The jaw-dropping thrills of the Big Top will take center stage at Jones Hall April 26 - 28 when Cirque de la Symphonie partners world-class acrobats, aerial flyers, contortionists, strongmen, jugglers and tumblers with the Houston Symphony's talented musicians. Returning to the stage to oversee the show is the orchestra’s former Principal Pops Conducter Michael Krajewski.
“These acrobats are very artistic, and they take an artistic approach to what they do. They’re not just showing their athletic ability, they’re showing their artistic ability,” said Krajewski. “We try to find music that matches what they do. They choreograph their act to what the music is doing. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the music and [their physical ability]. It’s like ballet.”
Krajewski makes the perfect candidate to wield the conductor’s baton for this show since he helped create it in 2006 and has performed it several times since its inception.
“We had this idea of combining acrobats and trapeze artists with the orchestra, and we thought it was an interesting idea. We came across these performers who did these kinds of acts, and we told them our concepts. They worked with it, and we formed our first performance of it,” he said. “They’ve performed ever since and taken it to one new level after another, and it’s very interesting with lots of entertainment value.”
A noteworthy component of the show is that the performances are set to classical music, which is a departure from the typical fare of the Pops series.
“That’s one of the things I love the most. We are allowing the Houston Symphony to play the music it plays the best. It allows people who normally come to Pops concerts to see the symphony play symphonic classic music,” Krajewski said. “Even people who are not classical music lovers, they’ll recognize these pieces. They’ll hear familiar music, and they’ll hear it at its best.”
The Can Can, Bizet’s Carmen, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Ravel’s Bolero and John William’s march from Superman are on the set list, among other well-known compositions. Beyond the music's familiarity, the conductor says this is a family-friendly experience and will appeal to all ages.
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"[The audience is] blown away by hearing the full orchestra and the dynamic of the music element. It’s really powerful. When you see these acrobats doing these types of things and the music going along with it, it’s overwhelming at times," he said. "I hope they’re blown away by the athleticism and how the symphonic music can move you as well."
This performance is a homecoming of sorts for Krajewski, who has since retired from his duties with the organization. His 17 years with the Houston Symphony have set the gold standard for other cities' performance groups. Together with symphony's artistic staff, Krajewski developed many brand-new, highly creative programs throughout his tenure, including UK Rocks, Classic Soul, I Love a Piano and The Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel. Another audience favorite, PaintJam, brought speed-painter Dan Dunn to Jones Hall to paint huge canvases live to the sounds of classical, movie, pop and patriotic music. Krajewski also developed Very Merry Pops, a crown jewel of Houston holiday concerts.
Regarding his upcoming appearance in a post-retirement setting, Krajewski said, "The first time I came back was last season. At first it seemed really strange, because that’s the longest time I’ve been away, but in a matter of minutes, it felt like I never left. It felt so familiar. I’m sure that once I step on stage, it will feel like last week instead of last year."
Enjoy Cirque de la Symphonie at 8 p.m. April 26 and 27 and 2:30 p.m. April 28 at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana Street. For information, visit houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575. $29 - $156.