The University of Michigan is hosting an overwhelming number of events this weekend in celebration of the bicentennial, and it’s been wonderful to see how all of the different schools within the University have found a way to celebrate what they do. Some schools have hosted high-stakes competitions, others have started important dialogues with the community, and still others have found unique ways to share the talents and accomplishments of their students with an audience. This seemed to be the purpose of Friday night’s “A-maize-ing SMTD” program in Hill Auditorium, and I am confident that School of Music, Theater, and Dance accomplished its goal of celebrating the talent of the student body with an appreciative audience.
The 90-minute program was similar in design to Michigan’s well-known, annual Collage concert: a wide variety of high-quality, 4-minute acts from all departments within SMTD followed one another in rapid succession. There was no intermission, but the house lights were left on so that audience members could feel free to enter and exit the space at their leisure.
I was glad to have stayed for the entire concert. I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing and wide variety of the evening. The program darted between exceptional performances of classical chamber music, to theatrical performances, to jazz-inspired grooves, representing the talents of several Michigan composers, actors, dancers, singers, and instrumentalists.
While every performance was engaging and showcased the utmost artistry and professionalism, the acts that stood out to me most were the ones with music composed by a living, Michigan-based composer. Nathan Thatcher’s Ebb & Flow for flute, viola, and harp sparkled magnificently alongside the graceful, yet large, light-strewn, ribbony river puppets created by a Michigan puppetry class. I felt very lucky to relive an excerpt of composer Douglas Hertz and choreographer Al Evangelista’s Saeculum (which premiered earlier this year), a massive feat of collaboration between composer, chamber choir, string quartet, and dancers, as the piece is difficult to perform. Professor Stephen Rush’s miniature funk opera cast the founding of this institution in a very different light (although I do wish that the sound had been mixed better, so that I could have appreciated all of the sharp remarks). The Vanguard Reed Quintet and Sapphirus Saxophone Quartet exuded immaculate tone and blend in their performances of works by Michigan alums and faculty. Tristan Cappel’s quartet performed his own relentless, rhythmically and harmonically tight jazz composition for two saxophones, bass, and drums.
As a student of the SMTD, it always brings me joy whenever I get to watch my talented friends and colleagues perform. “A-maize-ing SMTD” was wonderful because it was a rare opportunity to see multiple performing arts departments onstage together. Watching this performance certainly made me proud to be a Wolverine.