concerts. The "Sounds Like Fun: Classical Jukebox" series begins Wednesday. Conductor Franz leads the orchestra in seven different family concerts held in churches, community centers and schools.
The ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Series at Miller Outdoor Theatre includes the Fourth of July performance, "Star Spangled Salute." For more information, visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.
Bernadette Verzosa is founder of Parentspost.com, which covers new and exciting things for families to do in Houston.