PREVIEW: An Afternoon with David Sedaris

This coming Saturday, April 13 at 2pm, David Sedaris will be speaking at Hill Auditorium. Best known for his fabulous wit and hilarious sarcasm, Mr. Sedaris has written over six books and sold seven million copies by 2008. His most popular essay collections include Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Utterly hilarious and brilliant, Mr. Sedaris is not someone you’ll want to miss.

Go Blue tonight and by some tickets to see David Sedaris this weekend!!

PREVIEW: Esperanza Spalding

2011 Grammy winner for “Best New Artist” and 2012 Grammy for “Best Jazz Vocal Album,” Ms. Spalding returns to wow Ann Arbor audiences this Saturday, April 6 at 8pm at the Michigan Theater. Singer, bassist, and composer, Ms. Spalding will demonstrate how her talents encompass various stylings and rhythms. Young, beautiful, and vibrant, she is going to rock the stage Saturday night, and you’re going to want to be there. Billboard writes, “Whether exploding into vocalese or making her bass solo sound like a horn, she’s a spark plug who dances as she grooves through a funked-up and rock-out repertoire.” Esperanza Spalding will blow you away as she returns to present her new album, Radio Music Society.

More information can be found at her website:

REVIEW: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble

Saturday evening, I had the privilege and honor of seeing Yo-Yo Ma perform with the Silk Road Ensemble in acoustically-perfect Hill Auditorium. It was truly a stunning and breath-taking event. From the instant we were in our seats, we left Ann Arbor for destinations along the Silk Road – it was not just a musical experience, but a quest to far off lands. Warm, tingly, and adventurous, it was a spectacle in which, I’m fairly certain, every person in Hill that night was swept away.

The first song they performed was entitled the “Silk Road Suite” with four separate parts making up the piece. I think it was my second favorite of the performance. The rhythms kept you wanting more, rocking gently in your seat, and I couldn’t believe how much time had passed by the end. The Silk Road Ensemble performs without a conductor, keep in mind, so it was amazing to see how well they kept in rhythm – reading off each other’s’ movements and marking their pace in time.

The second and third pieces were pretty wild, but enjoyable nonetheless. I felt they went on a little too long, but I understood the artistic drive that held them within a certain space of suspense and phraseology. “The Prospect of Colored Desert” was about a tiger stalking its prey, if I heard the introduction correctly, and it made use of dramatic imagery with slides, slurs, and flurries of notes and percussion. “Playlist for an Extreme Occasion” was anything but traditional, as the program note indicates as well. It was interesting, but not very distinguishable from the rest, in my opinion.

The piece following intermission and the award ceremony, in which Yo-Yo Ma was presented with the UMS Distinguished Artist Award, was my absolute favorite, I believe. It was called, “Beloved, do not let me be discouraged…” As the title depicts, it is a hopeful story that you can almost imagine watching on stage as the artists rocked and swayed to the rhythm of their instruments. The program note on this piece reads, “The musical voice of kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor is a natural fit for this piece, in part because Persian music often expresses a deep desire to love oneself in love.” The mood that transcended over us all caused us to weep, metaphorically at least, alongside the droning of the kamancheh.
(What the **** is a kamencheh?)

The second to last piece, “seasons continue, as if none of this ever happened” had a powerful message and if nothing else, it was absolutely intense. The shakuhachi was accompanied by a recording of electronically-generated music (shaku – what??). The story of the piece is to commemorate the tragedy of the tsunami that altered life in Japan in 2011 for so many Japanese. There was a haunting beat that led the shakuhachi in loops and circles, up and down; one could imagine getting lost in the music – lost in the tsunami – and in the horrific stories of the past that we sometimes forget…”as if none of this ever happened.”

And to conclude this intensely moving and artistic display of terrific talent from the Silk Road Ensemble, they played a stunning piece entitled, “Suite from Book of Angels.” This beat pumped out a rhythm that you couldn’t sit still and listen to. The drums made this piece for me – keeping pace for the other instruments while also treading water on its own at certain moments. It was fantastic.

Yo-Yo Ma writes in the program book: “The Silk Road Ensemble is a musical model that requires curiosity, collaboration, and wholehearted enthusiasm from all the participants. The music we play does not belong to just one culture or even to only the Silk Road region. Ensemble members are united in their demonstration of virtuosity and generosity…” “Enthusiasm” is just one word to describe the countenance of those performers on stage last night. They looked elated the entire time they were performing, and the energy they brought to the show was unlike anything I’d ever seen by an ensemble of this size. Such a display of cross-cultural unity and musical harmony, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble presented something uniquely beautiful and a truly stellar performance.

