From Vienna to Broadway The Houston Symphony rings in the new year with its annual New Year's Eve Gala. Conductor-in-residence Stephen Stein leads a classical and pops concert with violinist Uri Pianka, soprano Teri Hansen and baritone Lawrence Craig. Craig stepped in at the last moment, replacing the previously announced baritone, because he is jolly and full of holiday spirit. Fans may recall his recent symphony performance in Messiah.
The classical side of the program is Strauss, and a little Kreisler. After intermission, 20th-century selections from George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim will reverberate through the hall. The program concludes, traditionally, with "Auld Lang Syne." When the concert ends, the audience will be invited to leave the red plush seats for the stage and dance to the big band music of Cary Richards and his orchestra. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $35-$70.
About those resolutions ... We know, we know; you were too busy during these dreadful holidays to get around to doing good works. You were too busy, and that's okay. However, as the new year dawns crisp and clear, opportunities abound. You could, to help the less fortunate, stop by the local library and find out about the literally hundreds of local organizations that depend on volunteers -- volunteers who each do their tiny part to end human suffering by feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating those in need, or working as advocates. Or, you could just call up Meals on Wheels right this minute and get the ball rolling. Meals on Wheels, for those unclear on the concept, delivers nutritious food to the elderly. (I have a great aunt who has cooked for herself every day and, going into her second century, she not only shows no sign of slowing down but also makes excellent brown gravy. She and the women she plays cards with are doing just fine, thank you, and probably so are many AARP-aged folks you know. But there are some who would appreciate a little assistance.) If you think about those old folks for a moment, you might recall their teaching you about doing right, and doing for others less fortunate. The Jewish Community Center is now responsible for providing Meals on Wheels to 130 homebound, elderly people in southwest, west and central Houston. The volunteers who deliver the meals also chat a bit with the recipients, which takes a little extra time but, as they say, means so much. For information about the program at the JCC, call Sue Riklin, 729-3200, ext. 3245. To find out about Meals on Wheels programs elsewhere, call the Area Agency on Aging, 794-9001.
Quest for the Moon The oldest existing daguerreotype of the moon and photographs taken by men on the moon (our men!) and other moonerabilia are on display in "Quest for the Moon and Other Stories: Three Decades of Astronauts in Space." I once read a clever science fiction story that told of a top secret Air Force mission whose astronauts land safely on the surface of the moon and find evidence that they weren't the first earthlings to make the trip. Who beat these brave and noble Americans into space? Was it the Russkies? The Chinese? Nope, it was a top secret U.S. Navy mission. That pulp story accurately reflects the uglier side of the space race -- petty little squabbles between bigwigs more interested in their own careers than pulling together as a team. "Quest for the Moon," however, points to the other side, the romantic side of this romantic quest. It also reflects humanity's ancient fascination with the moon. Oh sure, NASA gave us Tang and widespread use of Velcro and many other important scientific discoveries, but at the heart of it all, we went to the moon because it was there, and trying to justify the journey beyond that just isn't necessary. (If you have a fine space craft, you don't need justification.) The photographs of NASA activities in Texas, California and Florida reflect this adventurous spirit. The exhibition also features art inspired by the moon and stars (as seen through modern, light-polluted skies) and the notion of space travel (i.e. bug-eyed monsters, moon maidens and rocket ships). The exhibition continues through February 5. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 526-1361. $3; $1.50 students, children 6-18 and seniors; free to children under 5 and everyone on Thursdays.
Tres hip open mike night The Blue Iguana has been a rave (as a fave) since the moment they opened that one narrow door. Perhaps wannabes who play there will also garner acclaim from the get-go. We can't guarantee that the club's good luck will carry over to those who take its stage, but we can guarantee that fabulous babes, flat-bellied slacker boys and a large percentage of the food servers working in Houston will drift by the bar and make small talk in the dark -- even by current standards -- club. Fashionably late. The Blue Iguana, 903 Richmond Ave. (between Montrose and Elsbury), 523-BLUE. No cover.
Last chance for marathon tips The Training Edge Lecture Series continues, and with an annual event. Once again, top running coach David Brennan presents a seminar one week before the Houston Tenneco Marathon. Brennan's lunchtime lecture will cover last-minute preparation strategies and tips on running the race. Attending this lecture will also give highly competitive runners a peek at some of the competition. Knowing who the competition is doesn't help anyone in the running of the marathon, necessarily; knowing who the competition is may only allow for more specific pre-marathon jitters and nightmares and fantasies of triumph. Attendees are invited to bring a lunch, and reminded that there is food service at the Downtown Y. David Brennan's lecture, "The Marathon is Here! What Now?!?" is sponsored by Pace Physical Therapy and MEDIFIT of America. Noon-1 p.m. Houston Room, Downtown YMCA, 1600 Louisiana. For details, call PACE, 659-7223. Free.