It goes without saying that the opener to the 2020–21 Bank of America POPS season is one of the most anticipated concerts in recent history. After a six month hiatus from the glitz and glamour, colored lights, stellar vocalists, and renowned musicality of your Houston Symphony, we are beyond excited to resume POPS programming with an all-star cast and the return of Principal POPS conductor, Steven Reineke.
One particularly exciting aspect of this program is the opportunity to partner with local artists from the Theatre Under The Stars and really shine a light on our hometown talent, something we Houstonians definitely take pride in. We had the opportunity to chat with the featured guest vocalists about preparing for the concert and their return to live music.
Houston Symphony: How does it feel to return to the stage to perform live music?
Nick Szoeke: “To say I’m excited to be back on stage is an understatement. Being able to sing and create with other artists in the same room is one of life’s most beautiful gifts.”
Alyssa Sunew: “I am thrilled to make live music again! There is something so magical about instruments surrounding you and working in tandem with you. This will be my first time performing at Jones Hall, and having sat in the audience for previous Pops concerts, I already know how wonderful it is hearing the Symphony bring music you love to life. I can only imagine how that will feel from onstage.”
HS: Have you been working on any particular repertoire or techniques during the shutdown?
Noah Ricketts: “I’ve been using a lot of time during quarantine to rest and recover. After spending the past 6 years on Broadway, my voice and body need a break. If I sing these days, it’s usually fun pop songs in the privacy of my shower!”
Sean Holshouser: “I’ve actually been working quite a lot on my technique basics. Oftentimes I find myself so caught up in upcoming performances that I forget to keep reinforcing standard practices. Getting the opportunity to step back and work on various foundational theatrical skills has actually been quite nice.”
HS: What is the most challenging part about preparing for a performance in a virtual world?
Simone Gundy: “Operating like this requires self-discipline. I find that deadlines have begun to blur together when everything is virtual. I have to triple check emails to make sure they’re going to the right people. My favorite is that I really feel like I can stretch my legs and fine tune a performance down to its most minute detail. At times I feel like I’m rediscovering my voice.”
Courtney Markowitz: “For me, tackling performance and practicing at home has one simple challenge–she’s a four-year-old named Frankie. My daughter is maybe more dramatic and expressive than I am, and she is certainly a tougher critic than any I’ve ever faced in our business.”
HS: What feelings do you hope the audience leaves with after this performance?
Nick Szoeke: “I hope the audience walks away with a feeling of hunger and want for more art. I hope they have a feeling of excitement about the future of the industry and a sense of love and healing for our world.”
Simone Gundy: “Relieved, released, and renewed.”
Alyssa Sunew: “Music is so healing for both the performer and the listener, especially in difficult times. I hope the audience feels moved at home, the same as if they were attending in person.”
Noah Rickett: “I hope the audience leaves feeling super inspired. Given the state of the world, I think we could all use a little bit of inspiration.”
Sean Holshouser: “Hope! Joy! Excitement! Motivation! Too many to even name–but at its core, a feeling of profound human connection.”
Courtney Markowitz: “I am so lucky to sing a gorgeous song by Will Reynolds that was written during quarantine. It’s a beautiful song that so perfectly captures the experience we are going through, both in missing the arts and missing our loved ones. I hope that audiences can appreciate that incredible work and will feel compelled to support the Symphony and Theatre Under The Stars as they help to rebuild our city that is so in need of the arts.”
The Houston Symphony’s Bank of America POPS series begins Saturday, September 5 with a livestreamed performance of The Best of Broadway. This can’t-miss digital event features electrifying showtunes from Waitress, Les Misérables, Frozen, Ragtime, and more. Tickets to this performance are $20, or consider purchasing a livestream subscription to save 25%.
-by Mark Bailes