REVIEW: The Reign of Pops

The Michigan Pops Orchestra never fails to be entertaining with its program and exception with its music. This semester, we entered the Pops Kingdom and were greeted by many crown jewels of the classical music scene as Music Director Rotem Weinberg and Assistant Music Director Tal Benatar walked out dressed like kings and directed some royally magnificent songs.

The orchestra started with the “Overture to Nabucco,” followed by songs from Enchanted accompanied by a wonderfully-produced adventure video. There was some friendly banter where the person who claimed that he could play the violin with both hands tied behind his back was dubbed the “Lyin’ King,” which was a perfect segue into the Lion King Medley. Other selections from movies also featured some stunning soloists, including Mikaela Secada in “Almost There” from Princess and the Frog, Lorna Courtney in “Just Around the Riverbend” from Pocahontas. More quintessential royal pieces included Swan Lake, “Emperor Waltz,” and “The Prince of Egypt,” and we also explored the video game world with the “Kingdom Hearts Overture” that continued the journey of Enchanted. Finally, we ended with an out-of-this-world performance of the Star Wars Suite before wrapping up with the traditional “Hail to the Victors” encore.

The interactive piece of the program was a game called Name That Royal. We started off easy, with Queen Elizabeth, and then the responses became more clever, such as King Kong, Burger King, and Princess Fiona, so props to Pops for being just as witty as always. The music, though it seemed to fall apart a bit towards the end of the program, was enchanting and beautiful, parking during the “Kingdom Hearts Overture” and “The Prince of Egypt.” The Pops Orchestra took us on a magical journey, and the music they delivered was certainly worthy of a king.

PREVIEW: The Reign of Pops

A new year means new music from the Michigan Pops Orchestra. For the fall semester, Michigan Pops is taking over the world with its show, “The Reign of Pops.” The great theme of royalty can be seen in the music of Swan Lake, Prince of Egypt, and many Disney tunes. As usual of Pops concerts, The Reign of Pops will combine vocal performers, special effects, and multimedia for an unforgettable musical experience. The concert is Sunday, November 18 at 7pm at the Michigan Theater. Tickets are $5 for students, $8 for adults, and free for students in public schools and seniors 65+. Tickets are available at the door on the night of the concert.

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!