Pick Five (Plus)
A little rain didn't deter Houston Heights residents and design aficionados from forming long lines to soak in the charm of Houston's oldest suburb. At the 2011 Houston Heights Association Holiday Home Tour "Deck the Heights," six delightful homes, some dating back to the early 1900s, others newly built in the style of the period, were open to curious folk hungry for decor inspiration.
For those partial to a modern interpretation of retro design, a 2008 David Weekley home on Allston custom-built for Thomas Gribble and Phil Eaton was filled to the brim with cozy allure amidst open spaces and exquisite ceiling details. A tablescape lined with domed terrariums was the highlight of the dining room — Gribble is a landscape designer — opening to a kitchen with soapstone countertops.
It was the soft turquoise accents throughout the home that modernized the otherwise classic space. The outdoor living? Homey and deliciously stylish.
The home of Kristal Kirksey, owner of Jubilee boutique, and drummer Kevin Tate on Arlington captured smiles and nostalgia with a kitschy display of vintage Americana collectibles and Coca Cola tchotchkes. Every nook and cranny was overloaded with happy trinkets, vinyl furniture, a complete collection of plastic Santas, all flanked by vibrant, unusual colors.
Lot's to love.
Handel's Messiah marathon started Saturday with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) and Houston Chamber Choir at the Church of St. John the Divine. Actor Rutherford Cravens took on the persona of the composer at the premiere of Messiah for Kids!, an arrangement by Shepherd School of Music composer Karim Al-Zand. Little ones and larger little ones — like me — learned the intricacies that have made the piece a holiday staple for almost three centuries, like text painting, affect, melodic contour and dynamics through audience interaction.
That same evening, the two classical music forces crowded the sanctuary — Houston really loves ROCO and Houston Chamber Choir — and performed the complete oratorio, along with Franz Schubert's and Joseph Fux's Magnificat. As with all ROCO concerts, there was a surprise, that being a lovely and barcarolle-style arrangement by John Leavitt of the holiday traditional, Greensleeves.
If you can't get enough of all things holiday-ish, I've highlighted a number of events. If the Scrooge in you needs a rest from all things red and green, I have just what you need. Read on for this week's recommendations.
2011 Bowl Selections Soiree at Momentum Audi
It's true that the holiday season is filled with concerts, ballets, dinners, socials, cookie exchanges, weight gain, family drama and reckless spending. So I think a little change of speed with something sporty is just what the doctor ordered. Let that be the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas set for Dec. 31 at 11 a.m. at Reliant Stadium, pitting Texas A&M against Northwestern.
But why not start the festivities early with 2011 Bowl Selections Soiree at Momentum Audi. The Sideline Soiree Committee and the American Cancer Society's Victory Gentlemen's Committee have put together a social on Thursday at 7 p.m. that melds good tunes with light bites and beverages, with proceeds from the affair benefiting DePelchin Children's Center.
Football and good doing, that's in the spirit.
The Heritage Society 49th Annual Candlelight Tour
With so much new and sparkly around us, a reminder of how things used to be is necessary to have better perspective of how lucky we are today. The Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park does just that at its Candlelight Tour, a tradition alive and well for the past 49 years.
On Friday and Saturday, stroll through the grounds of Sam Houston Park where costumed re-enactors will conjure up the traditions of yesteryear, like promenading carolers, children's crafts in Santa's workshop and characters from the city's past. It's a wholesome good time for the young and the young at heart.
Handel's Messiah presented by Mercury Baroque at Wortham Theater Center
Everyone knows the culminating chorus of this masterpiece, now a holiday tradition that dates back to 1742 in Dublin. But do you know the whole, complete work? It's quite a whirlwind of a spectacle filled with succulent baroque virtuosic vocal and instrumental writing.
We often hear Handel's Messiah with instruments of today. That just won't do for the folks at Mercury Baroque. The ensemble plays on period instruments, in essence, bringing back not just the music, but the ethos of the baroque as it was practiced back in the 18th century.
