Concerts

Houston Symphony Jams All Weekend With Led Zeppelin, Whitney Houston

This weekend is filled the the max with the music of Led Zeppelin and Whitney Houston as part of the Houston Symphony's Stella Artois Summer Sounds Series.
This weekend is filled the the max with the music of Led Zeppelin and Whitney Houston as part of the Houston Symphony's Stella Artois Summer Sounds Series. Screengrabs from HoustonSymphony.org
The temperature may be rising in Houston, but nothing will be hotter this weekend than The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts when the Houston Symphony presents three nights of not one but two sizzling music acts. On Friday and Saturday, rock out to The Music of Led Zeppelin, and if that's not enough, round off the weekend with Sunday's The Music of Whitney Houston.

The Music of Led Zeppelin will feature guest vocalist and guitarist Randy Jackson and a complete rock band to perform the group’s most popular hits for a rock concert like no other. Broadway song bird Rashidra Scott will grace the stage for The Music of Whitney Houston. Both will be backed by the full force of the Houston Symphony.

Guest conductor Brent Havens will lead the vocalists and musicians all three nights as he and his company, Windborne Music, are the creative minds who created the arrangements for the concerts. Houstonians will remember Havens from his most recent smashes with the Houston Symphony, including The Music of Queen, The Music of George Michael, and The Music of Prince.

"What we really want to do during these concerts is give people the music that they know and love. I'm not doing my own interpretations of the music where I've gone off the deep end and you can't even tell what the song is until midway through. Within the first few notes of a song, you know what it is," Havens said.

With the full accompaniment of the orchestra, he said the music only gets richer, adding "[Audiences are] going to get all this additional sound that's complementing what the original music was all about. I treat the orchestra in all of our concerts in such a way that they become part of the band, and the band becomes part of the orchestra. It is all one big entity versus having the the band out front and the orchestra in the back. It's more about integrating both of them into this wonderful palette of sound."

To weave the orchestra into the guest musicians' performances, Havens and team take the original music, transcribe it into sheet music, and then they add in additional orchestral compositions to provide additional color. For as many years as he's been working in this industry, he says it comes more naturally to him now that when he first started.

"Nowadays it's such a natural thing for me because I've been doing it for a while, but when I initially started, I listened to the songs and thought, 'How can an orchestra integrate into this?' I hear the music in my head, and I hear things that I want to put down on paper that I think will work with it, but I'm never quite sure until I hear the orchestra play it. But it works!," he said. " The strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion sections add in something that wasn't there before...at least not that you woulds have heard on the radio, but it's right for an orchestral setting."

With two powerhouse names like these, Havens had no shortage of material to pull from, which is good for Windbourn Music because these two legends set a high standard of expectation with their music catalogue.

Known as one of the most influential bands of the 1970s, English hard rock band Led Zeppelin reaches fans from every corner of the world and continues to reign supreme as one of the most successful and innovative bands in the history of rock music. Awarded the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 for its creative contributions to the field of music recording, Led Zeppelin continues to influence rock music to this day as one of the best-selling music acts of all time.

Nicknamed “The Voice,” Houston has been acclaimed as one of the greatest singers of all time and a cultural icon. She holds the Guinness World Record as the most awarded female artist of all time, with more than 400 career awards, including 6 Grammy Awards and 22 American Music Awards. She is also one of the best-selling female-recording artists of all time, with sales of over 200 million records worldwide. The Bodyguard soundtrack is one of the top 5 biggest-selling albums of all-time (at 18x-platinum in the U.S. alone), and Houston’s career-defining version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist (at 10x-platinum, Diamond, for physical and digital in the U.S. alone).
click to enlarge Rashidra Scott will sing the songs of Whitney "The Voice" Houston this weekend with the Houston Symphony. - PHOTO BY EDDIE WILLIAMS, COURTESY OF JACKSONVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Rashidra Scott will sing the songs of Whitney "The Voice" Houston this weekend with the Houston Symphony.
Photo by Eddie Williams, Courtesy of Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
To fulfill the complete concert experience, Havens also seeks out talented vocalists who fit the bill.

"We have auditions throughout the country. We put the word out that we're looking for a specific singer, but we do not do it in an American Idol kind of way where anybody can audition. It's more like we're looking for specific people that musicians and singers I know will say, 'Hey, I know somebody who sings Led Zeppelin incredibly well.' That's what happened when we found Randy Jackson," Havens said. "It's the same story with Rashidra Scott. Somebody said to me that there's a girl on Broadway I should listen to, so I did, and she was fantastic."

Both Jackson and Scott have the chops to validate their selection as guest performers.

Jackson is the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Zebra. His first foray into recording success began with the self-titled Zebra debut album, released on Atlantic Records in 1983. Critically acclaimed for its lush rock sounds, due in large part to Jackson’s searing lead vocals and soaring guitar leads, the album sold 75,000 copies the first week. The band also frequently covered Led Zeppelin's music in their early years.

Scott has performed on Broadway in lead and ensemble roles in Avenue Q, Finian’s Rainbow, Hair, and most recently Sister Act. She was on the road as a background vocalist for renowned singer Patti Austin’s BeboperElla! tour in conjunction with the release of Austin’s Ella Fitzgerald tribute album, For Ella. Prior to Broadway, she spent four years singing for Walt Disney Entertainment as a featured vocalist on Disney Cruise Line (Disney Wonder) and Tarzan Rocks! at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

"We're celebrating the music [of these artists], and the attraction is the fact that we've got a full orchestra here. This is something you're not going to hear other people doing. That's what it's about - a total celebration of the music and the artists," Havens said.

This weekend's lineup is part of the Stella Artois Summer Sounds Series. Due to renovation work at Jones Hall, the Houston Symphony will hold performances at Sarofim Hall in the Hobby Center during the summer of 2022. The remaining shows on the series are Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY (July 22 - 23), Common with the Houston Symphony (July 29 - 30), and Celebrating India's 75th Independence Day (August 6).

The Music of Led Zeppelin takes place 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Music of Whitney Houston takes place 7:30 p.m. Sunday. All performances are at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For information or tickets, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $29 - $99
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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