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Jones Hall erupted in applause as Yo-Yo Ma, the world-famous cellist, walked on stage and joined the Houston Symphony on Saturday night. 

The unprecedented evening stood apart from the Super Bowl madness that consumed the Bayou City last week. The concert began with a brief introduction by Mark Hanson, executive director and CEO of the Houston Symphony, who welcomed to the stage Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Houston Symphony music director and the evening's conductor.

The performance began with works from George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, an upbeat selection that included jazzy, toe-tappin' tunes from the iconic 1961 musical. I enjoyed watching the entire stage and appreciated every aspect of the performance, from the immersed expressions on the musicians' faces to their feet subtly tapping as they followed the rhythm. However, my eyes always went back to Orozco-Estrada’s energetic direction. It's clear from the smile on his face throughout the performance that he is passionate about the music, making the evening all the more exceptional.

The highlight was, of course, when Ma joined the symphony on stage. He took his seat to the left of Orozco-Estrada. Ma performed Antonín Dvořák’s "Cello Concerto in B Minor, Opus 104" along with the orchestra. He had no music stand or sheet music, executing a passionate, beautiful and natural performance that was breathtaking to witness.

The accomplished Chinese-American cellist, who attended the Juilliard School and Harvard University, is often referred to as a cellist prodigy, and rightfully so. Ma has spent the past six decades dazzling audiences, like Ronald Reagan, and collaborating with artists, like renowned film composer John Williams for the Seven Years in Tibet score. In 2000 he even founded a nonprofit, Silkroad Project, that promotes ways the arts can advance global understanding. But whether it is music or philanthropy, Ma's career is a testament to his continuous passion for music. 

Don't miss other upcoming performances by the Houston Symphony. Watch a screening of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial accompanied by the Houston Symphony, who will perform John Williams' Oscar-winning score. 

Feb 9. From $35. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana St. 713-224-7575. houstonsymphony.org 

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Theater

An American in Paris

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In 2015, playwright Craig Lucas adapted the beloved 1951 film into a Tony Award–winning musical, a romantic evening of song and dance set to George and Ira G...