German cellist Jan Vogler met actor/comedian Bill Murray on an airplane. Their new friendship resulted in New Worlds, an album featuring songs by Foster, Gershwin and Bernstein. Their concert tour touches down in Houston, courtesy of the Houston Symphony.
German cellist Jan Vogler met actor/comedian Bill Murray on an airplane. Their new friendship resulted in New Worlds, an album featuring songs by Foster, Gershwin and Bernstein. Their concert tour touches down in Houston, courtesy of the Houston Symphony.
Photo courtesy of the Houston Symphony

Bill Murray Segues From Cheesy Lounge Crooner to Concert Hall Headliner

There's nothing worse than being saddled with a nightmare seatmate on a trans-Atlantic flight. The thought of being trapped for hours with an armrest hogger, chatty Cathy, snorer or fidgeter can ruin just about any trip.

So imagine their surprise when German cellist Jan Vogler and actor/comedian Bill Murray discovered a pleasant and interesting traveling companion in each other on one fateful flight. Their friendship developed further back in New York and mutual interests led them to an unconventional creative collaboration.

Vogler's concept in creating Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends – New Worlds was to blend American literature with European music and the great American songbook. Vogler and Murray, along with pianist Vanessa Perez and violinist Mira Wang, have been performing in Europe and North America and released an audio CD on Decca Gold last September.

“Their curiosity for each other’s artistic world and interests led to the idea to work together on a project that showcases the core of the American values in literature and music,” says Vanessa Astros, senior director of communications for the Houston Symphony. “[It's] a fascinating encounter between great music and literature featuring two masters of their art and the Hollywood star’s love for classical music and his art of language.”

It's no small feat that renaissance man Murray has been able to reinvent himself in so many ways. From his decades of appearances on Saturday Night Live (including his take as cheesy lounge crooner Nick) to his irreverent roles in Meatballs, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters — not to mention his very Texas connection with filmmaker Wes Anderson — it's great to see this latest bow-tied incarnation as a concert hall headliner.

The New Worlds tour is touching down in Houston, courtesy of the Houston Symphony, although the symphony musicians are enjoying the night off. We'll hear a trio of songs by Leonard Bernstein from West Side Story, George Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" from Porgy and Bess and Stephen Foster's "I Dream of Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair."

Add in some pithy wit and wisdom by Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Walt Whitman, and it all adds up to a charmingly classic evening.

A performance of New Worlds: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler, and Friends is at 7:30 p.m. April 16, Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 713-224-7575, houstonsymphony.org, $35 to $139.

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