"Concert Against Hate" Houston Symphony feat. Bun B Jones Hall November 14, 2013
Thursday afternoon, Bernard Freeman paces nervously backstage at Jones Hall during rehearsals for the evening's program. "This isn't your normal House of Blues show," he proclaims.
The scope of this performance is indeed grand. Houston's Anti-Defamation League and the Houston Symphony are celebrating their respective 100-year anniversaries, and they have invited Freeman, a.k.a. Bun B, to be a special guest performer.
This will be the first time the orchestra has incorporated a hip-hop artist into a performance. Bridging the symphony with "the [hip-hop] culture," as Bun calls it, is a major step toward acceptance, both for him personally and that culture.
"I'm not nervous because of the people that will be here tonight," he says. "I've played larger rooms. I'm nervous because of the legacy of those who came before me, who struggled and fought for my right to be on this stage."
Fast-forward five hours, and now Bun is putting the finishing touches on his tuxedo. Normally, the Port Arthur native is decked out in the latest urban-wear T-shirt, and "Jordans under Dickies." Tonight it's a bowtie and a cummerbund; "Trill in a Tux" indeed.
Houston Symphony associate conductor Robert Franz is behind the podium tonight, waving his baton as the orchestra begins the night's first selection, "Fanfare For the Common Man" by Aaron Copland. The sound resonates throughout the venue in an Olympic fashion, setting a regal mood in a room full of politicians, humanitarians, and religious leaders.
The program was divided into four parts, each one championing its individual concept paired with a musical selection. "Fighting Anti-Semitism" was backed by John Williams' "Theme From Schindler's List," "Promoting Civil Rights For All" with Copland's "Lincoln Portrait," and Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story overture scored the "Challenging Hate And Bigotry" section.
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Finally, the main attraction of the evening: "Where Is The Love?" by The Black Eyed Peas (and Justin Timberlake), as performed by Bun B and the Lamar High School Choir. Ever the professional, Bun took the stage and endeared himself with the audience, flashing his wide smile as he freestyled lyrics honoring his fellow medal recipients.
The mixture of rap with a youth choir and the elegance of the symphony made this production so very impressive, it resembled a musical dream turned into reality. Everyone, from the ADL leaders, Houston Symphony staff, and the audience seemed exceptionally impressed with how well it all played out. The choir ended the night with John Lennon's "Imagine": a perfect song for an imperfect world, but still one well on its way towards equality and love beyond hate.
Now THAT'S trill!
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