REVIEW: Dicks and Janes: “A Family Dinner”

Ahoy! This be the logo!

The lights went down and a sharp-looking a cappella group, half boys, half girls, danced onto the stage in a blend of black and teal. They got right to business and sang a beautiful rendition of Bjork’s “Who is it?”

I have to admit that at first I was disappointed by the program because I had been to the fall concert and had heard 7 of the 11 pieces. Couldn’t they learn new songs? Wouldn’t people remember them? Wasn’t the point of performances to enjoy new music?

But I quickly learned that I found a comfort in hearing the pieces again. They are DJ classics for a reason – because they are SO good at singing them! Each time you hear a song, it is indeed a different song. You, the audience member, have changed since last concert and might interpret the message of the song differently. You might pay attention to new aspects of the song. You might follow a certain singer through the piece’s journey or perhaps watch the group’s explosive body language, focusing in on how they move in sync and make the stage undulate with their shimmying shoulders. Plus, the singers changed up who was the soloist in many of the pieces, which shows how one song can differ depending on the style of the soloist. Some voices are soft and jazzy, while others are pitch perfect belts that ring out to the back of the auditorium and pierce our ears with pleasurable tickles.

My Highlights of the Night:

– Helena Ratté’s arrangement of The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” was such a great mix of nostalgic rock and soul. Danny Hensel’s performance was a true showcase of his spectacular range from the depths of baritone caves to sky-high falsetto.

-Kait Mulder’s sultry performance of Etta James’ “At Last.” I felt like I had been transported back to a club in 1960. The romantic calm made me close my eyes and I think we all sort of fell in love with the beauty of that piece.

-Mason Van Gieson was my pick for the star of the night. She had such stage presence and was such a joy to watch. You could tell that she was enjoying every minute up there, which really was communicated through her performance of Mister-Wives’ “Reflections.”

One thing that is really fun about the DJ’s programs is that they provide the OPB (Originally Performed By) information. I personally was not familiar with many of the pieces sung that night, so it was helpful to go on Spotify the next day and listen to the original piece. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I fully preferred the DJ interpretations of every song than the original! What an accomplishment – to improve on successful, published songs!

Oh, and what was that about a family dinner, you ask? Every two or three songs, a few of the singers performed short comedic skits that always centered around awkward family dinner gatherings and ended in horribly, ‘I-can’t-believe-I’m-laughing-this-is-so-bad’ punch lines. Yes, they were probably unnecessary (save for the one where they included a DJ marketing ploy), but the skits added a certain familiarity to the concert. We almost felt more of a connection to the singers – because of the shared awkward experience of a bad punch line or just because it lightened the mood and kept us engaged.

All was a fantastic concert. The Dicks and Janes never fail to get your foot tapping and your mouth curling into a smile. They make you feel like, yes – even you Audience Member, are part of the family.

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!

PREVIEW: Dicks and Janes A Cappella Presents “A Family Dinner”

Image Courtesy Via Facebook

You are cordially

invited to

the Dicks and Janes Coed A Cappella’s

End of the Year

“Family Dinner” Performance

Courses included:

Appetizer: Detroit Voice performance (Gluten Free)

Entree: Covers of all your favorite songs, arranged by yours truly, the Dicks and Janes

BYOD (Bring Your Own Dessert)

Who: Dicks and Janes Coed A Cappella

Where: Modern Language Building, Auditorium 4

When: Friday, April 17 at 7:30 pm

How Much?: Tickets are $8 for students and $10 for adults. ($5 and $8 presale, respectively) and can be purchased at the door or from any DJ!

*Food and drink not included!!!

PREVIEW: Kazuo Ishiguro

Image Courtesy Michigan Union Ticket Office

In order to celebrate his newest publication, The Buried Giant, bestselling novelist Kazuo Ishiguro is bringing the party to Ann Arbor!!! Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, but moved to England at a very early age. His cross-cultured background often plays a huge role in his most popular books, including “The Remains of the Day” and “Never Let Me Go,” both which have been turned into highly acclaimed films.

