People dressed in red and green sweaters took pictures in front of a fully-decorated Christmas tree and searched for various holiday-themed wares Sunday afternoon in the lobby of the Stafford Centre’s Performing Arts Theatre at 10505 Cash Road.
They were there for the triumphant return of a venerable community institution — the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra (FBSO) and its “Deck the Halls” holiday concert.
FBSO president William Rhodes said it was significant for the 31-member orchestra and its affiliated chorus of 15-20 voices to deliver its first live performance since 2019 in front of hundreds of attendees.
“We hope it means a lot to the community and the county that we have not gone away,” Rhodes said. “We did survive the pandemic.”
Music director Dominique Royem — who guided the ensemble through a collection of classic Christmas and Hanukkah tunes and medleys from Sleigh Ride to Rock of Ages to The 12 Days of Christmas — expressed a similar sentiment.
“We have been missing this down to the depths of our soul," Royem said. “We’re so glad you’re here with us.”
The concert also featured piano concertos from Mitchell Litvinov, the senior division winner of the 2021 Houston Music Teachers Association concerto competition, and Sophia Kuo, the junior division winner.
While the return of the annual holiday concert was an important milestone for FBSO, Rhodes and others within the group are also eager to celebrate the orchestra’s upcoming 30th anniversary next year.
“We're building and looking at the next 30 years,” Rhodes said. “Building the orchestra of the future, what does that look like? There's a lot of lessons learned over these past two years. Just like every business that's been out there, that's gone through the past two years, you have to adapt, you have to change, you have to move things around. Our normal is shifted a little bit, right. It's not just in person, or online, it's a combination of in person and online.”
Rhodes said providing online programming has been crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We love having people in the Stafford Centre, we want to fill the hall,” Rhodes said. “But at the same time, we also want to be able to have content out there and available to reach those that maybe can't get to the Stafford Centre. We're continually looking at ways that we leverage the technologies that are available to provide content for the residents of Fort Bend County, literally wherever they are.”
What’s next for the organization? FBSO will host the Marielle Ogletree Young Artist Concerto Competition from 2-8 p.m. Jan. 9. At Sugar Land First United Methodist Church, 431 Eldridge Road.
For more information, visit www.fbso.org/upcoming-events or call 281-276-9642.