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Best Virtual Bets: Aztec Tales, French Films, and Sin Muros

Daedalus String Quartet and DACAMERA Artistic Director and pianist Sarah Rothenberg perform Weinberg’s Piano Quintet.EXPAND
Daedalus String Quartet and DACAMERA Artistic Director and pianist Sarah Rothenberg perform Weinberg’s Piano Quintet.
Photo by Ben Doyle
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Houston is undeniably back in business and arts organizations across the city are ready again to entertain you. With multiple virtual festivals and online concerts this week, there’s a lot to keep you home and happy – don’t forget, we are still in the midst of a pandemic after all.

After a brief freeze-related postponement, you can start celebrating Latinx voices and stories today, February 25, during the 4th Annual Sin Muros: A Latinx Theater Festival at Stages. The virtual festival, which will offer play readings, talkbacks and panel discussions, opens tonight with the premiere of local artist Candice D'Meza's Fatherland. D’Meza’s multi-media digital project is one of multiple premieres at this year’s festival, including Yana Wana's Legend of the Bluebonnet, produced by Indigenous Cultures Institute and Teatro Vivo, and four additional world premiere play readings. The festival will continue through March 7 and, the best part, it’s all free. You can view the complete schedule and register for events here.

Back in 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created Sister Cities International to foster relationship building between peoples from around the world. Today, Houston has 19 sister cities including Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Perth, and Taipei to name a few. Tonight, Thursday, February 25, at 6 p.m. you can join Sister Cities of Houston for the very first Sister Cities of Houston One World Concert. Mayor Sylvester Turner will welcome audiences to the free virtual concert, themed “We Are One,” for seven different acts including Rhythm India, Ambassadors International Ballet Folklorico, and Takarabune Creative Dance Co. You can register for the concert here.

If there is one word that often comes up when discussing Mieczyslaw Weinberg, it is prolific. The Polish-Russian composer, blacklisted and jailed under Joseph Stalin’s regime, wrote 26 symphonies, 17 string quartets and seven operas during his lifetime including Piano Quintet, Op. 18, which DACAMERA will present this Friday, February 26, at 7 p.m. Daedalus String Quartet and DACAMERA Artistic Director and pianist Sarah Rothenberg will perform Weinberg’s Piano Quintet, a "sad, haunted, and sometimes martial" five-movement chamber work. You may view the performance free, but you must register here. Everyone who registers will be able to access the performance on demand for one week.

Conductor Ward Stare makes his ROCO debut this weekend when he joins their program Shadows.
Conductor Ward Stare makes his ROCO debut this weekend when he joins their program Shadows.
Photo by Halski Studio

Gerald McDermott’s children’s book Musicians of the Sun, a retelling of an Aztec legend about four musicians held captive by the sun, serves as the basis of Alyssa Morris’s new work Tlapalli Tlahuilli, commissioned by ROCO for this weekend’s program titled Shadows. The work, which spotlights ROCO’s principal winds and features narration by Calmecac Indigenous Arts Organization, anchors a program that includes Patrick Harlin’s Shadow Dancer, “a work for dancers and orchestra, minus the dancers”; Joseph Haydn’s famous “Clock” Symphony; and Luigi Dallapiccola’s Tartiniana Seconda. You can view the concert, streamed live from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, on Saturday, February 27, at 5 p.m. here or here.

Join MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts) this Saturday, February 27, at 8 p.m. for their annual Viva el Amor – Por el Amor se Lucha. The concert will feature singer Vanessa Alonzo with Trío Chapultepec and MECA Ballet Folklorico. Alonzo, whose musical journey began here in Houston's First Ward, studied mariachi at MECA with the late Alfonso Guerra in middle school. Since, she has performed around the world and was named Best of Show Vocalist in 1999 at Ford-Lincoln Mercury's Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Vocal Competition. Though in-person attendance is possible, you can purchase a ticket for $25 to view the virtual livestream here.

The Houston Jewish Film Festival officially kicks off on Sunday, February 28, with a screening of the opening night film, Honeymood, along with a Q&A with director Talya Lavie. The festival, celebrating 17 years of Jewish and Israeli films, will continue with a slate of eight films, including a drive-in screening of Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby. Though the festival closes on March 11, keep an eye out for Houston Jewish Film Festival: The Sequel coming in April. You can purchase a full festival subscription for $85, a festival “pick 3” package for $25, or individual tickets for $10 to $12 here.

Apollo Chamber Players will celebrate 100 years of the Harris County Public Library and Black History Month during Centennial Jubilee on Sunday, February 28, at 7 p.m. The program includes world premieres from Damien Sneed, who previously served as composer-in-residence at Houston Grand Opera and composed Marian’s Song, and Paul Cornish, an accomplished High School for the Performing and Visual Arts graduate who has composed a piece inspired by his own experiences with HCPL. Also joining the show are soprano Crystal White and tenor Kenneth Gayle of Houston Ebony Opera Guild, and digital art from Phillip Pyle. You can view the virtual concert, live-streamed straight from The MATCH, on Facebook or YouTube.

Start March, also known as Francophonie Month, the right way by partaking in the Houston French Film Festival beginning this coming Wednesday, March 3. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Marian Luntz and Tracy Stephenson have programmed the 10 festival films in collaboration with Boston’s Kristen Hoskins and Carter Long of the Department of Time and Space to showcase a range of films, including the animated Josep, a Cannes Official Selection from Le Monde cartoonist Aurel, and “DJ-turned-director” Quentin Dupieux’s “absurd comedy” Keep an Eye Out (Au Poste!). You can purchase a pass for all 10 films for $80 here or you can purchase access to individual films for $10 here.

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