Pick Five (Plus)

Your weekly guide to Houston: Keeping up the canopy, remembering 9/11 and Taiko drummers

Your weekly guide to Houston: Keeping up the canopy, remembering 9/11 and Taiko drummers

News_Asian Society Gala_Performers Kaminari Taiko
15th Annual Grand Taiko Concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre Friday and Saturday nights Courtesy of Jeff Fantich Photography
Glenwood Cemetery
Learn about who's resting at Glenwood Cemetery Sunday at 6 p.m.
News_Robert Wittman_Newspaper
Talk by Art Crimes Specialist Robert Wittman: Pursuing the Priceless: Stolen Art, Investigation and the Law at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Thursday at 7 p.m. Courtesy of Robert K. Whittman
Sing for hope after party
Bering Omega's 17th Annual "Sing for Hope: An Evening of Art Songs and Arias"at Wortham Theater Center Saturday night.
News_promoted series_Houston Symphonyv
Houston Symphony's Opening Classical Series Concert: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Ode to Joy" Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Photo by Leah Polkowske/Elle Studios
News_Asian Society Gala_Performers Kaminari Taiko
Glenwood Cemetery
News_Robert Wittman_Newspaper
Sing for hope after party
News_promoted series_Houston Symphonyv

Happy September! Labor day flew by, the weather has cooled off and we continue to be out and about reporting what's great, artsy and fabulous in Houston.

At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Page One: Inside the New York Times traced the media giant from its days as a print-only institution to its journey into digital media and self-reporting. Humanizing the paper's transition were New York Times reporter and resident badass David Carr, whose wit and sarcasm personified the paper's modus operandi; young hotshot Brian Stelter; editor-in-chief Bill Keller, hottie Tim Arango and others as cameras seeped into the newsroom for an exposé of the inner struggles to remain in the black. 

In a nutshell, the film disrobes the New York Time's Media Desk and spotlights news outlets' joust to grow readers while maintaining integrity.

If you haven't yet experienced Mercury Baroque — or any of Houston's early music ensembles, such as Ars Lyrica, Bach Society Houston or Houston Early Music — you are missing an opportunity to decipher the riddles of the music and culture of yesteryear. At Miller Outdoor Theatre, an eager audience gathered to delight in the ludic tunes of the joker himself. Mozart can be serious, and his prolific opus is seriously fun — can you imagine what we would have if he'd lived past the age of 35?

Houston Restaurant Weeks ended, First Saturday Arts Market in The Heights returned to its fall hours (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), and for those who partied a little too hard over the weekend, Free Day of Yoga Houston at Verticality Pole Fitness was the place to be to get in the zone and zen out.

Now, for something different. This week my colleagues and I have put together a list of not-to-miss events, socials and artsy performances:

Talk by Art Crimes Specialist Robert Wittman: Pursuing the Priceless: Stolen Art, Investigation and the Law at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Art thieves have an undercover nemesis, and his name is Robert Wittman. Think of him as one third Indiana Jones, one third Robert Langdon (from Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons) and one third James Bond. A pianist turned-sales person-turned FBI agent, he is also the author of New York Times bestseller, Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures. Among those priceless cultural artifacts and art pieces are a gold backflap stolen from a Peruvian burial ground, a Civil War-era flag and an original copy of the Bill of Rights. 

The book is gripping, moving from adventure to adventure while interspersing personal turmoil and tips from being out in the field. With a hint of yankee FBI sass, Wittman is a funny, dedicated man whose mission is to return art and cultural artifacts to their rightful owners. And if he gets the pilferer behind bars. . . bonus.

Catch his infotaining lecture at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Thursday at 7 p.m.  

Houston Remembers 9/11: An Evening of Remembrance and Unity at Discovery Green

Where were you when the Twin Towers fell? As a student at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, I had arrived early to do what music students do everyday: Lock myself in a practice room and begin a routine of good-for-you etudes. It wasn't until many hours later — when I noticed that the hallway was unusually desolate — that a close friend delivered the news.

It wasn't my first exposure to terrorism and senseless violence. Having grown up in Peru during the 1980s when the guerilla group "Shinning Path" was at its most active, I had become accustomed to horrific tragedies that were outside the realm of reason. But I never thought this country could ever be susceptible to such things.

Many groups are coming together on Friday to unite and remember the 10th anniversary of 9/11, beginning at 7 p.m. with HPD Chief Charles McClelland and the HPD honor guard. Houston Grand Opera will perform  9/11: Memories from Houston, a song cycle by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer quoting Houston's first responders.

At 8:15 p.m., a screening of Rebirth follows five people over the 10 years since the attack. Rebirth also contains never-before-seen time-lapse footage of the transformation of the space where the World Trade Center used to stand. 

Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets’ Ross Volunteers will fire a rifle volley, followed by a playing of Taps and a candlelight vigil. 

