An Orchestra Concert of '80s Hits? Like, Totally, Dude

“This concert shows that an orchestra concert doesn’t have to be stuffy or pretentious, the way a lot of people think it can be."

By Holly Beretto January 4, 2019

The ‘80s—if you were there—were, like, wicked awesome. Marty McFly went back to the future. Indiana Jones found the lost ark. Shoulder pads were totally a thing. So was big hair. Parachute pants. Break dancing!

And Stuart Chafetz, principal pops conductor for the Columbus Symphony and a child of the ‘80s himself, wants to recapture all that. Or, at least, he wants to recapture the music—and give it a whole new sound. His efforts will be in Houston as he conducts the concert he created, “Totally ‘80s,” for the Houston Symphony. The concert is an evening of some of the 1980s biggest and most-beloved songs, given bold orchestral arrangements.

“The 80s had great music,” Chafetz says. “’Carless Whisper’ has that iconic sax line. ‘In the Air Tonight’ is just big. ‘Smooth Criminal’ features the concert master in this killer violin solo—it’s awesome.”

Those are just some of the songs featured in the concert, which Chafetz says is part nostalgia, part introduction to symphonic music—and all fun.

“When we do this show, and I ask how many people in the audience are at an orchestra concert for the first time, three-quarters of the audience erupts in applause,” he says. “This concert shows that an orchestra concert doesn’t have to be stuffy or pretentious, the way a lot of people think it can be. And it’s also a way to relive the music of that decade and hear new things in those songs.”

With music from Phil Collins, Rush, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Billy Joel, and more, and selections from movies such as Chariots of Fire and Back to the Future, Chafetz feels it’s both an approachable show, as well as a righteous selection of music.

“I really wanted things that would be fully realized with an orchestra, not this idea where you’d have the equivalent of an ‘80s garage band and the orchestra plays whole notes,” he says. “So, we have ‘Addicted to Love.’ Man, it’s just great with those riffs and that bahn-bahn-bahn-bahn in there. We do a number that’s not even in the program as a surprise, and the place goes crazy.”

He and the orchestra are joined on stage by Nicole Parker, who played Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway and has appeared with the Symphony before, and Aaron Finley in his HS debut, following Broadway stints in Rock of Ages and Kinky Boots.

“I want people to come out of this show going that was amazing. I hope it brings back great memories, and I really think it’s the sort of show you can bring your kids and grandkids to."

Jan. 11-13. Tickets from $29. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana St. 713-224-7575. More info and tickets at

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