Better yet, you can sing along at Friday's performance (bring your own score of purchase one at the concert for $10) or hear the whole thing on Saturday with the University of Houston's Moores School of Music Concert Chorale, led by Betsy Weber, with soprano Shannon Mercer, countertenor Lawrence Zazzo, tenor Colin Ainsworth and bass Joshua Hopkins.
Glassell Studio School Student Art Sale
Another art market? Yes, please! As my holiday shopping list continues to dwindle, I am left with a few folks that have just about everything. Challenged with the task of finding something meaningful and unique, the solution can be found at one of Houston largest art markets.
That's the Glassell School of Art studio sale, during which students put out their sculptures, paintings, prints, ceramics, photographs and mixed-media works. There's a lot of stuff, though, for best selection, I recommend shopping earlier. The artsy bacchanal is on Friday from noon to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Third Annual Gingerbread House Build-Off at Market Square Park
Not for the weak and hungry, this event mingles two of my favorite things: Anything delicious and everything pretty. This fierce competition of icing, gumdrops and candy canes will entice over 20 teams to craft an architectural delicacy deserving of the coveted Grand Prix de Show. Other categories include Best Architectural Icon, Tallest Standing Structure, Best Traditionally Themed, Best Non-Traditionally Themed and Most Creative Use of Materials.
Sponsored by Architecture Center Houston and the Downtown District, the festive feud begins at Market Square Park at Saturday 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. If you didn't register, you can come and offer a cheer or two, or build your own mini structure at the spectators table.
Towers and Trees Downtown Walking Tour
If you are tired of all the holiday-esque events happening around you, take a break from Santa and eggnog and meander around downtown Saturday morning exploring the many changes to downtown Houston over the decades.
That includes learning about the history of buildings on Main Street, plans around Hermann Square, the civic center now known as Houston Center and how Discovery Green came to be. Meet at Houston City Hall Saturday at 10 a.m. The tour is organized by Architecture Center Houston.
Associate editor and nightlife expert Caroline Gallay's pick: 24th Annual Lights in the Heights
Caroline says: "My obvious pick this weekend is Lights in the Heights! Despite much chatter about overcrowding, I've found the event to be a blast each year expect no different this Saturday. I suggest a rolling cooler and, if you're able, a dinner party home base for bathroom breaks and purse drops. Dog and kid friendly!"
Photo editor and design junkie Barbara Kuntz's pick: 2011 Winter Holiday Native Tree and Shrub Sale at Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Barbara says: "I'm going Texas-native with my landscaping, replacing key sidewalk and entryway plants that perished from the drought to enliven our home for holiday guests. The 2011 Winter Holiday Native Tree and Shrub Sale, a nine-day shopping extravaganza, offers more than 60 different species of Texas native trees, shrubs and vines. And to top it off, no pun intended, organic compost and mulch are available, too."
Arts smarty pants and beer lovin' lovable gal Nancy Wozny's pick: Catastrophic Theatre production of Anna Bella Eema
Nancy says: "When the three characters in Lisa D'Amour's Anna Bella Eema chant, 'To be more than another set of bones wandering across the earth is to realize that you are just another set of bones wandering across the earth,' you get the idea that what will follow will be not your usual linear play. Catastrophic Theatre's production of D'Amour's breathtakingly original play is both spoken and sung by Ivy Castle, Jessica Janes and Elissa Levitt in a tour de force performance.
"Levitt's raw portrayal as the trailer park matriarch known as 'one' will haunt your dreams. Directed by Jason Nodler, Anna Bella Eema, is one dangerous and exhilarating night at the theater. Chris Sidorfsky's melodic music punctuates D'Amour's prose, coming and going in surprising ways. Kevin Holden's eerie lighting and Jodi Bobrovsky's barren dirt set add to the creep factor. I should add that D'Amour just won a Steinberg Playwright Award. Anna Bella Eemaruns through Dec. 23 at DiverseWorks."