Coco Chanel struck gold with the number five. The Energy Corridor of Houston Orchestra (ECHO) is hoping for the same good fortune as it ushers in its fifth season of symphonic music and merriment.
Its 2018-19 lineup starts with a nod to the organization’s five year anniversary with a specially themed show. The group will continue its annual New Year’s Eve party with cabaret and broadway music. The final performance takes place at St. John Vianney Catholic Church and will prominently spotlight the church organ as part of the programming.
Another unmistakable note in the season is that all performances are taking place in respected venues and feature seasoned guests performers, including musicians from the Houston Symphony, jazz vocalist Tianna Hall, and the organist from St. John Vianney. From the looks of it, the fifth year holds real promise to elevate ECHO's brand and presence in the Houston market.
“The fifth year is a milestone. The number five in general has significance across humanity and cultures. When you reach that milestone, you naturally want to celebrate,” said ECHO Musical Director and Conductor Mike Fahey.
ECHO’s kick-off concert is themed “Take Five,” packed with famous fives from music history.
“This is music that is influenced by the number five. The fifth symphony by Beethoven, which is the quintessential fifth symphony. It’s the most famous of all his symphonies. Brahms wrote scores of Hungarian dances, and for some reason the 5th Hungarian Dance is the most famous. We’re reprising it because we played this piece in our first season,” said Fahey.
People will likely recognize most everything on the program, but some pieces will be slightly more mysterious in their reference than others. One piece was composed by Alexander Borodin, a member of The Five, a group of five friends in the 19th century who were interested in promulgating Russian music in their era. The other obscure reference to five is a Mozart work titled "Sinfonia Concertante," which will include a guest appearance from Houston Symphony players for a violin and viola solo, backed by ECHO.
"The five there — I had to stretch this one a little bit. The audience is going to wonder how this is a five. It took me exactly five seconds to say yes," Fahey said. "When players from the Houston Symphony are asking if they can play with you, the answer is always yes because that’s a big deal."
The performance starts at 3 p.m., Sunday, October 14 at Queensbury Theatre, 12777 Queensbury Lane. Tickets are $10 online and $12 at the door. Children 12 and under can attend for free.
ECHO continues in their tradition of offering a New Year's Eve fete, complete with champagne toast and guest appearance from Houston-based singer Tianna Hall. It promises to be a symphonic, Broadway-influenced celebration of the Big Apple.
"It will feature music that is associated with the city of New York. We’ll play some music of Leonard Bernstein. We’re going to play excerpts from West Side Story, which takes place in New York, 'New York, New York,' made famous by Frank Sinatra, and another Bernstein favorite, 'On The Town.'"
Entering its third annual New Year's Eve celebration, the audience has grown year over year to enjoy the concert, and they also appreciate the early start time for the show.
"We’ve had a really good response to that. People really like the fact that it's early, and they can go somewhere else afterward and ring in the new year, go home and watch tv or just go to bed. People really like the style of music we present because it feels like a celebration because it’s broadway style and cabaret style," Fahey said. "We do a countdown, even though it might not be 12 o’clock in Houston, it will be midnight somewhere when we do the toast."
The concert starts at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31 at Queensbury Theatre, 12777 Queensbury Lane. Ticket prices will be announced later.
ECHO'S MASTERWORKS CONCERT
Rounding out the season, ECHO will perform at a new venue — St. John Vianney Catholic Church — and it will include the winners of ECHO's Young Artist Concerto Competition.
Regarding the competition, Fahey has said in previous Houston Press interviews, “In this era where everything is about what you can do on your phone and what you can do with video games, we want to introduce and encourage kids to get involved with music, which involves a lot more attention but is also wonderful and meaningful and can be a lifelong pursuit.”
Fahey said, "St. John Vianney recently redid their already beautiful church and made it even more beautiful. Part of their plan was to make it more beautiful acoustically, and I think they want to share this space with the community and bring people in to share all of this in the neighborhood."
ECHO is partnering with the church's organist to end the concert for a Saint-Saëns composition,"Symphony No. 3," aka the "Organ Symphony." Appropriately fitting, Saint-Saëns was a church organist during his heyday.
"It will be grand beyond belief because the organ in that church is stupendous, and it will sound magnificent," Fahey said. "It’s at the same time a masterworks concert and also a tribute to youth and community."
The concert will take place at 625 Nottingham Oaks Trail in April 2019. Ticket prices will be announced later in the season.
Overall, Fahey and ECHO's musicians, who typically live or work in the Energy Corridor, are looking forward to their fifth year of performing and the mark they are making in the city's performing arts scene.
"I think the fact that we are now performing in professional level venues is big. We’re no longer performing in out-of-the-way places. These are real concert halls," he said. "The fact that we’re partnering with Houston Symphony players — that’s a real milestone for us. We’re really bumping it up a notch."
To buy tickets or learn more about ECHO, visit echorchestra.org.