The Top 5 Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Star Spangled Salute, "Parliament of Owls" and More

With 16 live cannons as part of the finale on Friday, the Houston Symphony’s Star Spangled Salute concert is truly explosive, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion spokesperson Whitney Hough tells us. Principal POPS Conductor Designate Steven Reineke leads the orchestra through a program of patriotic anthems (“The Star-Spangled Banner,” the 1812 Overture) and favorites from the popular American songbook (“Sweet Caroline”). Joining Reineke on stage are former Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst who takes a turn as guest conductor and singer/actor Christopher Johnstone who performs several Broadway show tunes (from South Pacific, Les Miserables).

“This is the concert’s 25th year; it’s become [a tradition] in the Woodlands,” Hough says. “We have more than 10,000 people come out every year. One of the most popular moments is the whole crowd singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ together. There are some touching moments, too. We have lots of veterans come to the concert and when they stand up to be recognized while the orchestra plays a melody of theme songs from each branch [of the American military,] it gets real emotional. And then, of course, when they shoot off the cannons at the end, it’s really exciting.”

There’s plenty of fun before the concert with costumed characters (Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty and Betsy Ross) roaming the grounds and greeting guests, The Woodlands Show Chorus performing more All-American tunes and lots of give-aways (flags, glow-sticks and beads) so get to the Pavilion early.

Pre-concert activities start at 6:30 p.m. The concert starts at 8 p.m. on July 3. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands. For information, visit Free. 

DiverseWorks Associate Curator Rachel Cook tells us she chose the title “Parliament of Owls” for the 2015 DiverseWorks artist board group exhibition because “owls symbolize dark forces and dark magic; they’ve also been known to represent wisdom.” Multidisciplinary works by 18 artists, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed media, videos, performances and a site-specific mural, make up the exhibit, which is another pick for Friday.

Independent filmmaker Stephanie Saint Sanchez has a video installation in the exhibit. “I have three monitors; one represents the heart, one represents the body and one represents the soul,” says Saint Sanchez. “They are archives from short films I’ve been making. I’ve been doing shorts for 20 years. As an artist it was meditative to be around those films. These were dreams made into a reality. But it’s also a reality, so many were never checked out.”

Saint Sanchez spent many years working at the now defunct Audio/Video Plus. That experience inspired one of her films. “One of the shorts that I’m showing is called The Last Roar. I have that video store clerk soul; it’s set to music, it’s campy, Busby Berkeley video-style choreography. It’s fun, but it’s foretelling. It was shot about a month before [Audio/Video Plus] closed.” She also presents a couch created out of re-purposed VHS tapes, as part of her look at the death of obsolete media. Along with Kristian Salinas, Saint Sanchez leads a sneak peek of Qfest during a DiverseWorks on Wednesdays presentation in July.

Regular viewing hours are noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Through August 15. DiverseWorks, 4102 Fannin. For information, call 713-223-8346 or visit Free. 

Our pick for Saturday is the photographic exhibit  “Round Trip: Bicycling Asia Minor, 1891.” The images show a world in transition. Starting in 1890, William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen, Jr., young Americans, spent three years traveling across three continents on what were called “safety bicycles.” (The precursors of contemporary bikes, the cycles had two equal sized wheels and were considered “safe” in comparison to the dangerous, unstable models with a huge front wheel and tiny rear wheel.) Over three years, Sachtleben and Allen traveled 1,800 miles, with just their bicycles, small packs and a small Kodak camera.

In 1891, the pair toured century Greece, Turkey, Persia (now Iran) and the Russian Empire (now Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). The circular images they captured—ruins, mosques, barren landscapes and curious villagers-—show the Middle East on the brink of massive social and political change.

Sachtleben and Allen, both of whom settled in the Houston area after their adventures, took thousands of photographs on their journey; less than half survive and are housed at the UCLA Library Special Collections. Because of their delicate condition, the images have only recently been reproduced giving viewers a glimpse of the Middle East at the end of the 19th century.

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through September 27. Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore. For information, call 713?496-9901 or visit Free.

Daniel Silva, the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel Allon thrillers, mixes fact and fiction for his latest release The English Spy. He's in town for a Sunday afternoon reading and signing session.  Silva’s fast-paced novel begins with the death of the famous and much loved ex-wife of the future king of England, eerily similar to the real-life Princess Diana. Completely unlike Diana (we think), the character’s killed as part of a terrorist action. We say we think because despite Silva’s six-page author’s note which clearly and repeatedly claims that the book is a work of fiction, we know there are conspiracy theorists out there who will gladly embrace Silva’s plot as a thinly disguised version of some secret truth. That’s what happens when you create well-rounded characters and craft believable, completely possible plots as Silva has for 18 books now.

In town for an English Spy reading and signing session, Silva has put his protagonist Israeli spy-master Gabriel Allon on a deadly collision course with a former IRA bomb maker-turned-mercenary. This time, Allon faces an enemy who’s as skilled as he is and the chances are that neither will survive the encounter.

A long-time Houston favorite, Daniel Silva appears at 2 p.m. on July 5. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit Free.

“I like to say that the South is haunted by God,” said Brad Moody, the larger-than-life artist also known as bMOODYart. Along with Randall Mosman and Joshua Goode, the three Texas-based artists explore the concepts of myth, artifact and identity in their group exhibit at G Gallery, “Southern Myths.” The show is one of our picks for Sunday. 

“[Goode] comes from this profound experience of his sister being sick, so he created these kinds of mythological worlds with all of these crazy characters raised on some ranch in west Texas,” said Moody. “He does these archaeological digs, but in point of fact, they’re farcical comments on the notion of God, deities and the myth-making of empire.” Skulls and bones are major elements in some of his sculptures, including Mammoth Sword and the aptly named Unicorn T-Rex.

“All of us are addressing these kinds of myths which are really prevalent in the South,” said Moody. “They all have a strong narrative thing going on. Mine happens to be this whole kind of riff on death for the moment, this whole cycle of life, this Southern thing of baptized in the blood; what a strong role that plays for me, personally and for the South.” bMOODYart’s self-taught style is colorful, abstract and opinionated and comes with a heavy dose of religion. “I’ve got this big heaven and hell thing finished, with flying angels and evil snakes,” said Moody.

“Stylistically, we’re all pretty different,” said Moody. “[Mosman] has gone off in a different direction. He was raised in New Orleans, so this whole ‘in the river’ painting — that series — all comes from personal experiences.” In additional to the monochromatic baptism-themed river paintings, Mosman’s The Lynching House is a sobering sculpture of a tall, ramshackle house in decline, with a noose hanging out of its window.

There's a reception: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., July 4.  Regular viewing hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. Through July 29. 301 East 11th. For information, call 713-869-4770 or visit Free.

Susie Tommaney contributed to this post. 
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