REVIEW: Once Upon a Pops

As much as I love words, they can only do so much. When I am speechless, when words escape me, I turn to music to express what I cannot put into words. The Michigan Pops Orchestra have combined my two favorite modes of communication, putting on a night full of literature, ranging from childhood favorites to modern classic, all in the form of music.

Disney made a beautiful showing through Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, and movie and musical soundtracks had their fair share of representation through powerful, emotional performances of Forrest Gump, Jane Eyre, The Godfather, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Fantastic Beasts, Romeo and Juliet, and The Sound of Music. All of these selections gave the Pops a chance to shine.

The break from literature was found in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concert in D Major. Katie Sesi was the winner of the 2018 MPO Concerto Competition and performed this beautiful masterpiece with breathtaking precision and tackled the incredibly intimidating technical difficulty with poise. I’m excited to see all the talent she has to bring to the music scene at University of Michigan when she attends in the fall, as she already received a standing ovation with her debut performance with the Michigan Pops Orchestra.

The night featured soloists Kevin Starnes, who shook the jungle with his silky baritone rendition of “Bare Necessities,” and Allison Prost and Michael Floriano as they took on the classic love duet, “All I Ask Of You.”

It wouldn’t be a Pops concert without a hilarious video narrative and a trivia game. This time we followed the story of a princess, stand partners, and the inferior Harvard Pops Orchestra as music director Rotem Weinberg read the story of the PrinPop Bride from “Scheherazade” for a sick boy. The battle of the bookworm consisted of naming a classic book based on amusing summaries (my favorite was “teenage boy fights noseless alum”).

Overall, it was a pretty standard Pops concert, which means it was phenomenal, full of the usual amount of laughter and engagement and amazing music you find at a Pops concert. I can’t wait to see what the Michigan Pops Orchestra has to present next year!

PREVIEW: Once Upon a Pops

Once upon a time, a student-run, student-directed orchestra formed on the University of Michigan campus, bringing engaging, exhilarating music to the stage. With special effects to blow your mind, these familiar tunes from all your favorite movies will make you dance internally and sing along as your inner child rejoices.

The Michigan Pops Orchestra’s “Once Upon a Pops” concert will be at the Michigan Theater on April 7 at 7pm. Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults, but it’s FREE with a Passport to the Arts voucher! So snatch one up around campus and take a trip down memory lane this weekend!

REVIEW: Intergalactic Pops

This concert was not your typical concert. With hilariously-poorly-designed videos, a planet diss showdown, a lightsaber fight, and a game show, Michigan Pops definitely brought the pops to Michigan.

Before the main event, the early-arriving audience was entertained by Dicks and Janes, an a cappella group on campus.


Their singing was lovely, and I enjoyed listening to them as I relaxed and took in the beautiful venue, waiting for the Michigan Pops Orchestra to take the stage. I will definitely be on the lookout for acapella concerts after this!

After over 100 students and Music Director Rotem Weinberg filled the stage, there was lift off.

Opening with Also Sprach Zarathustra: Sonnenaufgang (which you may not recognize the name of, but you will definitely recognize the tune when you hear it) was iconic and set the stage perfectly for the rest of the concert. Some songs were very familiar, while some I never heard before. The program consisted of classical music, movie soundtracks, and video game theme songs, all centered around the theme of “space”. It featured soloists Benjamin Walker and Megumi Nakamura from SMTD, and their voices complemented the orchestra perfectly. “Sun and Moon” was captivating, and the bit from Pinocchio was such a childhood throwback — I wasn’t prepared for all the feels that night. But, the orchestra and voices were so powerful and beautiful that all I felt was the feels throughout the entire evening.

Music was not all there was in store, however. Before Jupiter, there was a battle for the title of best planet, ending with Assistant Music Director Tal Benatar claiming that “every planet is special in their own way.” Awwww.

Videos for Star Wars, E.T., and Mario were created and played.

Sometimes, I felt the videos were too entertaining that it was a bit too distracting from the music. I was too busy laughing at the pasted E.T. face that I forgot the orchestra was playing. However, during the Super Mario Galaxy 2 song, the music brought the video to life. So, I think the presence of the videos depended on the listener and whether that took away from the orchestra or added to it. It was enjoyable nonetheless. Additionally, there was a lightsaber duel that took place between two Pops alumni in a video that found its way into a live-action finale.

In the second half, there was a game show with audience participation called Planet or No Planet.

It was so ridiculous, it was amazing.

