REVIEW: Greenwood Sessions – The Showcase



Greenwood Sessions is a cover band composed of UofM students who specialize primarily in OPM or Original Pinoy Music. While a niche, OPM is one of my favorite genres of music, mostly due to my half Filipino identity, and huge in the Philippines (of course since pinoy refers to someone from the Philippines). What this means is that you know that Greenwood is a group with a deep love for the music that they perform, something made obvious in their showcase. With their swaths of adoring fans (me very much included, love ya guys), the experience in the audience listening to their renditions of Filipinx/Filipinx American artists’ songs was adoringly fun.

The start of Act I came out with two of my favorite OPM songs, “Come Inside of my Heart” by IV of Spades and “Raining in Manila” by Lola Amour. Each instrument is showcased with intense skill and harmony with each other with these two songs, and one thing I have to highlight about “Come Inside of my Heart” is the guitar solo which resonated within my very being. While “Raining in Manila” has become a constant mainstay of Greenwood’s setlist, it by no means lessens the performative value of it, as the Taglish song gets better with each iteration.

Though, right after the intermission was my favorite moment of the night. Getting right back into it, the boys (+ Angeli) showcased their vocal skills with the most streamed OPM song of 2023 on Spotify, “Pasilyo” by SunKissed Lola. “Pasilyo”, meaning “aisle” (especially one that leads to a wedding altar, has a chorus that can only be described as magnificent. As they reached the amazing “ikaw at ikaw” (meaning you and you, which, since it references a wedding altar, is like the officiator declaring two people’s love), everyone in the audience held up green hearts holding the iconic lyrics with their phone flashlights out. simply great.

Anyhow, I can go on and on about how amazing this group is and why you should support them, but if I *have* to conclude, I absolutely have to provide shoutout to all the performers in Greenwood:

Angelica Alpas, Mateo Gonzales, Ashton Nunez, Catrina Cagalawan, Rafael Esteva, Angeli Fandino, and Andrew Ramirez you guys are all amazing performers (and multi-instumentalists what???). Congratulations on an amazing show, I can’t wait for your next performances, and when are you hosting your next open jam-session??

REVIEW: Tales from the Realm of Pops

This semester’s Michigan Pops Orchestra concert, Tales from the Realm of Pops, has been my favorite concert of the past six I’ve attended. The theme this semester was fairytale and fantasy, and the repertoire was full of my personal favorites that are both famous in the classical world and familiar with most audiences: from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet to The Legend of Zelda to Sleeping Beauty, the orchestra certainly took us on a magic carpet ride.

The first piece to capture my heart was Tchaikovsky’s notoriously hard Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, performed by this year’s High School Concerto Competition winner Minji Kim, a Junior studying at Skyline High School. The past three High School Concerto Competition winners have all been violinists, but she’s left the biggest impression on me so far. The first movement of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, the Allegretto, features intense lyrical runs up and down the violin, which Minji nailed each time. What impressed me the most were her double stops. Double stops mean two notes are being played at the same; this requires the bow to be completely evenly balanced on the strings while the fingers are to be a precise distance apart. It’s very easy to be out of tune when playing double stops, especially while shifting, but Minji made it sound incredibly easy with her crystal-clear tone and perfect intonation. This was my first time listening to this concerto live, and it couldn’t have been any better.

Right after came one of the unarguably best orchestral works to ever exist: Scheherazade, Op. 35 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Pops played the third movement, The Young Prince and the Young PrincessJust like the title suggests, it’s an incredibly romantic movement that passes the melody between the strings and winds, as if they were lovers conversing. The lyrical line evokes so many feelings, such as yearning and passion before turning into playful flirting when the tempo picks up. I highly recommend listening to all of Scheherazade. It’s truly a piece that shows music can weave a colorful story and brings out the violin’s full potential during the many concertmaster solos, which Katie Zhao did an amazing job of.

I’m so glad I got to attend this concert despite being busy with finals and the coming end of the semester. It whisked me away from my stress and worries and was the best refuge I could get. I’m now all the more excited to come back to another Michigan Pops concert next year, and I wonder if they’ll be able to top this semester’s amazing collection.

