Saturday, March 25, 2017

Symphonic Mastery From 'The Master'

The fetching Mrs. B and I will be attending a special concert in Houston's Jones Hall this Saturday night, as our Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada leads our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra in an all Beethoven program:  Symphony #6 "Pastoral", and Symphony #7.   
Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada the director of the HSO
Speaking of our [HSO] great conductor, some fantastic breaking news via Carlos Andres Botero, the music ambassador for the Houston Symphony Orchestra on his Face Book page:  "Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada has extended his contract with the Houston Symphony into the 2021-22 season!"

This will be a great concert program featuring two of my favorite Beethoven symphonies.  It also features two of my favorite movements in the symphonic repertoire: the beautiful melodic last movement [Allegretto] in Beethoven's Pastoral symphony #6 and the beautiful and mesmerizing Allegretto movement of Beethoven's symphony #7. 

Here is how the Houston Symphony Orchestra website characterizes this weekend's symphony concert:  "An exploration of nature, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony evokes cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside and a harrowing storm which resolves in one of music’s most satisfying finales. Beethoven’s lively Seventh Symphony abounds with high spirits that surround a haunting second movement, featured in films such as The King’s Speech."

As always, when we go to a Houston Symphony Orchestra concert, I like to give a small sample of what we will be hearing tonight.  [of course, if you want to hear it all, come to Houston and Jones Hall and join us!  :-)]

Please turn up the volume and play in full screen to hear some grand symphonic mastery from "the master".

L.V. Beethoven: Symphony #6 in F Major, Movement 3, Allegro; Movement 4, Allegro - "The Storm"; and Movement 5, finale, Allegretto, "Shepherd's Song":

L.V. Beethoven: Symphony #7 in A Major, Movement 2, Allegretto:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trip To London

Repeat post from August 15, 2014 of our vacation in London as we pray for the victims and families of the terrorist attack in London yesterday March 22, 2017, and we pray for all of England.

Big Ben in London, England
Our family just arrived safely back home after a great trip to London, England.  A great time was had by all.  The people we encountered in London were very nice and friendly.  Here is a video of some of the pictures that I took while there.  It includes a one-day visit to Paris via the Eurostar train that goes through the underwater tunnel in the English channel.  Pictures weren't allowed in Buckingham Palace [which was an awesome tour] with so many awesome chandeliers in every single room or in the Piccadilly Theater where we saw a great performance of Jersey Boys with some of the loudest ovations I have ever heard at a show or at a concert.  Also, pictures can't capture the wonderful English accent [or I guess we are the ones who had an American accent] or the beautiful French language in Paris; also, pictures can't describe the beautiful sweet aroma we encountered upon entering the Harrod's luxurious department store's perfumery department as we just opened the door.  

With that in mind, Tales presents it's 2014 vacation trip to London.

Trip To London - 2014:

Featuring: Big Mike and Mrs. big Mike aka the fetching Sheralyn and wonderful  daughter Ebony and son-in-law, big John and the nice sister of Sheralyn, Carmen.

Music in the order it is played: 
1.  A short clip of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue".
2.  England's own Sir Edward Elgar's "Nimrod" from his "Enigma Variations".
3.  Rule, Britannia
4.  British National Anthem [ending]: "God Save the Queen"
5.  George Gershwin's "An American In Paris" [clips]
6.  Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition".
7.  George Fredrick Handel's "Water Music".
8.  Dean Martin sings the ending of "Going Back To Houston".

Note:  Would have loved to get pictures from inside awesome Buckingham Palace when we toured there, but pictures weren't allowed.

Please turn up the volume and enlarge the picture for best viewing and [even if you don't like the pictures] to hear some great music.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Welcome Spring

In honor of Spring 2017 beginning this week, March 20th to be exact, here are two great classical music pieces representing this wonderful season: Antonio Vivalde's Spring violin concerto, the first concerto from his "Four Seasons", and the great American composer Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring".  
Aaron Copland [1900 - 1990]
Note:  The second video has Leonard Slatkin leading the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Copland's magnificent piece - a truly American piece.  Before the piece begins, Maestro Slatkin gives a very moving story of Aaron Copland nearing the end of his life. 

The well known beautiful theme, "simple gifts", a Shaker hymn, begins slowly with the strings at the 23:27 mark and then develops into magnificent majesty by the full orchestra at the 35:07 mark. 

