News and Features

The Big Deal: TITAS Presents Spectrum Dance Theater At The AT&T Performing Arts Center

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Contemporary dance choreographer Donald Byrd does not confine his work to modern dance. He has choreographed works for contemporary, classical and opera companies from the Alvin Ailey Company, to the Joffrey Ballet, to the New York Opera. He earned a Tony for his choreography for the Broadways musical, The Color Purple. Byrd will bring his renown Spectrum Dance Theater troupe from Seattle for a one-night performance at the Winspear Opera House. Enter to win a pair of tickets to see the Sept. 27 performance.

While you are signing up here go ahead and preview our other offerings this week – tickets to see The Sound of Music at Casa Mañana, and tickets to the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth’s presentation of The Unexpected Journey: Paris to Budapest at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal. If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for a chance to see the Spectrum Dance Theater.

UPDATE: We have our winners. Thanks for playing.

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The Big Deal: ‘The Sound Of Music’ At Casa Mañana

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Win tickets to one of the most beloved musicals of all time, The Sound of Music. Your heart will want to sing every song it hears when Maria, the Captain and the children sing all your favorites from the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. For the show, playing at Casa Mañana in Fort Worth, we have a pair of tickets for the Sept. 22 performance.

After signing up for this Big Deal do not bid us farewell, au revior, or auf weidersehen. Sign up for our other two Big Deals this week – tickets to TITAS Presents Spectrum Dance Theater at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and tickets to the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth’s presentation of The Unexpected Journey: Paris to Budapest at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal. If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for your chance to see The Sound of Music.

UPDATE: We have our winners. Thanks for playing.

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A Nervous Eduardo Mata Conducts The DSO In The Meyerson For The First Time


Eduardo Mata. Photo: Dallas Symphony

    • Visit Secrets of the Meyerson to take a tour of the building, watch stakeholders answer five key questions, and take control of the acoustics (You can make the canopy and reverb chamber doors move.)
    • The Meyerson continues its anniversary celebration all week. Here’s a list of activities.
    • Listen to Quin Mathews’ report that aired on KERA FM:

The Dallas Symphony hated the distant acoustics of its old home, the Music Hall at Fair Park…so much it went to an Oak Cliff church when it made recordings. And for 12 years music director Eduardo Mata patiently waited for a new hall made just for symphonic music.

“I welcomed the idea of this hall being small because I want a sense of  intimacy when we’re performing there,” Mata said. “So I cant wait to see it happening.”

Then the day came.  1989: The first rehearsal in the Meyerson,  Mata gave me a ride into the hall.

finalfinalLogo“I’m very nervous,” he said.  “Very nervous because well I know for sure that half of the things that we need for the rehearsal to go well things are not going to be ready like risers for the orchestra, lights, I feel nervous because everyone wants to have the best impression possible of the hall and its capabilities.  And that probably won’t happen today.”

In fact it was noisy with construction still going on.  But the players heard what they had been waiting years for. It was magic, for Mata not a destination but a challenge.

“And what we want to see now, not only me but the Association in general is how ready the community at large keeps supporting the orchestra beyond the new hall.”

Eduardo Mata continued to lead the Dallas Symphony for four years in the Meyerson.  A little over a year after stepping down, he died in a plane crash in Mexico.  He was 52 years old.



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Art&Seek Jr: Let’s Take A Field Trip

Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself. Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

About 3 times a year here at KERA, an archival tape or show will turn up missing and a mad search of the building will ensue. The tape might be critical for a project on deadline, requested by an outside party (“My grandma was on a show of yours back in 1974. I don’t remember the name of the show, but can you find it and send me a copy?”), or just required for some folly like the Letterman people calling for a clip of Scott Pelly. Whatever the reason, in most cases, the tape in question hasn’t been seen in eons, and like a unicorn or pixies in the forest, its mere existence is questioned.

Some say it’s my 20 years on the job and my razor sharp memory that make me the perfect candidate to find these elusive archival wonders, but I think it’s my experience as a mom who is constantly on the hunt for lost stuff that make me a natural at finding these MIA tapes. Whether it be  escapee cats, Barbie shoes, or missing archival tapes I’m your go-to gal for all things lost.

If normal searching fails, we’re forced to take more desperate measures–cue scary music and lightning–a “field trip” the 2-inch tape library. A large windowless storage room located in a very dark wing of the TV studio. It’s so pitch black back there that while I’m groping around for the light switch,  I always think, “this is how horror movies usually start.” We call it a “field trip” because few want to go down there alone. Only in groups.

This has all got me thinking of more pleasant field trips.  Here are a few super cool, not-scary-at-all  ideas for a field trip with the kiddos. Read More »

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Flickr Photo Of The Week

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Categorized Under: Visual Arts


Congratulations to Perry Green of Lewisville, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest! This is Perry’s second win to our little contest, he first grabbed the gold back in July. He follows last week’s winner, Patrick Harvey.

If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took earlier than the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Tuesday to Monday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Friday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on Tuesday.

perry 2Now here’s more from Perry.

