Arts & EntertainmentFeaturesMusic

One Hundred and Counting

David Chambers (l), chief development officer with the Houston Symphony, poses with his partner, Alex Steffler.

The Houston Symphony’s chief development officer talks about the upcoming season
by Rich Arenschieldt

Many inner-loopers have been noticing the recently planted orange lawn signs sporting the phrase “Have you heard?” touting the Houston Symphony Orchestra’s 100th-anniversary season and its newer, less-stodgy image. Houstonians who have long been accustomed to the best performing and visual arts in the nation may actually be excited by what’s happening in Jones Hall next season.

Much of the buzz surrounds the appointment of a newly announced music director designate, Columbian conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada. He’s a bit of an orchestral youngster, but full of Latino charisma buttressed by a Viennese musical pedigree worthy of the world’s most distinguished conductors.

“We chose a new music director after an exhaustive search process,” says David Chambers, HSO’s openly gay chief development officer. “We looked at twenty candidates over a three-year period in a process overseen by an extremely dedicated and knowledgeable search committee. The musicians were absolutely integral to this endeavor. After each performance with a new conductor, the entire orchestra was surveyed. [It was no surprise that] Andrés had almost immediate support amongst the players. He communicates well with musicians and engages audiences with his approachable demeanor.”

Prior to assuming his full-time appointment for the 2014/15 season, Orozco-Estrada leads the HSO in four subscription concerts this coming centennial season. Audiences should get a nice preview of the young maestro as he interprets musical offerings ranging from Mozart to Mendelssohn.

“The centennial season is one that will appeal to a wide range of Houstonians,” Chambers says. “Performers include soprano Renée Fleming, violinist Joshua Bell, composer John Adams, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and many others of similar stature you would expect to see as HSO celebrates this milestone.”

The season kicks off a bit early this year at Miller Outdoor Theatre—a venue not often associated with a glittery gala opening. On June 21 (the actual 100th anniversary date) there will be a concert featuring the orchestra and chorus (performing the stirring choral finale to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), and some surprise guests, all of which will be broadcast live on KTRK, Channel 13.

In an effort to think outside its Jones Hall “box,” HSO is commissioning new works and reprising past successes. “We have commissioned a very interesting work, by Mexican composer Juan Trigos, entitled La Triste Historia, a musical and cinematic tribute to Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos [Day of the Dead, the annual Latin American observance in November],” says Chambers. “This is being created by an extraordinary team of writers, producers, and filmmakers. The finished product will be a very interesting multi-media event for Houston audiences.”

In “The Planet and Orbit—an HD Odyssey” the symphony combines two celestial musical landmarks—Holst’s The Planets and Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra (of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame) with stunning HD planetary and space shuttle images.

For classical-music buffs, the gems of the season are orchestral bookends—opening night with soprano Renée Fleming and, in the city’s most monumental musical undertaking of 2014, the spring performance of Gustav Mahler’s gargantuan Eighth Symphony (the “Symphony of a Thousand”). Led by former music director Christoph Eschenbach, the Jones Hall stage will be expanded to accommodate an enlarged orchestra, two choruses, and eight vocal soloists—a sonic tour de force.

“The wonderful thing about working with Houstonians,” Chambers says, “is that people are always excited by ‘the big idea.’”

With a snazzy new conductor and a cadre of symphonic superstars, the HSO is making sure that more Houstonians will be able to say “Yes, we heard you—loud and clear.”

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Rich Arenschieldt is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.



Rich Arenschieldt

Rich has written for OutSmart for more than 25 years, chronicling various events impacting Houston’s queer community. His areas of interest and influence include all aspects of HIV treatment and education as well as the milieu of creative endeavors Houston affords its citizenry, including the performing, visual and fine arts. Rich loves interviewing and discovering people, be they living, or, in his capacity as a member of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, deceased.

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