Houston's Theater District anchors a flourishing performing arts landscape that enriches and amplifies the culture of our city. The downtown marvel joins only a handful of cities in the country with resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines including opera, drama, musical theater, symphony and ballet. To help introduce the offerings of our major arts players, the collective hosts one free day of performances and events to show the treasures they have to offer. Known as Theater District Open House, the annual event takes place the last Sunday of August. In a lead up to Open House, the Houston Press is taking a deeper look at the people and programs that make our arts scene vibrant.
There's nothing better than some music to help make the workday a little more enjoyable. Just ask Snow White. But for those of us who don't have a plethora of cheery forest animals to help get us through the grind, Da Camera is here to help with its monthly program A Little Day Music.
A Little Day Music is a series of free concerts presented at noon on the first Wednesday of the month in the grand foyer of Wortham Theater Center. Running from October to May, save for the month of January, it is the longest running free concert series in Houston. The series features a variety of chamber music and jazz, presented in an accessible one-hour concert format.
"It’s an opportunity for Houstonians to have free access to high quality chamber music and jazz. It’s a really great opportunity for them to walk in and have a relaxed setting," said Brandon Bell, director of education and artistic administrator.
The musicians usually play in groups of four to six for the program. Chamber music is usually played by participants in Da Camera Young Artist Program, a pre-professional training program for vocalists, composers and musicians. They might be in grad school or have recently graduated, and they can be seen performing in most of Da Camera's free community concerts. Bell adds that with Houston's robust jazz scene, noteworthy artists from around the city are in no short supply.
The monthly pop-ups begin at noon, and guests traditionally have been welcome to bring a lunch. Bell shared that with the new season of A Little Day Music, there's also a new dining option available.
"This year, we’re excited because we partnered with Houston First, so we’ll have food for purchase," he said. "We’ve always billed this as a lunchtime concert series. We’re hoping to bring in more Houstonians to these concerts now that we have the capacity to offer food and a concert."
Now entering his third year of planning the A Little Day Music programs, Bell mentioned some of the artists and themes that will be part of the upcoming shows. In addition to performances by members of the Da Camera Young Artist Program, there will be holiday jazz music with Woody Witt, programming for International Women's Month featuring all female composers, a jazz concert for Jazz Appreciation Month, and some Beethoven to celebrate the composer's 250th birthday.
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Bell says building audiences and showcasing local talent is a major push for Da Camara, so it's no surprise they're looking forward to participating in this year's Theater District Open House. For this year's open house, the organization will feature a pianist and violinist who previously studied in the Young Artist Program as well as a jazz trio of saxophonist Walter Smith, bass player Larry Grenadier, and drummer Kendrick Scott.
"Open House is a great opportunity for families and individuals to come downtown. If they’re unfamiliar with the resident companies of theater district, it’s a great opportunity to experience these companies," he said. "It allows an entry point to see what the theater district does."
A Little Day Music takes place at noon on the first Wednesday of the month from October to May (except for January) in the grand foyer of Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, visit dacamera.com. Free, plus optional food cost.
Theater District Open House takes place noon - 5 p.m. with a concert starting at 4 p.m., August 25. Locations include Alley Theatre, 615 Texas; Hobby Center, 800 Bagby; Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana; Revention Music Center, 520 Texas; and Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, visit theaterdistrictopenhouse.com. Free.