Title of photoWhat Time Is It
Equipment: Sony SLT-A77V with DT 18-200mm f3. 5-6.3

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The Meyerson at 50? Only If Classical Music Survives.

Diana Solfia Diana Sofia Zavala

Diana Sofia Zavala, a Young Strings student. Photo credit: Dallas Symphony

The Meyerson was built to last – its acoustics and its modernist style have not aged. But what will the next 25 years hold? As the Meyerson marks its anniversary, KERA’s Art&Seek is exploring the history and future of the building in a series called Secrets of the Meyerson. Today, Jerome Weeks reports the Meyerson’s future is tied to the future of classical music.

  • Read an expanded version of this piece and see more video predictions in the Five Key Questions chapter of “Secrets of the Meyerson.”
  • Want to check out music at the Meyerson? Events are going on all week. Here’s a list.
  • Listen to Jerome’s report that aired on KERA FM

Read More »

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In The Tense Race to Finish The Meyerson, Acoustician Russell Johnson Struggles To Hear.

  • KERA’s Dane Walters had some fun making the Meyerson move to music. Watch the video.
  • Learn more about Johnson’s innovations like the reverberation chamber and the acoustic canopy – and make them move! – at Art&Seek’s interactive website Secrets of the Meyerson.
  • There are numerous events this week marking the Meyerson’s anniversary. Here’s a list.
  • Listen to Quin Mathews’ radio story that aired on KERA FM
Russell Johnson. Photo: "Frozen Music"/KERA

Russell Johnson. Photo: “Frozen Music”/KERA

The race to finish the Meyerson was tense, especially for acoustician Russell Johnson. This afternoon, KERA contributor Quin Mathews takes us back as Johnson struggled to hear his handiwork.


Many musicians have praised the acoustics of the Meyerson Symphony Center as among the best in the world. Contributor Quin Mathews remembers the tense days before the hall openening.

In September 1989, acoustician Russell Johnson looked worried. He was trying to hear the acoustics of the new hall he had designed, but the sound of noise was winning out over the sound of silence.

The Meyerson Symphony Center was far different from the Fair Park hall it replaced. Instead of a fan-shaped auditorium seating 34 hundred, Johnson’s design called for two thousand, based on the great old halls of Europe.

“They usually seat anywhere between 1100 and 2200 concertgoers,” said Johnson. “Almost without exception in the mid-section of the room they are parallel and rather narrow. They tend to be rather long and rather high. They almost always are constructed of very heavy masonry, and about 95% of the best sounding rooms have plaster walls and plaster ceilings.”

But there was one thing Johnson did that was different. He made adjustable halls.

“There is really no such animal as excellent acoustics which works for all the symphonic literature,” he said.

So the Meyerson got adjustable reverberation chambers and a giant, moveable 42-ton canopy over the stage to vary the way sound decays. The idea is that what you hear is not coming directly from the stage.

“Very, very little of the sound you hear in the audience is coming to you directly from the stage, perhaps as little as 15 to 20 percent of the sound energy is coming to you directly from the instruments. All the rest is coming from multiple reflections from the walls, the ledges and the ceiling—and the canopy.”

In 2004, three years before Johnson’s death, I asked how he would rank the Meyerson among his halls.

“All these halls turn out somewhat different from each other. It’s inevitable. They all sound different, therefore there’s really no way to compare them or rank order them. Are you pleased? I’m never pleased.”

He laughs.

“I was born not pleased.”

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Secrets of the Meyerson: The Organ

Listen to the story that aired on KERA FM

  • Dallas audiences next get a chance to hear if it’s magic for them, this Thursday as a part of a “Rush Hour Concert” at 6 p.m.
  • You can watch a performance of Finale from Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata No. 1 by the Dallas Symphony’s resident organist, Mary Preston at our interactive web site, Secrets of the Meyerson.

The Lay Family organ made its debut in 1992, three years after the Meyerson opened. Camille Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony No. 3 capped the inaugural concert. It’s the rare classical work that almost perfectly marries the organ and the orchestra. And on that night, Dallas heard a new instrument almost perfectly matched to its home.

“The Lay Family Organ at the Meyerson Center is one of the great organs of the world without question, in one of the great halls,” says Michael Barone. He knows. He’s host of the award-winning radio show Pipedreams. “What makes the hall wonderful is that its acoustics are adjustable, and can be made quite extravagant. And when opened up to the full, the resonance chambers really do make quite a splash of sound…”

That resonance thrills audiences and makes the organ sound like it’s been lifted out of a grand European Cathedral, says Dallas Morning News critic Scott Cantrell. “The more reverberation there is the more they like it. So in a solo recital you can open up all those reverb chambers and get this incredible swim of sound there, although it never gets muddy.”

