REVIEW: Sheku and Isata-Kanneh Mason UMS Digital Presentation

Last week I had the opportunity to watch Sheku and Isata-Kanneh Mason perform from their living room (while I sat in my dining room…!) Originally slated to come play with the City of Birmingham Orchestra, Sheku instead recorded a very intimate duo concert with his sister, specifically curated for UMS audiences. The show ran October 25th-November 4th. I chose to watch the concert in conjunction with a UMS student committee event: a “live” watch party for students that was a rerun of the concert through facebook. It was fun to have a specific time to tune into the performance, and to see people commenting and watching live with me.

The program performed was the first movement of Beethoven cell0 sonata no.4 in C major, op.102, and the entirety of Rachmaninoff’s cello sonata in g minor, op.19. The two pieces are so different and I thought it was very insightful that they chose to do only one movement of the Beethoven. The Beethoven served as an opener, a bright bubbly piece that set the tone for the rest of the performance. The Rachmaninoff was much more serious and lush and I thought it had a lot of darker moments in comparison. The duo played with passion and as an audience member I could tell that they had a deep connection as collaborators. Isata took the lead in many instances, controlling the color changes and tempos as they made their way through the piece.

I really enjoyed the encore they chose: The Swan from Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.” It was such a beautiful and sweet ending to the concert:) The duo has a new album along with the rest of the Kanneh-Mason’s called “Carnival,” that features this piece. Released on November 6, 2020, the album takes listeners through the entirety of Carnival of the animals, including narration from the family as well:) It is exciting for me to watch these two perform because as a musician, it is fun to see someone my own age performing and being recognized at such a high level. I am also amazed by how in sync the family plays together and the stories they tell through their music making.


Link to album on Spotify:

Apple Music:


REVIEW: Takács Quartet (UMS Digital Presentation)

This past Friday I chose to stream the Takács Quartet’s digital presentation from the comfort of my room. As live concerts are not currently an option, musicians have had to become crafty media producers, recorders and videographers, and I was impressed with the decisions the quartet made. This program, spanning a little over an hour, was charming, and told a story weaved through one piece to the next.

Instead of playing a typical program of 2-3 full string quartet works, the group decided to select movements from Mozart, Price, Bartók, Coleridge-Taylor and Debussy string quartets and character pieces. Each player offered a snippet of information about the movement to be played, and what made it fun to play as a quartet. As a listener I got a taste of more music spanning from classical to modern, which I typically would not get from a live performance. I do miss being in the room, hearing the musicians breath and move together, but I appreciated the quality and care that was put into this digital presentation.

This concert, in conjunction with the pre-concert talk with professor Kira Thurman, featured works not programmed and performed often including Florence Price’s String Quartet in A minor and Coleridge-Taylor’s Five Fantasiestücke, Op. 5. I thought it was important to take away from the conversation and performance that these works are not hard to get our hands on. They are ready and available, but were not accepted as part of the “classical music canon”. As a musician, I appreciated the call for performing artists to recognize how we can do more to play these works because they are beautiful and were pushed away for so long.

One of my favorite pieces on the program was Price’s String Quartet, the Andante movement. Set in the middle of the program, the piece served as a point of reflection. The melody reminded me of spirituals, much like the music Dvorak also drew from in composing his music. It was serene and drew me in *even through the computer:)* I was also drawn to the second violinist Harumi Rhodes’s playing. Her tone was warm and she played with palpable intensity that made me wish I was in the Chautauqua auditorium in Boulder with them.

I really enjoyed this presentation and if you would like to check out more online events that UMS is hosting throughout the rest of 2020, I have attached the link below!


PREVIEW: Takács Quartet (UMS Digital Presentation)

This week from October 21st-24th, UMS will be streaming a digital performance of the Takács quartet in concert. This free on demand performance will include string quartet works by Florence Price, Mozart, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Bartok and Debussy. The quartet has selected single movements to record from each piece that embody the character and flair of the composer, instead of the typical entire string quartet format. Having originally been scheduled for a live UMS performance this fall, the Takács have embraced the digital music platform and have created a performance that I am excited to tune into this week. In addition to this performance, there is also a conversation (available on demand) between Professor Kira Thurman and Takács violinist Harumi Rhodes that discusses the works to be performed, specifically those that are from BIPOC composers.