Ending with Reflections of Earth, which is from the IllumiNations show at Epcot, the night’s music really caused me to reflect on everything, known and unknown. At certain times, the orchestra was so intense and grand that I couldn’t handle it, and it caused me to realize once again how small and finite we are in the end. The power of their music was literally transcendent.

Finally, Michigan Pops brought it back home with a rendition of Hail to the Victors as an encore, ending with the Michigan pride that makes the stars shine maize and blue.

The time and energy the Pops orchestra put into preparing for this concert, in terms of music and all the entertainment, was as clear as the moon, and it paid off for an amusing night filled with laughter and emotions. As we journeyed through space on this night of wonder, I realized I’m really happy to live on this earth where I had the opportunity to experience all the talent produced by the lovely humans that graced the stage of the Michigan Theater that night. With their music, they filled our minds with universes beyond life. What I listened to was more transformative than a solar eclipse, more brilliant than a shooting star, more powerful than a black hole, more grounding than gravity; I listened to the Michigan Pops Orchestra. And it was certainly out of this world.

PREVIEW: Intergalactic Pops

Fan of the Star Wars movies? Never seen the films but like the iconic music in it? Just a lover of music?

If you’ve ever watched The Planets, E.T., or Star Trek, you’re also in for a treat.

The Michigan Pops Orchestra is putting on a concert that will put you over the moon. Intergalactic Pops will appeal to people of all ages as it explores the music that transcends space and time. And that’s not all! It will feature a unique combination of vocal performers, multimedia, stage antics, and special effects, which will be sure to engage and entertain the audience.

Comprised of students from all fields of study united with a common love for music, the Michigan Pops Orchestra is the country’s oldest collegiate Pops orchestra and is the only student-run, student-directed orchestra on campus.

I can’t wait to hear all the talent the Michigan Pops Orchestra has to offer. Get ready for this out-of-the-world performance on Sunday, November 19 at 7pm in the Michigan Theater. Student tickets are $5 at the door or it is free with a Passport to the Arts Voucher!

PREVIEW: Goodnight, Pops!

Image Courtesy Michigan Pops Facebook Page

You don’t have to be Freud to come enjoy the Michigan Pops Orchestra’s interpretations of popular songs all about dreams and nightmares. They will perform a mixture of modern and classics: including themes from “Avatar,” “Back to the Future,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” as well as Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”

You won’t want to sleep through this!

What: Michigan Pops Orchestra presents “Goodnight, Pops!”

When: Sunday, April 19 at 7 pm

Where: Michigan Theater on Liberty Street

How Much?: $5 Students, $8 Adults, free admission for students K-12

Tickets sold at,
At Mason Hall: M-F 4/13-4/17 12pm-1pm,
At the Michigan Theater Box Office M-W-F 4/13, 4/15, 4/17 3-5pm, and at the door starting at 3pm.

Interested in finding out more about Michigan Pops? Follow them on Twitter at @michpopslove and check out their Facebook Event Page here!

REVIEW: Michigan Pops presents Game of Pops

After arriving at the Michigan Theater, and hearing sounds of a small jazz ensemble coming from the main theater, I knew this was going to be an interesting concert. With the couple who started a slap fight in front of me, an audience who rarely stopped talking, and an intermission in which the musicians wandered around to chat with the audience, I can honestly say I have never experienced an orchestra concert quite like this one.

Centered around the theme of games, the Michigan Pops Orchestra played 14 pieces, including music from the Olympics, Halo, Rocky, and the ever popular Game of Thrones. While most of the pieces were played well, the second half of the concert was stronger than the first, and the suites from Video Games Live and Game of Thrones were when the orchestra really shined. In those moments there weren’t any homemade movies or awkward gags, and the Michigan Pops let the music speak and showed off how well they can play and how great they sound together.

The two soloists, Allen Chang, a clarinetist, and Dylan Stasack, a singer, were wonderful additions to the concert and both performed very well. While the insertion of a classical concerto into a concert of predominately movie and video game music felt a little awkward, Chang’s excellent playing captivated the audience. Stasack gave a strong performance of “Go the Distance” from Hercules, which showed off both is musical and theatrical skills.

Overall, the concert was pretty good, with interesting pieces that were played well. Although it is a student run orchestra, I was surprised with how informal the concert was. The constant chatting of the audience, flash photography in the dark theater, unconventional intermission, and over played gags were distracting and had me wishing for a more traditional and formal orchestra concert.