PREVIEW: Joshua Bell & Sam Haywood

This weekend, Joshua Bell and Sam Haywood will be performing live at Hill Auditorium. Bell is an incredibly famous and successful violinist, and Haywood is a well-known pianist who has toured extensively in the United States and in Europe, performing in many major concert halls along the way. The two have worked together as a duo several times in the past.

I’m personally very excited to see Joshua Bell, because his name has been familiar to me for years. My parents are both musicians, and I’ve heard a lot about him from them; he also grew up in my hometown and attended my high school! (He’s pretty much the only famous person who has, so his name is thrown around a lot there.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in concert myself, though, so I’m very excited to finally get to see him perform live. I’m also looking forward to seeing Sam Haywood, with whose work I’m less familiar but who also has a glowing reputation.

Bell and Haywood will be performing this Saturday at 8:00 PM at the Hill Auditorium. The program will feature works of Mozart, Schubert, and Richard Strauss.

REVIEW: New York Philharmonic – Young People’s Concert

Word was out: The New York Philharmonic was set to make its debut to the University for their second major residency in honor of Leonard Bernstein. Upon their arrival, the NY Philharmonic had more than twenty various educational and community engagement activities planned for both students on campus and those of the larger community as well. Before attending the Young People’s Concert, I had the opportunity of attending the lecture held by the University Musical Society’s current president, Matthew VanBesien and Deborah Borda, President and CEO of NY Philharmonic. This discussion was driven by the topic of Leadership, Innovation, and the Business of Running an Orchestra. It was a packed room full of faculty, students, and UMS affiliates. With the energy and excitement elicited from those in the room, I could not wait to finally attend one of their mainstage performances!

Come the big day (Saturday), the weather was dreary and raining vigorously…not an ideal day for attending a world-renowned concert, as one may imagine. Though, my enthusiasm was not shot down a single bit! Upon arriving, I was thoroughly pleased with the sight of so many young faces and people of color. This was something that I could truly appreciate, as it is of mutual understanding (and a prominent goal mentioned by Ms. Borda) to shift the majority orchestra concert goers from older individuals to a more diverse audience.

Moving along, the concert’s primary purpose was to celebrate Leonard Bernstein. In a roundabout way, the show itself was a rendition of episodes performed by Bernstein himself. It was set up like an interactive lesson, rather, somewhat like a game show with a host and commentary/history of selected pieces in between each performance. We were even presented with a special guest: one of Leonard Bernstein’s daughters! In conjunction with testaments to her own stories of childhood, there were also members of the orchestra that accounted for early memories of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts.

We are told that Bernstein was a man of many roles: a father, conductor, composer, and so forth. The program was composed of excerpts from Bernstein’s Candide, Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, “The Age of Anxiety,” Symphony No. 2, “Jeremiah,” Symphony No. 1, and West Side Story. The most audience participation came from the very last piece, Mambo. Throughout the performances, the host and conductor, Leonard Slatkin, took various efforts to involve the audience. During Mambo, we were given the exclusive role of synchronously shouting “Mambo!” when given our cue.

I found the excerpts from West Side Story to be a special treat. In addition to hearing more upbeat tunes and jazzy compositions, we were given pieces from the Broadway musical! With two special guests, U-M alumni were welcomed to the stage to aide in performing “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” and the “Balcony Scene.” Surprisingly enough, it felt as though I was watching the musical itself while simultaneously viewing what would be the orchestra pit during the show. All in all, the New York Philharmonic’s residency this year was an unforgettable experience, with much recognition given to the University Musical Society for hosting them.

REVIEW: Daniil Trifonov, piano “An Homage to Chopin”

What’s better than a night of Chopin?

A night of Chopin performed by Daniil Trifonov.

There was everything a piano concert should have: the loud and the soft; the fast and the slow; the touch and the feel. There are things many piano concerts lack: the emotion, the excitement, the energy, the presence. Trifonov was very much emotional and exciting and energetic and present. He managed to accomplish everything a musician hopes to achieve in their lifetime in just two hours of wondrous harmonies and melodies.