For more information about the event and to watch the on demand performance please visit:

Takács Quartet (UMS Digital Presentation)

REVIEW: Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with opener Westbound Situation

Mike Marshall and Darol Anger, a duo that has been playing together for over forty years, brought back their mix off bluegrass, jazz, and chamberfolk music to the stage of the Ark. The two continue to push boundaries in the genre of American acoustic music for stringed instruments and erase the barriers that separate bluegrass and traditional American string music from jazz, world music, and the avant garde. They spanned multiple genres over the course of the night, seamlessly taking the audience on a tour of the music world they have experienced.

Before the duo, Westbound Situation, a group that formed at Marshall’s camp: the Savannah Music Festival, played a set of their own. Made up of umich alumni and current students, the Ark was excited to welcome back Westbound to the stage for the second time this season. The group played tunes off their first record titled “pilot,” as well as some new tunes written and arranged by members of the group. Westbound had a really dynamic energy that pulled in the crowd, and was the perfect way to usher in Marshall and Anger.

With Anger on fiddle and Marshall switching back and forth between guitar and mandolin, the two reminisced about old tours and tunes they had shared over the years. The night was filled with fantastic improv and even better dad jokes shared between two very good friends. They played tunes that spanned the past 4 decades, many written by the two themselves. They had a very distinct style of playing with rhythm and tripping up the audience member. I heard lots of twisty tunes that night that made me want to rewind and listen again.

For the second half, Westbound joined the duo to play some of their tunes off of their record ” Chiaroscuro.” It was fun to see this next generation of musicians play with their mentors and and personal inspiration. Mike Marshall commented that “the future of this music is in good hands,” and how excited he was that this group of musicians was able to meet and continue to make music together. Mike Marshall and Darol Anger continue to be some of the most prominent musicians in this mixed genre scene, and I am so glad I got to see them play at the Ark:)

Every time I go to the Ark I am always in awe of how good the acoustics are. The space is inviting and intimate, and the popcorn is really good (fun fact!!!). It is a very student friendly venue and I am sure I will find myself back there within the next month!

PREVIEW: Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with opener Westbound Situation

On Thursday February 27, Mike Marshall, mandolin, guitar and fiddle, and Darol Anger, fiddle, are playing the Ark with opener Westbound situation. The duo continues to push boundaries in the genre of American acoustic music for stringed instruments and erase the boundaries that separate bluegrass and traditional American string music from jazz, world music, and the avant garde. Westbound situation, made up of past and current UofM students will open for the duo, bringing back their chambergrass music to the stage of the Ark for the second time this season.



Thursday February 27, 8:00 PM 

The Ark, 316 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA

Tickets are 30$.

REVIEW: Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the Ann Arbor Folk Festival for the first time. Hill auditorium was packed to the brim full of avid folk music supporters from near and far, all squeezed in to see the fantastic lineup of Elliot BROOD, Rainbow Girls, Cedric Burnside, The Lone Bellow, Ingrid Michaelson and Calexico and Iron & Wine.

I caught the end of Cedric Burnside’s set, walking in to see a stage with only one man and his guitar. He managed to make the performance seem intimate, as intimate as playing to 3500 people can be. I was drawn in by his deep voice and haunting, rhythmic blues. His melodies were simple, but he carried the weight of old tradition with his own new spin.

Next I heard the Lone Bellow, a group of three singers/guitarists that brought a lot of energy to the stage. In the second song, the lead singer, Zach Williams, broke a string on his guitar (magically another one appeared from backstage). The three of them singing in harmony was powerful and melancholic, with thoughtful instrumentation and arrangement. I was reminded of the band BAILEN as I listened to their set, paralleling their soulful harmonies and close connection as a group. They closed with a song by lead singer Zach Williams, written for his daughter, with a message of hope for the future and how bright her life is going to be. It was a strong and sentimental way to lead to the intermission of the festival.

Next up was a singer I listened to for a big part of my middle school years, Ingrid Michaelson. She was a character on stage to say the least. Stripped down to just Michaelson on ukulele and a backup guitarist, she opted for a more intimate set much like Burnside’s. While sharing plane anecdotes and tour stories, she immediately connected with the audience, and was the subject of mild embarrassment when she forgot the lyrics to her third song, Miss America. All was well thanks to google lyrics and a good sense of humor, and it added to her style of frivolity and childlike nature. She had great energy and it was clear that when she started singing The Way I Am, that many of her fans had made the trek to see her perform. I really enjoyed her set and felt she was very down to earth even in such a big hall.

The Folk Festival was such a fun experience for me and I wish I could have made it back for the second night. The Ark brings in such amazing artists year round, and this event helps them program throughout the year. I am already planning to go to the festival next year and have been scouting the Ark’s schedule for the next few months:)

If you want to learn more about the Ark’s season:


Photo Credit: The Ark