Bond & Beyond Brings The Best From The World's Most Famous Spy to Houston

Do you prefer your music shaken and not stirred? If so, you're in luck. The Houston Symphony will highlight all things 007 this weekend during its BBVA Compass POPS series with Bond & Beyond.

"About five years ago, it was the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film, and because of that, that gave me the idea of putting together a concert from the Bond films," says Principal POPS conductor Mike Krajewski, who designed the program.

With the story line of Bond and the catalog of music associated with his character, there's plenty of material to inspire the show.

The international spy, originally created by novelist Ian Fleming, has defeated bad guys for more than five decades, been played by six actors, generated 24 films and loved hundreds of women. (How's that for a job description?)

The music behind the man is just as iconic as the film franchise itself. The symphony's lineup of music includes some of the most recognizable tunes: the guitar-heavy James Bond Theme; the themes from From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Nobody Does It Better, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall and a suite from Goldfinger.

Some of the most famous songbirds to grace a James Bond theme are a veritable who's-who of the recording industry: Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Tom Jones, Tina Turner, Madonna, Adele and Sam Smith are just a few. To help lend a voice to the symphony's performance, Tony Award-winning vocalist Debbie Gravitte will join the orchestra as the featured singer.

"Anyone who has seen a Bond film can’t help but have a reaction," she says.

Truer words were never spoken. The Bond franchise has been so successful that several other movies have followed in its steps. Dick Tracy, Mission Impossible, Austin Powers and The Pink Panther all owe a bit of their success to the legendary spy. Fittingly, the second half of the symphony's performance will feature music from all of those films.

This concert also holds a significant meaning because it will be one of the last for Krajewski, who retires at the end of the season and will hand the reins over to Principal POPS Conductor Designate Steven Reineke.

Reineke will have large shoes to fill. Krajewski's 17 years with the symphony have set the gold standard for other cities' performance groups.

"I think the POPS series has been very strong now for many years. I’m proud of that. We get good crowds, and people are enthusiastic. We have a loyal following," he said. "I think we established a standard people appreciate, and people keep coming back for more. I hope that doesn’t change, and I think that will continue on for many years."

Together with Houston Symphony artistic staff, Krajewski developed many brand-new, highly creative programs throughout his tenure, including UK Rocks, Classic Soul, I Love a Piano and The Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel. Another audience favorite, PaintJam, brought speed-painter Dan Dunn to Jones Hall to paint huge canvases live to the sounds of classical, movie, pop and patriotic music. Krajewski also developed Very Merry Pops, a crown jewel of Houston holiday concerts for the past 16 years.

With a portfolio listing those credits, what could be left to do? It turns out Krajewski has a few plans.

"I’m trying to cut my schedule back a little bit to enable me to have time at home and vacation traveling. And then, I’m also hoping that by freeing up my schedule, I can conduct some orchestras that I haven’t been able to work with because my schedule has been so tight," he said.

Sounds like a plan to us. Thanks for the music, Mike. And just like James Bond, we know you'll go out with a bang.

Bond & Beyond takes place 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Jones Hall (615 Louisiana). Tickets range from $38 to $155. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org.

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