The first half of his program was all works inspired by Chopin. My favorite from this section was the excerpt from Carnaval, Op. 9 by Schumann. It was fun and lighthearted, and Grieg’s Moods that followed afterwards created a stark contrast that really captured the range of music and style that Chopin influenced, as well as the musicianship talent of Trifonov.

My view of Trifonov from the balcony

While all the music was masterful and amazing, my favorite pieces would still have to be the Chopin works in the second half. His Variations on “La ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni, Op. 2 were full of energy and attitude. I’m a sucker for variations, and this one was no exception.

Sonata No. 2 in b-flat minor, Op. 35 started out with a bang and it ended with a bang, and everything in between was just as grand. Trifonov showed off all the technique he has mastered, but the best moment came during Marche funèbre: Lento, when the entire room was silent, and the soft, somber notes from the piano filled the room in a way no fortissimo ever could. There were chills, and I was left speechless.

The music finished sooner than I wanted, and the entire auditorium was on its feet, cheering and clapping and whistling for more—and more is what we got. Trifonov came back out and played a slower piece, which I thought was unusual for an encore, but he pulled it off, treating the audience to this heartfelt piece. Again, it ended, but we wanted more.

And this is the point where I literally gasped and the entire night became more perfect than it already was.

For his second encore, Trifonov performed FantaisieImpromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66, which I myself played four years ago, and it’s been one of my favorite songs ever since I heard my older sister play it. Hearing Trifonov play it, however, was a whole new experience. The notes I knew by heart suddenly came alive in a way that’s never been played before, and I really felt this song in a whole new light.

Again, we hoped for more, but sadly, time had passed and it was officially over. However, his music has found its place into my memory and into my heart. The night came to an end, but his music lives on in me and everyone that attended this concert.

Daniil Trifonov has been called the greatest pianist of our generation, and after hearing him grace the stage with Chopin and many more at Hill Auditorium, I could not agree more.

Review: Our Victory and Pride

On Saturday I attended the Men’s Glee Club concert titled Our Victory and Pride: Singing in the Key of Michigan Since 1859.  I have been to multiple concerts of the Men’s Glee Club, however, this one was by far my favorite!  The concert celebrated Michigan’s composers as a part of the bicentennial celebration.   And if you missed this concert, there will be another celebrating the bicentennial in the fall!

I absolutely loved all of the songs that were sung, and could definitely see the tie to Michigan in them.  Some of the composers such as Kristin Kuster (composer of “given a body” and “Michigan: Unite”), Shawn Crouch (composer of “The Peace of Wild Things”), and William Brehm (“I will remember, my Michigan”) were in the audience on Saturday night.  The Men’s Glee Club also sang an awesome “Motown Medley” arranged by director Eugene Rogers and JDM.  My personal favorite had to have been “The Map”.  “The Map” took us on a drive through the state of Michigan and highlighted some of the more popular cities.  The hilarious and lovable group of The Friars also made an appearance, singing some of their songs.

The Men’s Glee Club closed their concert with the popular “Varsity and the Victors” as well as “The Yellow and Blue”, in which they invited the alumni of the Men’s Glee Club onstage.  This was such a fun concert to attend and I’m looking forward to part two on November 10 and 11 at the International Male Chorus Symposium!

PREVIEW: Our Victory and Pride

This Saturday, April 15, the University of Michigan’s Men’s Glee Club will be performing a concert titled Our Victory and Pride: Singing in the Key of Michigan Since 1859.  Continuing the celebration of the bicentennial, the Men’s Glee Club will sing songs that pay tribute to, not only our wonderful state, but also the brilliant composers of Michigan.  I even read that they will be premiering a new Michigan song, written by Professor Kristin Kuster.