REVIEW: KASA Culture Show 2024 — Seoul Shadows

Landing itself at the tail end of the year, the KASA Culture Show presents a grand finale to the year. KASA stands for the Korean American Student Association, a cultural/social organization that seeks to bring together a Korean American community and celebrate Korean culture. The night was full of wonderful performances of music and dance, but the true highlight was the screening of a popular K-drama remake. This year, KASA showcased their remake of the film Door Lock (도어락).

Before I get into the film, I’d like to highlight how amazing the music performances were. Sinaboro started off the night with a bang (of a janggu) performing a traditional Samul Nori (사물놀이) ensemble. Samul Nori is a genre of traditional Korean percussion music that utilizes four instruments: the kkwaenggwari (꽹과리), a small gong, the jing (징), a larger gong, the janggu (장구), an hourglass-shaped drum, and the Buk (북), a barrel bass drum. The precise rhythms and clangorous quality of Sinaboro’s performance brought a part of Korean culture that was unique and very interesting to learn about/experience. Additionally, Seoul Juice gave a stellar performance, although I am not completely familiar with their set list, each song filled the theater with pleasing harmonies that the band is well associated with. Personally, I’ve seen Seoul Juice perform multiple times and they always deliver, by which I mean every single member gave their all.

Seoul Juice Mid-Performance

Now the film was no doubt the highlight of the night, as it captivated the whole audience in its masterly-made production. Door Lock is a horror movie about a woman’s victimization by the hands of a stalker. Carrying heavy themes about sexual assault, stalking, and kidnapping, the film is one that leaves the audience in horrifying suspense about the identity of Kyungmin’s stalker but also woeful concern about her safety. By all means, the most fun part of it was the audience’s reactions as everyone screamed in terror, gasped in shock, and aired their frustration that she would just let that guy in her apartment. The way the film was shown to the audience was also unique and fascinating as it was cut into parts, progressively being shown between performances. It left us in the audience with cliffhangers, red herrings, and terrible suspense.

However, I do note that there was one problem I found to be pervasive: the overrepresentation of Kpop in Korean culture. While I absolutely adored the flawless formations and power of Female Gayo, the baddie energy and captivating visuals of Humi, the stylishness and effortlessness of DB3, the uniqueness and ingenuity of UMTKD, the focus and freshness of K-Motion, it felt like the heavy presence Kpop has overshadowed other important aspects of Korean culture. I would like to emphasize that Korean culture is not just the Kpop that it is often represented with, and a culture show should be a space to celebrate diverse representations of culture, not just a popular facet of it.

Despite this criticism, I found the KASA Culture Show to be a great time. The energy from the audience gave me life, and every time the dancers were only shown through silhouette I audibly gasped by how cool it looked. In summation, I love performances and the multimedia showcase of the KASA Culture Show was exemplary in all counts quality-wise.

REVIEW: Falsettos

[Title photo: Sam O’Neill (left), Caleb McArthur and James Parascandola.]

It’s not often that I see a show that leaves me as moved as Basement Art’s production of Falsettos did.

Basement Arts is an organization whose mission is to create “inclusive student-produced theatre by allowing students from across campus to execute all aspects of the theatrical production process”. They perform three shows a semester, as well as produce the annual Late Night events such as the Mx. Walgreen Pageant and 24-Hour Theater. This semester already featured some emotional heavy hitters —Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties by Jen Silverman and For Colored Girls/When The Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.

Falsettos is a culmination of merging two one-act musicals, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, produced individually in 1981 and 1990. A fully sung-through musical— there are few moments without song. However, much of the show reads as a play, with heightened drama in every moment and not a single superfluous word. The show follows a Jewish Family in New York City in the 1970s— Marvin (Sam O’Neill), the frustrated ex-husband of the underappreciated Trina (Caroline Patterson), and partner to the stylish Whizzer (Caleb McArthur). Trina and Marvin’s son, Jason (James Parascandola), is growing up quickly, rapidly reaching the age of his bar mitzvah. Among all this, Trina and Marvin’s psychiatrist, (Sammy Guthartz), fall in love and get married. Thus, completes the web of this unusually interwoven family. That is, until you meet the quirky lesbians from next door in Act II, Dr. Charlotte (Abby Lyons) and Cordelia (Kate Cummings).