The talk, part of the Zell Visiting Writers Series, will be focused mostly on the release of the new novel, which relays the mystical journey of Axl and Beatrice across a declining Saxon England in search of their missing son. But if you haven’t read it yet (I haven’t either), don’t let that stop you from going!!! I’m in a class right now (Modern British Travel Narratives) and we are currently reading “The Remains of the Day,” a book that has touched me with its language so tenderly. Somehow, Ishiguro makes his reader feel so much for a stolid butler who hardly shows his emotions at all. Kazuo Ishiguro is a master of words and no doubt, an inspiration to all practicing writers.

*This event is free, but because of the expected crowd, tickets must be shown at the door. Tickets are available at the Michigan Union Ticket Office (or 734-763-TKTS).

What: Kazuo Ishiguro Reading

Where: University of Michigan Museum of Art; within the Forum Entrance (the modern entrance by the sculpture)

When: Thursday, March 26 at 6-7. (Book signing will take place earlier from 5-6).

How Much?: Free! But don’t forget to present your ticket!!!

More info about the event can be found here!

And check out this awesome Paris Review interview with Ishiguro in the meantime!

PREVIEW: Voices of the Middle West

Image courtesy of Midwestern Gothic

Calling all book lovers, readers, publishers, bagel eaters, robots, Midwesterners4Life…whoever you are, you have a VOICE! And we want to hear it!

One year later after its debut, the Voices of the Middle West Literary Festival is a new annual event, created in partnership by local literary mag Midwestern Gothic and UM’s Residential College. From the Midwestern Gothic website, Voices of the Middle West is “a festival celebrating writers from all walks of life as well as independent presses and journals that consider the Midwestern United States their home.”

The event, set up in the East Quad Main Concourse, will be all day starting at 10 am-6pm, available for you to wend your way through tables of books to buy (including ones from Literati Bookstore), freshly-printed campus publications to peruse, publishers and editors and visionary students to chat about the future of the industry in an electronic world, and some very famous authors to brush shoulders with!

Throughout the day will be many panels featuring authors such as Matt Bell, Alissa Nutting, and Anne Valente, on different topics about the Midwest. There’s a chance to hear (or perform) poems and prose at the Open Mic, a great way to support your fellow writers on campus. And don’t miss the very special keynote speaker, Stuart Dybek, who will discuss his own take on publishing, writing, being successful, and of course, living in the Midwest.

I believe everyday should be a day to celebrate books! But Midwestern Gothic and the Residential College have put their heads together to make Voices of the Middle West a celebration that immerses you in Midwestern pride and literary splendor. Indeed- Voices is a unique “book holiday” that is too good to pass up. (Party hats optional. Love of books required)

What: Voices of the Middle West

Where: East Quad, University of Michigan Central Campus

When: Saturday, March 21 from 10-6

How Much?: FREE!!! … unless you choose to buy a book! Which I mean, how could you not??? 🙂

For more information on the schedule of events, check out




PREVIEW: Norton Juster Lecture at UMMA

Image Courtesy via

He breathed life into such beloved classic characters as Tock the Dog, the Humbug, King Azaz, the Mathmagician, the Princesses Rhyme and Reason, and of course, Milo. He is Norton Juster, the author of The Phantom Tollbooth, a book that celebrates the paradox of youthfully growing up, plays with the English language, and perfectly times intellectual puns. Although the book is consistently labeled as “children’s literature,” critics often acknowledge that the wordplay and extended metaphor of achieving wisdom would totally go over children’s heads. Nevertheless, the plot, the characters, and the essence of the book is translatable across all ages. It’s a story that a family can read together and all gain something from the experience. I first read it last year as a sophomore in college, and it instantly bumped up to one of the most influential books I’ve ever read. And I am beyond excited to announce that Norton Juster has been invited to speak about Children’s Literature and his process of writing The Phantom Tollbooth, as part of the Zell Visiting Writer Series.

The talk will begin with a documentary called “The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations” and will be followed with an invigorating Q&A with Juster himself. Come for the inspiration, the whimsy, and the great word puns.

What: Norton Juster Lamstein Lecture in Children’s Literature

Where: University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), Helmut Stern Auditorium

When: Thursday, March 12 at 5:10 – 7

How Much?: Free!!!!