REVIEW: New York Philharmonic

Saturday night, Hill Auditorium was absolutely packed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the auditorium sold out before, but this was just about at peak capacity. And only after I’d finished appraising the crowd, everyone so nicely suited up, did I notice the orchestra was already tuning on stage. It was a smaller section of the orchestra that they used for the first two Mozart pieces, making up the first half of the concert. Regardless, their sound was more than impressive. From the moment the conductor walked on stage, I entirely forgot where I was until it all ended in a final, flourished wave of his arm.

The first piece, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492 was absolutely staggering. Every turn of the music left me wondering, what’s coming next? As I sat their listening, I tried to imagine what I would be doing if I were in a silent film where this was the soundtrack. I imagined me dancing, then the floor gave out and I was falling, then I was laughing and flirting with a dashing gentleman, then he murders me! With every twist and lift of the synchronized first violinists, the attitude of the piece entirely shifted. As every overture should conclude, it was a valiant finish that left everyone squirming in their seats, wanting more.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425 was the second piece and even more fantastic than its predecessor. Just as flourished albeit a little more charming and embellished with shadows of passion, this piece too was breathtakingly perfect.

That’s the other thing about the New York Philharmonic – I don’t think you can do it any better! Both their Mozart pieces and the Brahms were absolutely flawless. After the show, I had froyo with a friend of mine who attended the concert with me and I asked her, seeing as she is quite an esteemed musician herself, how do you do it better than that? She replied, simply, you don’t.

The Brahms piece they played was one that took Brahms nearly 11 years to compose. 11 years on the same symphony!? I can’t even imagine. I write short fiction as part of my creative writing major here and that would mean that I would have started a story back when I was nine if I were to write a story in the time it took Brahms to write his first symphony. What?! The piece was, of course, stellar. It said in the program that it was fairly lengthy compared to the average arrangement of the time, however, I swear it felt like I sat in my seat for not 10 minutes when it had actually been two hours for the whole concert. I couldn’t believe it had ended, and I was actually sort of upset I hadn’t seen it coming.

In conclusion to my rave review of the New York Phil, it was just so great. Peter Laki, UMS correspondent, wrote in the program book: “The classics provide us with much-needed emotional stability in these volatile and uncertain times, and we must make sure we bequeath our love of them to those coming after us, just as we inherited it from those who have been here before.” Truly, nothing is better than that.

PREVIEW: New York Philharmonic

Saturday, February 23 at 8pm, the New York Philharmonic will be performing in Hill Auditorium! Come check out this prestigious ensemble alongside the UMS Choral Union as they wow the audience with fantastical overtures by both Brahms and Mozart. It is sure to be a stellar performance!

So, where will you be Saturday, February 23 at 8pm?

Hope to see you there 🙂 <-- more info on the performance!

REVIEW: Mock Rock

Wow. I think the overall all consensus after last night’s Mock Rock performance by our beloved student athletes was, “Well, that could have gone a lot better.” Don’t get me wrong, the skits were overall cute and entertaining. Perhaps slightly less so than last year, where highlights included the men’s swim team and the presentation by the football players/cheerleaders; however, nothing was quite up to my expectations. The Lion King-inspired performance was probably the best, I’d say, but other than that, nothing ground-breaking in the field.

Now, the Emcee. Jalen Rose, former UM basketball player and overall an all-star athlete, was just outright embarrassing. What at first seemed like enthusiastic promise turned into awkward and clumsy fumbles that his wit and somewhat clever remarks never worked to make up for. For example, after a really spectacular introduction, written for him on his notes mind you, he forgot he had already introduced the judges, told us that it said “to introduce the judges!”, and proceeded to just do it again by saying “um…Judge #1!” because he forgot the name of our women’s water polo coach and Olympian, Betsey Armstrong. So bad.

Don’t let this review dissuade you from attending next year, however, because Mock Rock really is a great event for the University of Michigan. Not only do we get to hoot and holler for our favorite UM athletes and see them actually less than stellar at something (like dancing and singing), but all proceeds go to Mott’s Children’s Hospital. It’s really a great event and worth your time. Even if only for a laugh.

Mock Rock 2013 was definitely an event to remember, but perhaps not in the way the Mock Rock-ers would have wanted. Better luck next year!