Please turn up the volume and enjoy Vivaldi's Spring, and Copland's, Appalachian Spring as we begin another new season for 2017. 

Antonio Vivalde:  Four Seasons Violin Concerto #1 in E-Major,  "SPRING":

Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring:

The one thing I love about Spring is that I know it means, opening day for the Major League Baseball season can't be far away.  Play ball!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The History of Clutch City

As the NBA regular season is coming to an end and the playoffs will begin in about a month, sometimes we here in Houston get nostalgic of when Houston was known as "clutch city" about 20 years ago.  We hope one day the Houston Rockets will once again make H-Town clutch city again. 

Do you know the history of Clutch City?

In 1994 and 1995 the Houston Rockets made the long suffering [without a championship] Houston fans proud by winning back to back NBA World Championships.  They became known as the Clutch City Rockets and the city of Houston became known as Clutch City, with their own Clutch City USPS stamp.  

But a lot of you might not remember how the name of clutch city came about.  Houston did not have a pro championship to their name in the major sports, NBA, NFL and MLB despite having some good teams and making the playoffs many times, all for naught.  This streak of no championship looked like it could end in 1993 as the Houston Oilers, led by QB Warren Moon, had a high powered offense and they opened the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills, who were without their starter, Jim Kelly as he suffered an injury in the last game of the season.  Fans felt the excitement as the Oilers were blowing out the Bills, 35-3 [that's a 32 point lead for the benefit of all you Steeler fans out there].  Well, the back up quarterback for the Bills Frank Reich led a gut wrenching [to Houston fans] amazing comeback win, and Houston fans were to be denied once again. 

So, the very following year Houston fans were hoping to get a reprieve and wipe out that nightmare, as they had a great NBA team led by coach Rudy Tomjanovich and superstar center, Hakeem 'the Dream' Olajuwan.  In the semi-finals of the Western Conference that year the Rockets were a big favorite against the Phoenix Suns.  In the first game at home the Rockets were blowing out the Suns by 18 points in the fourth quarter, but somehow managed to lose that game.  Okay, we were only down 1 game to none, let's come back and even up the series in the second game at home.  Again the Rockets were blowing out the Suns, this time by 20 points in the 4th quarter, and you know what happened, they blew it again.  Just think, after coming off one of the most devastating defeats for Houston pro sports fans with the Oilers blowing a 32 point lead against a back up quarterback, they suffer two back to back [what you have to be honest and call] choke jobs by their NBA team.  In fact, the city was so down and frustrated by seemingly another choke job by a Houston professional team, it was reflected by the headlines on the front page of the morning Houston Post [no longer in existence] newspaper: "CHOKE CITY"

What happened after that was unbelievable.  There was surely no way, after blowing two huge leads in the fourth quarter in Houston, would the Rockets come back in the series, especially having to go to Phoenix for games 3 and 4 and being down 2-0.  Well guess what fans, the Rockets, coached by the great Rudy, "the heart of a champion" Tomjanovich, played amazing basketball in Phoenix, won both of those games, and eventually won the series in 7 games, winning at home in game 7, 104-94.

And guess what the headlines on the front page of the Houston Post was the morning after this amazing comeback, after being labeled Choke city just days before?  
You got it:   "CLUTCH CITY!"

The Rockets would go on to defeat the Utah Jazz, 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference finals and defeat the NY Knicks in 7 games to win Houston's first major pro league championship!  

The 1994 NBA World Champion Houston Rockets

1995 NBA finals Rockets vs Magic
Then, the city of Houston and the Houston Rockets would get to keep their mantle of Clutch City, as the next year in 1995, the sixth seeded Houston Rockets, again coached by Rudy "T" would again make an amazing comeback against the Phoenix Suns [again], down 3-1, and eventually winning in 7 games on Phoenix home court [in what is known as the "kiss of death" game], as Mario Ellie hit a corner 3 pointer to sew up the game in the last few seconds, and then blew a kiss to the Phoenix bench. 

The Rockets would sweep the Shaquille O'Neal Orlando Magic, 4-0 to win back to back titles. Houston officially became known everywhere as clutch city!
Mario Ellie giving "kiss of death" to the Phoenix Suns
Mario Ellie, "Kiss of Death" game 7 vs. Phoenix Suns -1995:

No matter what happens in these NBA playoffs, the city of Houston will always be proud of our Houston Rockets, the first major professional team to win a championship for our city - clutch city, that is. 

Go Rockets!