Music in the (hot) air
Taking the kids to the Houston Symphony: It's a hill thing
I ended up bringing a 2- and a 4-year-old to the Houston Symphony last night.
This wasn't on purpose. I'm not into intentionally inflicting pain on myself or others. A babysitter fell through and I wanted to see a 25-year-old wunderkind conductor I'd interviewed do his thing, so it was me and the kids — and Tchaikovsky's Fourth.
It turned out to be a perfect combination for two rambunctious toddlers (and my kids can redefine rambunctious — the one and only time they visited the CultureMap's office, they drove my boss, Editor-in-Chief Clifford Pugh, out of the building so quickly that you would have thought there was a fire — or at least a tanker spill on the premises). But neither their natural loudness (the whole concept of an inside voice ... not happening) or the classical music atmosphere turned out to be an obstacle.
Not when the concert is one of the Houston Symphony's Miller Outdoor Theater affairs.
Now, I didn't sit under the covered pavilion, which was completely filled by the time we wandered over from the Hermann Park playground, a perfect pre-concert family warmup, anyways. Instead, the boys and I hit the hill, the land of blankets, wine bottles and kids as far as the eye can see. There are actually two levels of hill around Miller, the high plateau everyone sits on and then, the large trek-up section and they're separated by a paved walkway.
It turns out, there's nothing like some hill sprints (or toddler "Wheee! downs) as a warmup for a Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro opener.
But once conductor Diego Matheuz took the stage, the kids did largely pay attention. OK, the 2-year--old fell asleep 15 minutes in (but he's snoozed through NBA Finals Games too, so it's not like he's discriminating against the arts). My 4-year-old seemed to like the music (Matheuz does make his concerts accessible), loved the clapping, was endlessly amused by seeing how far the full moon would dip behind Miller's top and wasn't close to being one of the louder people on the hill. (Here's looking at you — special wine cooler showoff guy!)
Culture without crying chaos. That's a success.
The music ran 46 minutes flat too, the perfect amount of time to prevent serious fidgeting from setting in. By the time, I was getting asked when we could run down the hill again, we were running down the hill.
What most struck me about the night was just how many young kids there were though. It was a scene that was almost more New York than Houston. When my wife and I are New York, we always take our kids to high-end restaurants like Blue Hill and Bouley and get welcomed with open arms, something we largely never try in a still-more-restaurant-conservative Houston, with the exception of a few spots like Reef.
While on the hill, we even ran into a family from our neighborhood that we had no idea were Symphony fans. It's a small musical word.
Check out CultureMap's exclusive piece on Diego Matheuz — a prodigy who's gone from dealing with Italy's debt to Houston success — as part of our ever-expanding Sunday coverage (if you think CultureMap is a Monday through Friday 9-5 thing like many websites, you're missing some of the best stories in the city). For now, I'm off.
There's another young conductors concert tonight at Miller — this one is Krzysztof Urbański, the rare conductor who doesn't use notes, relying on a photographic memory instead — and we're hitting the hill again.
Next weekend, over the Fourth of July holiday, the Symphony closes its summer nights series with another outdoor show at Miller, the annual Star Spangled fireworks salute.
Beware Symphony patrons. If this keeps up, you could see a lot more kids at Jones Hall in the future — including a rowdy pair of toddlers.