What better way to celebrate the whimsy and sprightliness of spring than with a ball? This Saturday the Houston Symphony throws a soiree complete with splendid music and first-class dance with Belle of the Ball, the last concert in its Family Series. The Belle in the title references Leroy Anderson's composition of the same name, and the golden-gowned heroine of the classic Disney film.
The concert was put together with the aim to introduce young audiences to the joy of live music. Selections will feature a diverse range of musical styles, as well as instruments from different families in order to present a rounded symphonic experience. "For me, the idea of getting into my costume and introducing families, and especially kids, to the music that I love is a thrill," explains associate conductor Robert Franz via press materials. "The Houston Symphony is best experienced live, and what better way to open up your child's world than with the sounds and sights of these incredible musicians."
And speaking of Franz's cherished music, the program includes some all-time fan favorites. For my money, the ballroom scene in Disney's Beauty and the Beast is one of the finest dance sequences in the history of film, even if the waltzing pair is of the animated variety. Franz will conduct a suite from Alan Menken's iconic score, which will conjure the magic of the film's most enchanting moments, and the lyrics will be sung by the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Chorale.
The program is named after Leroy Anderson's Belle of the Ball, a post-war era celebration of a time when all fine ladies and gentlemen knew how to step the Viennese waltz. Then there's J. Strauss Jr.'s Thunder and Lightning, an energetic polka from the nineteenth century. (Polkas are a more robust, lively form of social dance than the refined lilting pace of the waltz.) The shifts in music will be supported by video projections that will add a sense of story and allow the audience to see the orchestra up-close.
Of course, one doesn't just go to a ball. You have to dance once you're there. The program will be danced by members of Jane Weiner's Hope Stone Dance Company in regal form and fashion. Additional musical selections include a suite from Stravinsky's iconic The Firebird, Elgar's childlike and nostalgic The Wand of Youth, and the grandeur of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 in E minor.
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Belle of the Ball runs April 26 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana Street.