Tracking Through the First 100 Years of the Houston Symphony
By Margaret Downing, published by Houston Press
The Houston Symphony began in 1913 with 36 members and a first season budget of $2,500. Its founder was Miss Ima Hogg, daughter of the governor and longtime patron of the arts who was determined that Houston should have its own resident symphony.
Hogg even wrote the first newspaper ad calling for people to go to a Houston Symphony concert. Seats at the Majestic Theatre cost 25 cents to $1 for the show.
For 28 years, Carl Cunningham has worked on a history of the first 100 years of the Houston Symphony, making good use of the encyclopedic knowledge he gained first as a performing arts critic for the Houston Post (where I knew him) for 29 years and then as someone who writes liner notes for the symphony's programs for the past 17 seasons.
Houston Symphony, Celebrating a Century is the result — a coffee table book with intriguing photos and information about conductors, patrons and some of the great artists who've been part of the symphony here. Volunteer archivists Terry Brown and Ginny Garrett, spent ten years cataloging an immense amount of material — particularly important since Tropical Storm Allison flooded the symphony in 2001 and wiped out many of its archives.
The back of the book with its list of symphony board of directors throughout the ages will probably interest those directors and their friends and descendents.
But the rest of the book is a fascinating look at how a city's people decide something artistic is important and then make sure it happens.