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Best Virtual Bets: RFK, The East End, and Stevie Wonder

Joel Sandel in Main Street Theater’s production of RFK: A Portrait of the Life of Robert F. Kennedy.EXPAND
Joel Sandel in Main Street Theater’s production of RFK: A Portrait of the Life of Robert F. Kennedy.
Photo by Pin Lim / Forest Photography

In the spirit of best virtual bets, let's take a second to acknowledge that today, October 15, is Global Handwashing Day. With that in mind, need we remind you that there is plenty of art to experience from the relative safety of your own home; in fact, below is a whole list of festivals, dance performances and concerts to keep you indoors, happy and healthy for another week.

The Apollo Chamber Players’ 20x2020 Virtual Festival moves a little closer to the finish line tonight, Thursday, October 15, at 7 p.m. with the premiere of Episode 15, featuring Cuban-born composer Leo Brouwer’s String Quartet No. 6, Nostalgia de las montañas. The piece, which premiered back in September 2018 at The MATCH, found inspiration in the mountain ranges of Brazil and the sounds of Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music. Episode 16, premiering on Sunday, October 18, at 7 p.m. will dive into composer Pamela Z’s The Unraveling, a work in which “she calls to mind the artists who were influential during the time she was forming her own musical identity, such as Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, The Byrds, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, to name a few” with her own recognizable style. And here’s a hint to that style: the piece was written for string quartet and MacBook Pro. New episodes – all free – will continue to premiere every Thursday and Sunday at 7 p.m. on Apollo Chamber Players’ YouTube and Facebook pages through November 1.

The digital curtain rises on Main Street Theater’s first full, virtual production this week when the company opens RFK: A Portrait of the Life of Robert F. Kennedy. The one-man show, written by Jack Holmes, stars Joel Sandel in the title role, a role he’s reprising from a 2016 production at Main Street, one of which the Houston Chronicle said Sandel captured “Kennedy's charisma, intimacy and heart in this demanding one-man show that is equal parts history lesson and lament for futures never to be.” The on-demand show will open Thursday, October 15, and be available through October 25, and tickets can be purchased online here for prices ranging from $15 to $40. Audience members can also join Main Street’s Part of the Art Series on Sunday, October 18, at 3 p.m., where they can hear more about the timely production from Sandel; the show’s director, Rebecca Greene Udden; and others over Zoom. It’s free, but register here.

Every year well over 100 artists from around the country congregate in Galveston for ARToberFEST, a juried art festival sponsored by The Grand 1894 Opera House. In light of the fact that congregating anywhere is the opposite of what we should be doing these days, the festival has moved online for its 23rd anniversary edition this year. The festival will begin Saturday, October 17, at 10 a.m., and continue through October 31, and during this time patrons can browse the art, watch demonstrations, and shop ‘til they drop. In addition to the festival artists, the Postoffice Street merchants you would usually frequent in Galveston will also be open online for your virtual window shopping. To learn more about this year’s ARToberFEST, which is also free to enter, check out their website here.

The party is on in cyberspace this weekend when the East End Improvement Corporation and the East End Houston Cultural District host East End Street Fest: Live from Home on Saturday, October 17, at 3 p.m. For three free hours you can stream the revelry on the East End Street Fest website, social media platforms, or tune in over at Houston Media Source or HTV’s public access channels to take in an all-star lineup of Latinx artists including Ambassadors International Ballet Folklorico, Southeast Houston’s own Nick Gaitan, four-time Grammy Award-winner David de la Garza of La Mafia fame, and headliner the Zenteno Spirit. And yes, that’s a reference to those Zentenos. In fact, immediately after the festival, the East End Houston Cultural District will premiere a short documentary about the heart of that musical dynasty, father Roberto and daughter Norma, and their family. Visit here for more information about the lineup and performance times.

