Last Friday night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Halloween got off to the musically spooky start that residents always look forward to from the Houston Symphony’s annual Hocus Pocus Pops concert. Out on the Pavilion plaza there was the usual fun-filled array of pre-concert games and activities for the youngsters.
That included the popular miniature train ride that was back again this year, perhaps much to the chagrin of drivers expecting to park in the many handicapped parking spaces that had been commandeered to accommodate the train layout. But it was all in the spirit of good fun for the kids, many of whom were dressed in a wide variety of Halloween costumes in hopes of being selected to participate in the annual costume march across the stage. There was even a surprise singing “flash mob” on the hilltop from talented members of the Christian Youth Theatre.
The overall excitement of the kiddies really took over the Pavilion as they outnumbered the adults by about 3 to 1. That would be most noticeable during the concert itself as the endless buzz of children’s chatter was oblivious to the hard working musicians on the stage. But it was all part of the prevailing holiday spirit and no one seemed to mind, least of all the good-humored conductor, Robert Franz, who added to the fun by coming costumed as Frankenstein, and the orchestra’s Associate Concertmaster, violinist Eric Halen, who dressed as a red-caped devil. Many orchestra members had on costumes as well, and it was nice to be able to see them more closely via the pavilion’s large projection screens. Even Count Dracula made an appearance in the person of talented Houston actor, Ron Solomon, who with his powerful voice did an appropriately ghostly narration for the symphony’s performance of R. Peck’s “The Chill of the Orchestra.”
Among the many other spooky and exciting works presented were Wendel’s merry, “Poltergeist Polka,” Stravinsky’s very fiery “Firebird,” the thrilling “Thunder and Lightning” of J.Strauss Jr., “The Witches Ride” from Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel, and Saint Saëns’ eerie “Danse Macabre,” featuring wonderful solo moments on violin from Mr. Halen. Halen would return for more virtuoso moments during the Shaiman composition of the tango from “Addams Family Values.” And speaking of The Addams Family, the orchestra’s beautiful performance of the lovely overture to that Broadway show made me very sorry I have not yet seen a production of the musical.
Of course a highlight of the evening was the costumed kiddies’ parade across the stage, and that was done to the orchestra’s wonderful performance of three Sousa marches, “The Liberty Bell,” “The Washington Post,” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
And COMING SOON: Moms and Dads it’s almost time to gather your kids and head to The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for the 18th Annual Children’s Festival, presented by ExxonMobil, Nov. 9 & 10. This star-studded, family-friendly event is going to be one for the record books, and you don’t want to miss it. Kids are in for the time of their lives with performers on multiple stages, familiar characters strolling around, and activities located all around the venue. There’s surely something for each child to enjoy. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the gate the day of the event. This admission fee includes every show and activity for the day. Tickets can be purchased at The Pavilion Box Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000. Children age 2 and under are free. Picnics are welcome, but beverages cannot be brought into the venue.