When artists strike lightning, sometimes they strike only once.
In the past 50 years, many now obscure musicians created a single song that’s still a pop-culture staple. I bet most artists don’t imagine their tunes being played by a full orchestra decades later, but that’s just what the Houston Symphony did in their “One-Hit Wonders” concert.
Few people can name the artists who gave us classic songs like “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Bittersweet Symphony,” “Take on Me,” or “The Girl from Ipanema.” However, if you’re like me, you can recognize these songs within the first few notes.
In this concert, pop culture takes the stage. When I think of orchestra music, Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky come to mind. It’s refreshing to hear music from the past century being performed by a symphony orchestra in a venue as grand as Jones Hall. Pop music can be worthy of all the status and grandeur typically kept to high culture.
The Houston Symphony didn’t print the full song lineup online or in the playbill because surprises are fun. Don’t worry, I won’t dish out spoilers. Sitting in the audience, I kept wondering what one-hit wonder is playing next. The revelation of each instantly-recognizable song is part of what makes this concert exciting.
When Matt Doyle sang just the first line of a love song, there was a collective “aw” from the crowd at Jones Hall. For other pop classics, I heard people shout “Oh yeah!” as they recognized a melody. Conductor Steven Reineke encouraged the audience to clap, sing along and even dance. I was dancing in my seat, but one couple danced in the aisle to a love song and others stood up to dance like John Travolta to disco hits.
For this production, the Houston Symphony recruited two vocalists: Storm Large and Matt Doyle. Large came to fame as a 2006 finalist on the CBS show “Rock Star: Supernova” and has since performed with orchestras across the country. She’s a rock star with a powerful voice and stage presence. Large stole the show with her personality and how she dances out every song. She looks like she is having fun, which makes her performance fun to watch.
Doyle has a background in musical theater, including playing Elder Price in the “Book of Mormon” on Broadway. Large and Doyle can both belt out ballads. During the one-hit wonder party and dance montages, Doyle, Large and the entire orchestra the skillfully shift gears between from song to song to create a fun marathon of one-hit wonders.
“One Hit Wonders” makes for a fun evening full of nostalgia and tapping your feet to the beat.