Falsettos was written by the incomparable William Finn and James Lapine, both Jewish writers (and Finn identifying as queer himself). It’s hard not to love this gem of a show. Its mechanical musical composition and emphasis on developing endearing and complex characters make the show feel complete and questionably familiar. The music is fun and catchy yet requires exceptional musical expertise to execute well (skillful music direction by Caleb Middleton).  The story blends humor and heartache while these characters are on their quests for happiness and acceptance.

The relevance that Falsettos retains from its 1992 premiere is remarkable. Difficult family dynamics, a rapidly changing social landscape, and a world that feels like it’s uncontrollably crumbling around them. Successful musicals stand the test of time, and after over three decades it’s clear that Falsettos made the cut.

The tense family dynamics were masterfully cultivated by director Naomi Parr and navigated equally as masterfully by this intense and thoughtful cast. Patterson (the needy, Trina) has one of the most captivating voices in the show—she does not shy away from the luxurious lines in the score while capturing Trina’s true angst and frustration with the imprudent men in her life. Her dynamic alongside the charming and perfectly awkward Mendel (Guthartz) was sublime. O’Neill and McArthur navigate perhaps the most complicated relationship dynamic in the show, one loaded with lust and devotion, sprinkled with violence and need for acceptance. The nuance the two brought to this unbelievably deep relationship was remarkable. Whizzer and Marvin’s poignant love maneuvered through each twist and turn, even past the heartbreaking finale—an arduous task beautifully achieved. Underneath these two intricate relationships leaves Jason (Parascandola), who left to pick up the pieces (literally and physically). Parascandola’s playful exchange with youth and hope left me rooting for Jason, wondering where his little life will take him next. It’s plain to see how this cast ripped my heart out and left it in the 1970s with them.

The cast of “Falsettos” and director Naomi Parr.

Parr states in her director’s note: “Falsettos addresses devastating tragedy but lives instead in the celebration of life, including mishaps that surround these moments of grief.” With one of the most responsive and touched audiences I’ve ever encountered, it seems the only thing missing from Falsettos was another weekend of shows.


April 6th, 9pm. Newman Studio. Images thanks to Naomi Parr and Basement Arts.

REVIEW: Impulse V: Roots (hosted by MEMCO)

Another unforgettable MEMCO (Michigan Electronic Music Collective) Impulse event at Club Above!! The theme of this month’s event was: Roots. It celebrated and highlighted black DJs, reminding all of us of techno music’s history–it was created by black people, specifically not too far from Ann Arbor in Detroit, Michigan. This event was paired with a film premiere of a new documentary (12 years in the making) about Detriot techno called God Said Give Em’ Drums and a panel discussion with legendary Detriot Djs like Stacy “Hotwaxx” Hale, Delano Smith, John Collins, and DJ ETTA. I sadly was unable to attend the screening and panel but the good news is the film will be in theaters soon! So when you are all able to, go watch it!!!! Then, come celebrate at a MEMCO event. If you haven’t been to one yet this is a great time to start, and if you want a preview of what you could experience…keep reading! 

I go to most MEMCO events, but I was especially excited for this one. I am originally from Los Angeles, California, and coming to Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was hard for me to feel a part of the community. I don’t like sports games, I don’t call soda “pop,” and I’m not sure I could tell you anything about the automotive industry (not to diminish Michigan culture to these three things, but I hope you get the point). Learning about the origins of Techno music and going to my first MEMCO event, I felt right at home and proud to call Michigan my new home. Roots was the first MEMCO event I’ve gone to with only black DJs. It was some of the best sets I’ve heard. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t want to dance and move my body. Even when DJs switched the transitions were smooth and intentional–there was never a moment of stillness. 

