Calling All Dancing Queens: Houston Symphony Presents The Music Of ABBA [UPDATED]

With apprecation to Houston Symphony and Rajaton, we can all say "Thank you for the music" to ABBA this weekend.
With apprecation to Houston Symphony and Rajaton, we can all say "Thank you for the music" to ABBA this weekend. Photo by Laura Malmivaara
* Correction: The ABBA concert is being performed at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. Jones Hall is still undergoing renovations.

Take a chance on the Houston Symphony this weekend as it presents The Music of ABBA. Audiences will be able to dance, jive and have the time of their life as the orchestra plays all the favorites of the pop supergroup along with guest performers Rajaton. The concerts takes place Saturday at Jones Hall. The Hobby Center.

“It’s a really energetic, up-tempo show. It features a whole symphony orchestra, a full rock band and a really special vocal ensemble from Finland,” said Lucas Waldin, guest conductor.

Rajaton, which translates to “boundless,” is a six-voice a cappella ensemble that regularly performs approximately one hundred concerts each year. Rajaton exposes their audiences to the kind of diversity of repertoire, singing style and stage presentation that has made them a phenomenon on the world stage.

In their native Finland, Rajaton is a bona fide pop phenomenon, successfully bridging the gap that often exists between classical and mainstream convention – and they know their ABBA. The group released a tribute album covering ABBA’s music, which reached No. 1 in the Finnish album chart and sold platinum within a month of release.

Waldin says the night will be a balance between symphonic music as well as sung performances.

“We have, obviously, the vocal ensemble with the orchestra and the rock band. We also have a couple of numbers where it’s just the vocal ensemble,” Waldin said. “They have really incredibly rich harmonies that they are able to fill the songs with, so it's a special collaboration.”

The music of ABBA is an easy choice for a POPS performance from the Houston Symphony. The group is globally beloved.

The Swedish Europop band was among the most commercially successful groups in the history of popular music. In the 1970s, ABBA dominated the European charts with its catchy pop songs. The band, composed of two married couples, won the Eurovision competition in 1974 with the song “Waterloo,” and the rest was history.
Rajaton’s proficiency with the ABBA catalogue and the Houston Symphony’s pristine musicianship is paramount because, timewise, the groups walk a tightrope in terms of rehearsal time. They have only a few hours of rehearsal before mounting the show.

But, as always, the Houston Symphony performers and its guests are consummate professionals when it comes to making everything look easy.

“The symphony has had their music for some time, and they'll be extremely well prepared,” Waldin said. “We basically have one rehearsal, though, which is always intense. So Rajaton flies in, and I fly in to Houston, and we have two and a half hours together to go through the set list and to work out all the details, and then, boom, we're on stage in front of an audience. It's extremely fast, but everyone's well prepared and everyone is ready to put on a good show.”

“It's definitely impressive to see. So many community or high school ensembles will rehearse for three to five months before performing, and we get up there and read it down one time, and we're ready to go at the highest level,” he said. “That really speaks to the musicians involved. Obviously, Houston Symphony is one of the best in the land, and we all trust each other to do our job.”

The Houston Symphony is an attractive draw for Waldin, who lives in Ottawa and travels the world to conduct music. He has been a recurring presence on the Houston Symphony stage since 2014, and he looks forward to returning to the Houston Symphony and Bayou City whenever the chance occurs.

“I have to say, I've gotten to love the city quite a lot. I actually bring my bike, if you can believe it,” he shared. “When I go to all these different cities and different venues, it's nice to get some exercise and see the city. I ride the White Oak Bayou and see a lot of the neighborhoods that I wouldn't see if I just stayed downtown.”

He’s also a fan of Houston’s cuisine.

“I have to say, I do enjoy some Tex-Mex, which is my favorite [cuisine] down there.”

No arguments here. Tacos are the perfect pre- or post-concert meal for a night full of ABBA hits like “Mamma Mia,” “Voulez-Vous” and more that will surely have “Dancing Queens” in the aisles saying "Gimme Gimme Gimme" and "Thank You For The Music!"

The Houston Symphony presents The Music of ABBA at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For tickets or information, call 713-224-7575 or visit $63 - $190.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd