The Houston Symphony Will Honor Selena This Month

Of course, the first performances of The Music of Selena had to be in Texas.

By Chris Gray June 25, 2019 Published in the July 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Isabel Marie Sanchez, 16, plays Selena.

Freshly minted Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves sang “Como la Flor” on opening night. Then came bachata bad boy Prince Royce (“No Me Queda Más”), followed by Camila Cabello (“Dreaming of You”) a few nights later. And Cardi B’s Selena-inspired stagewear for her record-setting performance set off even more rumors—which sadly proved untrue—that the “Please Me” rapper would star in the forthcoming Netflix series based on Selena’s life.

Hands down, the late Queen of Tejano’s music and style dominated this past RodeoHouston season. Imagine what it might be like in 2020, which will mark 25 years since Selena was shot and killed by her fan-club president at a Corpus Christi motel.

For now her fans can turn to this month’s tribute by the Houston Symphony, whose salutes to pop and rock artists have become an increasingly popular and fruitful part of the orchestra’s programming. Honoring a fallen Texas icon, whose stature seems to grow with each passing year, seems predestined to take them to a whole new level.

For one thing, most of these tributes are rentals, per se—a touring conductor and handful of core musicians, as was the case with April’s Music of Led Zeppelin concert. The Selena show, by contrast, was commissioned and funded by the symphony’s Hispanic Leadership Council.

“Of course, the first performances of The Music of Selena had to be in Texas,” says Lesley Sabol, the orchestra’s director of popular programming. “The Houston Symphony is a major orchestra that excels not only at the classical masterworks but flourishes in any genre of music. Their talent is completely versatile.”

Brooklyn-based freelance composer/arranger Adam Podd, who also helped orchestrate the symphony’s June 2017 concert with hometown Gulf Coast Soul heroes The Suffers, was responsible for the arrangements. Although he admits that he wasn’t  overly familiar with Selena’s catalog going into the assignment, Podd says he came away impressed.

“I think it holds up a little bit better than other ’90s pop,” he says, “because it feels like it was rooted in something that wasn’t just current at the time but had deeper roots to begin with.” He points to Selena’s frequent use of mariachi-like trumpets as one example of her folk influences.

Stepping in on vocals will be Isabel Marie Sanchez, a 16-year-old Chicago native and San Antonio resident who won Best New Female Artist at the 2017 Tejano Music Awards. She records for Q-Zone, the label established by Selena’s father and manager, Abraham Quintanilla.

“Basically, I was told to arrange these songs like it was Selena singing,” says Podd. “In my mind, Selena is doing these songs.”

July 12-13. From $25. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-224-7575.

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