The Men’s Glee Club Concert will take place at Hill Auditorium at 8pm.  Tickets are on sale now, between $5-$20 depending on seating.  For ticket information, visit: http://tickets.music.umich.edu/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=3005.

Review – True Blue: A Tribute to Michigan!

If you have ever felt the pride of being a Michigan Wolverine, being at this event magnified that feeling by 100%.  True Blue!  A Tribute to Michigan brought together those who share the love and passion of two colors: maize and blue.  Some of the biggest celebrities were on the stage of Hill Auditorium, telling their stories of their time at the University of Michigan, and everything that they have accomplished after graduating with a U of M diploma.

Tribute to Ann Arbor squirrels (Photo Credit: Matt Weigand)

There were so many amazing performances that I will do an overview.  Many videos were played throughout the night including ones of the history of U of M, the Diag, the Ann Arbor squirrels (my personal favorite), U of M couples, Bo Schembechler’s “The Team” speech, U of M professors, and the alumni.

“The Victors” performed by the Department of Musical Theatre Majors (Photo Credit: Scott C. Soderberg)

The Jazz Ensemble played a nice medley of “Michigan Through the Ages”.  The Department of Musical Theatre Majors did a stunning rendition of “The Victors” that definitely made me tear up a little as I felt the pride of being a Michigan wolverine.  The Department of Theatre & Drama Acting Majors performed multiple pieces such as “Catholepistemiad Rap” about the history of U of M, “Clarence Darrow and the Ossian Sweet Trial” alongside Emeritus Professor of Voice George Shirley, and “Tribute to Activism”.  The Michigan Men’s Glee Club sang a chilling “Glory” from the movie Selma and “I Remember, My Michigan”.  The Contemporary Directions Ensemble played multiple pieces such as “The Little Victors”, “Concerto for Two Violins”, “Back to Michigan”, and the cellists played a “Tribute to Raoul Wallenberg”.

The Friars and Theatre & Drama Acting Majors in the tribute to the Engineering Arch (Photo Credit: Matt Weigand)

The Friars made an appearance to sing “In the Still of the Night” as a hilarious tribute to the Engineering Arch, in which Theatre & Drama Acting majors acted out couples walking through the “arch”.  The Department of Dance Troupe performed “The Little Victors”.  The RFD Boys, alumni of U of M, played a “Michigan Medley”.  Multiple professors spoke such as Ralph Williams, Kathleen Sienko, and also the chair of the Department of Neurosurgery Dr. Karin Muraszko.  “The University” was sung by the University Chamber Choir.  Shortly after, the Michigan Marching Band flooded the stage performing all of the classics: “Victors Valiant”, “The Yellow and Blue”, and “Michigan Fanfare and The Victors”.

Emcee Darren Criss (Photo Credit: Robert Buechler)

The emcees included actors Darren Criss and Jacqueline Tobini, neurosurgeon and medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and NBC sportscaster Andrea Joyce, all of which are U of M alumni.  Other famous alumni speakers included: Civil Rights activist Cecilia Munoz, mayor of Ann Arbor Christopher Taylor, sports legends Desmond Howard and Jim Harbaugh, Broadway producer

Alumni and football legend Desmond Howard with other U-M sports legends onstage (Photo Credit: Scott C. Soderberg)

Jeffrey Seller, space explorers Afred Worder, Kiko Dontchev, Steve Walton, Mike Hess, and Hashmita Koka, Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Americans Committed to World Responsibility Judy Guskin, and of course U of M’s President Dr. Mark Schlissel.

This event was absolutely extraordinary and I couldn’t be more proud to be a wolverine!  Go Blue!!!

Football coach and alumni Jim Harbaugh (Photo Credit: Matt Weigand)

Upcoming Bicentennial events include:

June 26 & October 26: President’s Bicentennial Colloquia

June 26-27: UMich200 Summer Festival

August 26: U-M’s 200th Birthday

September 15: Detroit Festival

October 26-28: UMich200 Fall Festival

For more information: bicentennial.umich.edu