Galveston is full of wonderful things to visit and experience, especially during the holidays. It seems there is always something going on and a huge chunk of it starts in the fall.
For a destination known for its sunny beaches and nautical offerings, there is way more to the Island than sand, sunburns and strolling along the Seawall. Sometimes Old Man Winter sneaks up on southeast Texas and brings with it cold, windy and wet changes that can make outdoor activities a real challenge. The wintry weather is not so common on the Island. However, it does come and that can mean planning for some indoor fun and finding things to do that are out of the elements.
One of the best attractions on the Island is the Grand 1894 Opera House located at 2020 Postoffice Street. Galvestonians know this place and love it. Always eager to share top-rated shows and programs, the Opera House has been an institution in Galveston since its construction in 1894. Henry Greenwall set about in 1894 to raise the $100 thousand needed to build what would become the Official Opera House of Texas (designated in 1993 by the Texas State Legislature). The structure was designed by architect Frank Cox and quickly became the show place of the south. When six years later the Great Storm of 1900 ravaged the Island, locals with the assistance from folks all over quickly restored the famous Opera House and, as they say, “The show went on.”
The Opera House suffered some neglect for a few years, though it did survive all the major storms that came calling. Starting in 1974, local patrons, some of whom are still known for their great philanthropy, began to raise money to restore the great building to its original glory. Thanks to The Moody Foundation, Harris and Eliza Kempner, George and Cynthia Mitchell and other patrons of the arts, like a phoenix, the House rose again.
Over $8 million went into the reconstruction and improvements. The Grand 1984 Opera House is on the National Register of Historic Places and for years now, has been a source of pride for the Galveston community.
Under the executive directorship of Maureen Patton and troops of loyal volunteers, the Opera House continues to draw top performers and acts to the venue. Boasting a very active season, there is always something going on at the Grand. Aside from music, plays, lectures and other events, the theatre that seats 1000 can be rented for weddings, birthdays, private events and top-notch social gatherings. The stage alone can easily seat over 100 guests for an ornate luncheon on dinner gathering.
As Galveston has over the years, stepping up its game when it comes to entertaining and drawing visitors, the Grand continues to host events and names from the very top of the list of nationally and internationally known performers and presentations.
The Galveston Symphony Orchestra under the conduction of Trond Saeverud has brought hours of beautiful music to the hallowed building. A recent performance of Mozart and Beethoven with guest pianist Anton Nel was one of the most moving and informative events of the season. Saeverud enjoys introducing the pieces to be performed and sharing tidbits and historical facts with the audience before and after the performances.
As the holiday season approaches and the city proudly boasts of being a Winter Wonder Island, the Grand will step up to the plate and offer some great shows and events. The city brags of offerings guests and visitors more than 50 magical holiday events.
If you are visiting the Island or live on the Island and have never taken in the eye-catching beauty of the Grand 1894 Opera House, take the plunge. It will be unlike anything you have seen or experienced before. Sitting in the seats, of if lucky enough to have one the 12 boxes that adorn the stages edge, you will be transported to another time and place. Beautiful interior and furnishings remind all of a grander day when going the theater was indeed something special. As a good friends says, “The boxes are not to see, but to be seen.”
Whatever your holiday plans, make time for the Grand. Tickets and schedule can be found on line at the face book page, as well as site such as Galveston.com. To rent the theatre or discuss private rentals, call 409-763-7133.
The remainder of the 2018 Holiday Season will include: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Nov 30 at 8 p.m. and December 1 at 3 p.m., coinciding with the Island’s Dickens on the Strand weekend. On Sunday, December 2, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will present a Big Band Holiday with show time at 4 p.m. Sunday, December 9 at 4 p.m. offers a special holiday play, All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, the retelling of an extraordinary event that happened during World War I on Christmas that year. Everybody’s favorite, The Nutcracker, with the City Ballet of Houston will be performed on December 15 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and again Sunday, December 16 at 2 p.m. There is also a Nutcracker Afternoon Tea on Saturday, December 15 at 12:30 p.m. On December 23 comes the beloved classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, live on stage at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. On January 12, Opera patrons will see the award-winning story of Mozart’s sister Nannerl in Sylvia Milo’s drama The Other Mozart, with show time at 8 p.m. The Oakridge Boys will return to the Grand on Saturday January 19 at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, December 20 at 3 p.m. The list goes on and on and includes musical group Pink Martini, Johnny Mathis, Monty Python’s Spamalot and Kinky Boots.
Make new memories and traditions this holiday with a visit to Galveston’s historic Grand 1894 Opera House. You won’t regret it.