The Dallas Symphony’s organist Mary Preston praises builder, C.B. Fisk, for that accomplishment. “This is a glorious instrument because each of the stops is very pure. Each of the sounds of the ranks of pipes are very pure in and of themselves,” she says. Preston has played with the DSO for 20 years. “Some organs, in order to get a pretty sound, you need to pull out a whole bunch of stops, meaning engage a whole range of pipes. On this instrument it’s not so. This instrument has beautiful sounds each and every one of them.” She adds that purity comes from the pipes. You can see 70 of them in the hall.

Mary Preston has been the Dallas Symphony's resident organist for the past 20 years. Photo: Dane Walters

Mary Preston has been the Dallas Symphony’s resident organist for the past 20 years. Photo: Dane Walters

The rest, says retired DSO Vice President Mark Melson, are hidden in back, up some skinny steps. “We’re in the organ loft behind the organ consul and the organ pipes. There are over 4000 pipes. They’re crammed into this 6-foot deep space,” he points out. The smallest pipe’s about an inch long. The 32-foot tallest pipe is so big a person can stand up inside it. It can play a note a full octave below anything the orchestra can.

“Even when you don’t quite hear it, there’s just this low rumble that’s not so much a pitch but an experience,” describes Michael Barone. “When the full organ is going, when you pull on the big 32-foot Bombard, it’s not just the sound. It’s the “wow” impact of the sound vibrating your whole body.” Which leaves fans and musicians like Mary Preston with a desire seemingly as big as the instrument. “It would be wonderful if we could play it more,” Preston says.

Dallas Morning News classical music critic Scott Cantrell is a little more emphatic. “People want to hear this instrument. There it is. It’s right at the front of the hall. It’s an enormous presence. People often ask me does it ever get used? And I have to say, well, almost never.”

There was an international organ competition. Launched in the 90s, three were held, then its top champions retired or moved away. An ailing economy helped kill it. But some of that’s about to change. The orchestra plans to program more selections that include the organ. And this coming season, the symphony will re-launch an organ recital series. Jonathan Martin, DSO President and CEO, says it will include three concerts with international soloists. He thinks, “You know, we’ve got this great car in the driveway and we need to take it out and drive it more.”

Barone believes the effort will pay off once people open up to this monster that Mozart called the King of Instruments, and realize the organ, which predates Christianity, isn’t just for church. “It is the most complicated of musical instruments and yet to be able to make it sing, to make it touch your heart, to be able to create emotions with this machine is quite magical.”


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I.M. Pei Says Meyerson Among His Top 3 Most Important Buildings


I.M. Pei in the Meyerson lobby. Photo: “Frozen Music”/KERA

  • Listen to Quin Mathews piece that aired on KERA this afternoon.
  • Watch Frozen Music: The Making of a Concert Hall on KERA TV at 8 tonight. Or check it out in the Archives chapter of Secrets of the Meyerson.

As construction workers raced to finish the Meyerson Symphony Center 25 years ago, Architect I.M. Pei toured the building he designed. He liked what he saw.

“Some people, when they look at the outside, say it looks like a musical instrument. Now I’m very happy about that, you know.”

In this intallment of Secrets of the Meyerson KERA contributor Quin Mathews takes us back to hear from the man whose work created visual music for Dallas.

Standing in the hall amid the construction noise, Pei told Mathews that the Meyerson “stands for something in the city.

“Some people, when they look at the outside, say it looks like a musical instrument. Now I’m very happy about that, you know. At the same time they have to judge this building, is this a building that they can be proud of, that they would like to see as one of their public buildings? So therefore a certain amount of monumentality if you wish, a certain aspect, has to be expressed. I want them to want to come in. And I also want them to be proud, to be able to point to friends and visitors, this is our symphony hall. That’s all.”

At the time Pei was probably the most famous and popular architect in the world. He had originally turned down this project because he had not done a concert hall. Stanley Marcus got him to reconsider.

In 1989 when the hall opened, Pei said it was one of the two or third most important buildings in his career. Fast forward 15 years, in a seminar onstage at the Meyerson, Mathews asked him if it was still true.

“I think I do feel so. I still do. First of all, because, first of all, it’s the only symphony hall I’ve every done. (laughter) And I’m particularly pleased with the workmanship. The workmanship in this hall is really incredible.”

I-M Pei was in his sixties when he started working on the Meyerson Symphony Center. He is now 97.


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Philanthropist Ted Strauss Dies at 89

Ted Strauss  Photo by Kristina Bowman

Ted Strauss. Photo: Kristina Bowman

Ted Strauss, the well-known Dallas banker and philanthropist, died this morning. He was 89.

He was responsible for several Texas businesses and banks over the years. He made a $1 million donation to the AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2004.

He died of natural causes, The Dallas Morning News reports.

“Ted had a deep sense of compassion and service to the community,” Matrice Ellis-Kirk, chair elect of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Board of Directors and a longtime friend of Strauss, said in a statement. “Whether advocating for the arts, serving the homeless or any other number of civic efforts – the Strauss family has truly helped shape the Dallas that we are today.”

Strauss was married to Dallas’ first female mayor, Annette Strauss.

His brother died about six months ago. Robert Strauss  was a former chairman of the Democratic Party and an ambassador to the Soviet Union.

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