If you've got a hankering for cerebral, top shelf Christmas music this holiday season — without all the sugar-coated frou-frou — then look no further than the Society for the Performing Arts. It's a bold move for the local arts organization and a deviation from their more traditional Christmas offerings, but this holiday season they're taking it country, and it's a gamble that should pay off in a big way.
Houston is the biggest stop on the eight-city tour for A Wynonna & The Big Noise Christmas, with the final performance in Iowa already sold out. It's the third year in a row that the country powerhouse and her four-piece band have done this Christmas show, mixing in bits from their self-titled debut album (released last year), Christmas classics (the 2016 tour included Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah") and a heapin' helpin' of holiday magic.
June Christensen, SPA's CEO, tells us this is their first foray into the country music realm and an opportunity for the arts organization to expand its horizons. "We traditionally have the Irish Tenors, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Celtic Christmas and the Rat Pack," says Christensen. "We're really excited to bring Wynonna into the city. It's the perfect opportunity to introduce our audience to that genre of music.
"She will have cuts off her new and latest works but the program will primarily focus on the holidays and we feel that she’ll bring those holiday classics that we all know and love and add her own country twist to those programs," says Christensen. It's also an offering that doesn't compete with other mainstays of the season, like The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, but instead complements the city's entertainment options.
"I'm thrilled to be presenting Wynonna. She's an icon. What she's done over the years since the 1990s has been incredible; some of the struggles she's been through," says Christensen. Wynonna's husband, Cactus Moser, is in the band and has suffered his own setbacks, having lost part of his leg after a motorcycle crash shortly after their 2012 marriage. The couple actually met years ago when she and her mother toured with Moser's band, Highway 101; it just took a while for love to bloom. Drummer Moser produced last year's album and co-wrote two of its tracks: "Something You Can't Live Without" and "You Are So Beautiful."
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Like many Houstonians, the SPA offices were damaged during Hurricane Harvey and they only recently moved back in. It was a joyful homecoming to return and find that the holiday decorations were already up, courtesy of Houston First.
For this concert, SPA has lined up a 6:55 p.m. pre-show in the lobby with the Houston Choral Showcase, and Christensen says that between the decorations, the pre-show music and a headliner in the intimate Jones Hall, it all makes for a great holiday experience. "All of us at Society for the Performing Arts are truly looking forward to this evening."
Insider tip: Wear your loudest, most obnoxious, ugly Christmas sweater for a chance to meet Wynonna in person. At each stop of the tour as many as five winners will be chosen from the crowd to attend a photo-line meet and greet with Wynonna (no autographs, please).
A Wynonna & The Big Noise Christmas is set for 7:30 p.m. December 7, Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 713-227-4772, spahouston.org, $34 to $104.