Helen Frankenthaler, Hybrid Vigor, 1973, Friends of the Menil Collection © 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.EXPAND
Helen Frankenthaler, Hybrid Vigor, 1973, Friends of the Menil Collection © 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo by Paul Hester

ROCO’s 16th season continues this Saturday, October 17, at 5 p.m. with the first concert of their Unchambered series, Love Notes. The free performance, livestreamed from Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, boasts a program that’s a veritable ode to nature, one that includes Alan Hovhaness's "The Garden of Adonis," a title borrowed from Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen; Alberto Ginastera's 1945 piece “Duo for Flute and Oboe”; Benedetto Marcello's Sonata in F Major; the "Flower Duet" from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé; and a ROCO-commissioned world premiere from Karim Al-Zand, who you may remember composed The Leader for Opera in the Heights earlier this year. And joining the ensemble for the performance are flutist Rebecca Powell Garfield, oboist Spring Hill, and harpist Laurie Meister. You can watch the concert live here, here or here.

It's been five years since Buffalo Bayou Park opened, and in celebration of the anniversary, Buffalo Bayou Partnership has launched Artful Anniversary, a series of five very different virtual performances scheduled throughout the month of October. This weekend, Urban Souls Dance Company heads underground, to the 94-year-old Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, to perform Take Me to the Water. Tune in here at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 17, when the park performance goes live. Until then you can catch up on the first two weeks now, which included the reveal of Urban Yarnage by Knitscape and artists of the Houston Grand Opera taking their vocals to a BBP pontoon boat with Songs on the Water, and look forward to the debut of Carmen Herrera's Estructuras Monumentales and a performance film made by DACAMERA still to come.

An internationally renowned violinist swings by Jones Hall this weekend when James Ehnes joins Houston Symphony for Ehnes Plays Mendelssohn. On the program is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “romance for violin and orchestra,” The Lark Ascending, a piece that was both inspired by World War I and a "response to George Meredith's poem of the same name” that was named the United Kingdom's favorite classical work in 2014; Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, which both “conjures up the drama of misty heaths featured in contemporary novels by Sir Walter Scott and the Brönte sisters” and includes the “kind of scherzando, gossamer-textured ‘fairy music’” that was “a hallmark of his style” since he composed the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Philip Herbert’s Elegy: In Memoriam—Stephen Lawrence, a “gesture of empathy” that’s a “slow, emotional and reflective piece” written after the murder of a Black British teen in a racist attack. You can purchase a $20 ticket to watch the livestream of the concert on Saturday, October 17, at 8 p.m. and, once again, Musical Ambassador Carlos Andrés Botero will host a Prelude discussion before the concert over Zoom for ticket holders to learn more about the program.

There’s never a bad time for innovation, and this Tuesday, October 20, at 7 p.m. DACAMERA will launch a new series in conjunction with the Menil Collection called Hearing Color, Seeing Time. These virtual performances will take viewers into the Menil with pianist and DACAMERA artistic director Sarah Rothenberg, who will lead them in an exploration of the connections between different works of visual art and music. The first installment, Hybrid Vigor: Frankenthaler and Ravel, will see Rothenberg perform Maurice Ravel’s Une barque sur l’ocean against a backdrop of Helen Frankenthaler’s 1973 painting Hybrid Vigor. The musical composition is the third of a five piano piece suite, and as its title (which translates to A Ship on the Ocean) suggests, its “rippling waves grow in power and expanse, suggesting the lonely danger of a ship in the vastness of the ocean.” The program is free, but register here in advance.

It’s hard to think of anyone who’s had a career quite like Stevland Hardaway Morris. Since signing with Motown at the tender age of 11, then known as “Little Stevie Wonder,” he’s amassed a catalog of recognizable tunes, over 100 million albums sold, and more than two dozen Grammy Awards. But it’s those songs that keep us coming back, and you can hear them – “Superstition,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “Isn’t She Lovely?” and many more – as John-Mark McGaha takes up residency at A.D. Players for the rest of the month with Signed, Sealed, Delivered: John-Mark McGaha Sings Stevie Wonder. The concert, presented in partnership with Artists Lounge Live, may mark the reopening of The George Theater, but the cautious among us can still join the show via cyberspace beginning on Wednesday, October 21, at 8 p.m. Tickets to the livestream can be purchased here, and it you can’t make it, that’s okay. Additional livestreamed performances will be available on October 23 and 30 at 8 p.m., October 24 and 31 at 2:30 p.m., and on October 28 at 7:30 p.m.

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