O Beautiful! “American Strings” Spans More Than a Century of Music

O Beautiful! “American Strings” Spans More Than a Century of Music

On November 20–22, Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke returns to Jones Hall for the next Bank of America POPS Series concert American Strings: From Folk to Film, a celebration of American music performed by the Houston Symphony strings section. The program boasts music as unique and varied as our nation—and here are just a few of the sparkling compositions you can expect to hear as the evening spans more than a century of American music.

Scott Joplin, “The Entertainer” (1902)

A 1903 St. Louis newspaper article described Scott Joplin as “The King of Rag-Time Composers,” calling “The Entertainer” the best among his then-newest work. The article also describes Joplin as “reared and educated in St. Louis,” but he has a Texas connection, too: the son of a former slave, Joplin was born around 1867 near Texarkana, where he lived until he became a traveling musician in the late 1880s. Ragtime eventually fell out of fashion, but “The Entertainer” enjoyed an enduring revival when it appeared as the theme for the 1973 film “The Sting,” which won seven Oscars including Best Original & Adapted Score.

Henry Mancini, “Moon River” (1961)

Originally sung by Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “Moon River” is also well-remembered as a signature tune for singer Andy Williams. The Houston Symphony strings section performs this beloved composition without its lyrics by Johnny Mercer, who wrote the words to evoke the river near his childhood home of Savannah, Georgia. “Moon River” was actually nearly edited out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s for length, but Mancini and Mercer successfully argued for it to stay—making way for the composition to win both an Oscar and Grammy that year.

John Williams, “Air and Simple Gifts” (2009)

A favorite of film fans everywhere for his iconic scores for Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, and more, John Williams composed “Air and Simple Gifts” for a specific occasion: President Barack Obama’s first term inauguration. At the event in January 2009, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill debuted the piece in the first-ever classical quartet performed at a presidential inauguration. Williams drew inspiration from the 19th-century Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts,” which classical music fans may know well from its appearance as a theme in Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Join us for the concert on November 20–22! A small number of in-person tickets are available online, or you can watch the performance from home via livestream video on Saturday at 8 p.m. Learn more & get tickets.

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