Houston Symphony's Opening Classical Series Concert: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Ode to Joy"

It's a beast of a piece, both for musicians and audiences. Listening to the Beethoven's full work — not just the glorious closing movement — is as romantic as it gets, considering it was written in 1824, when the composer was fully deaf and just three years before his death.

A huge orchestra, chorus and soloists — Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano; Gordon Gietz, tenor; and Andrew Foster-Williams, bass-baritone — will produce a massive wall of sound, lifting your spirits at a time when everyone needs a little pick-me-up. As the text says, we all need to drink joy, be embraced and kiss the whole world. That's a lot of smooches.

Thursday at 8 p.m. at Sugar Land Baptist ChurchFriday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Jones Hall. On Saturday, supporters will head to The Corinthian post-concert for the black-tie opening night gala.

15th Annual Grand Taiko Concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre

It happens every year sometime in September. An ominous rumble, thunderous explosions and virile grunts emerge from the stage at Miller Outdoor Theatre. It may seem like some sort of pagan sacrificial ritual, but it's the colorful, meaty Taiko drumming tradition that Kaminari Taiko contributes to the theater's diverse performance offerings.

It's not just about the music. The costumes, choreographed movements and discipline required to perform Taiko borders on the territory of martial arts. More than 50 drums will roll on to the stage —small, medium and the big mama. 

It's a spectacle, and it's by a local company. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Bering Omega's 17th Annual "Sing for Hope: An Evening of Art Songs and Arias"at Wortham Theater Center

Sing for Hope is a musicale where jazz hands and opera divas coexist on a single stage — partly because it's a fundraising event benefiting Bering Omega Community Services, an organization supporting those living with HIV/AIDS. The yearly affair is a collaboration between the nonprofit and soprano Camille Zamora, who assembles an arsenal of opera celebs and programs a delightful evening with classical favorites mingled with jazzy melodies.

Chaired by Angelica and Ed Chapman, Dr. Ronald Maldonado and Joel Bickley, the show honors Gabriela and Daniel Dror. 

Houston favorite bass-baritone Timothy Jones will be joined by soprano Jennifer Aylmer, tenor John McVeigh, baritone Curt Olds, baritone Randall Scarlata, tenor Michael Slattery, mezzo Jennifer Walsey and soprano Monica Yunus.

It's a black-tie affair, beginning with dinner at The Houston Club at 5:30 p.m. followed by the concert at the Wortham at 8 p.m. New this year is "A Venetian Masquerade" after-party, hosted by Bering Omega's young professionals board and chaired by Liz Gorman, Nick Espinosa and Jerry Guerrero, honoring Brian O'Leary and featuring grooves by DJ Synplicity. 

Glenwood Cemetery Walking Tour

Now that the weather has cooled off  (if only slightly) it's time to rethink spending time outdoors. Learn about who's resting at Glenwood Cemetery and have a spooky late-afternoon discovering the famous — like eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, movie star Gene Tierney and Anson Jones, last president of the Republic of Texas — and not-so-famous interred here.

It's the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance's most in-demand 90-minute tour, so I suggest reserving your spot earlier than later. Sunday at 6 p.m.

Arts contributor and Dancehunter Nancy Wozny's pick: Houston Ballet's Return of the Masters at Wortham Theater Center.

Nancy says: "I can't say I've been been dance starved this summer, but I have missed Houston Ballet in action, which is why I will be at Return of the Masters this weekend. The bill is full of treasures from the repertoire, including Frederick Ashton's Les Patineurs, Jerome Robbins' In the Might and Sir Kenneth MacMillian's Song of the Earth.

"I may be a ballet freak, but I have not seen any of these masterworks. I'm especially interested in Song of the Earth, because MacMillian served as artistic associate for the company during the 1980s, deeply influencing the direction of Houston Ballet. The opening of the season is also a perfect time to gawk at the newbies, too."

Lifestyle contributor and Houston explorer Whitney Radley's pick: Houston Museum of African American Culture's “Africans in America; The New Beat of Afropolitans” Symposium

Whitney says: "HMAAC's symposium, 'Africans in America: The New Beat of Afropolitans,' is on my radar for the weekend. The event has an incredible panel and a full day of lectures and discussions on Saturday — the organizers invite you to come and go as you please — culminating in a film screening (with free finger food!) of Soul Diaspora at 6 p.m. It's sure to be a history-maker." Friday and Saturday.

Photo editor and design junkie Barbara Kuntz's pick: First Ladies' Eco Bash on the Bayou

Barbara says: "I'm remembering the victims of 9/11 by helping plant some 3,000 trees in honor of those who died that tragic day and hopefully, at the same time, helping to replenish our future canopy. Join in on the planting and beautification efforts at the First Ladies' Eco Bash on the Bayou, set for 8 a.m. Saturday. I know that, for me, the occasion will be a healing experience in many ways."