My personal favorite sets were from DJ ETTA and MEMCO’s own NAPHTHA. DJ ETTA’s set was extremely fun, mixing hip-hop music with funky techno beats. She did an amazing job pacing each track and the evolution of each sound, i.e., adding sounds, distorting them, and playing with pacing/types of beats used. NAPHTHA was surely my favorite, though. His set had everyone dancing and gasping at the perfect transitions from track to track. I remember Club Above turning the lights on at the end of the set, and a group of us were so distracted by his set that we wouldn’t stop dancing. It’s one of those things where “you had to be there”. Looking up at the DJ booth, it looked like NAPHTHA was a scientist and was carefully using the mixing board–he knew how to use it so well I swear he could’ve made the board himself. It made me so excited that NAPHTHA is a UMICH student, and that someone so talented gets to share the campus with all of us. He is also currently a junior and will be around next year, DJing for more events so if you get the chance you must hear him play!!! I would not recommend anything more. The next MEMCO event is on April 20th at Club Above. The theme is Femme Fatale, and all of the DJs will be femme DJs!! Another very exciting event ending the semester with a BANG!

REVIEW: The G-Men’s Winter Concert, ‘One G-Rection’

Last Friday, I decided to attend my first acapella concert in two years on a whim. After learning about the G-Men’s winter concert last week, I was intrigued – I had attended several years of G-Fest in the past, an “annual showcase of the best student groups the University of Michigan has to offer,” per the G-Men’s website. I’ve always enjoyed this eclectic collection of performance groups and was curious to see what a different style of showcasing looked like for this all-male acapella ensemble.  

Upon arriving at Rackham Auditorium and picking up my ticket, I was immediately invited to scan a QR code to view the concert’s program. This provided an instant glimpse into the essence of the evening. From the beginning of their concert, the G-Men exuded an energy that was both goofy and charmingly awkward, yet unmistakably self-aware. This tone was established from the moment I opened the virtual program. One of the highlights for me was the group members’ comical bios and photos, which set the stage for the tone of the night’s festivities. Despite the lighthearted approach, the program still provided essential information, such as the set list and social media handles. Throughout the evening, each song was introduced with a cheesy yet endearing preamble, perfectly capturing the group’s spirit of ‘silly men, serious music’. This energy was also evident in the group’s comedic approach to explaining their concert title, ‘One G-Rection’.

If you were wondering, I can confirm: Pitch Perfect really does emulate the accurate energy of college acapella concerts. The G-Men’s performance never disappoints. Senior G-Men member Max Crandell arranged seven songs for the evening, and I remain consistently impressed by his theory skills. The group’s blend was impressive, and each soloist brought their own personality to the song as they stepped forward to lead. I particularly enjoyed the soloist performance by Leo Kupferberg, a junior member who performed “Blow” by Kesha, as he exuded confidence and joy that are no doubt characteristic of his approach to the G-Men as a group. Overall, I was impressed by the musical performances of the G-Men in their winter concert. This came as no surprise to me, as the quality of each song I’ve seen performed by this group is always high.

The only other student performance group listed on the bill was Midnight Book Club, known across campus for their short-form improvisational comedy. I have to admit, I’m not always the biggest fan of college improv, but I thought this group did well in their scene work, especially considering the number of audience members they had to work with.

Unfortunately, the concert itself was not highly attended. As I looked around at the audience, I noted the age of my fellow spectators. I saw very few University of Michigan students – it seemed that most of the attendees were parents or family members of the G-Men’s members, and I would estimate that the Rackham Auditorium seats were about 25% full, give or take. While I did love the amusing song introductions and I mostly enjoyed Midnight Book Club’s performance, the minimal audience attendance definitely skewed the comedy of the night to prompt an awkward chuckle, as opposed to raucous laughter. After attending G-Fest for several years, I know this group has the potential to draw a larger crowd. I believe that there is room for growth in the G-Men’s marketing strategy, and the performance itself may have been better attended if more performance groups were listed on the bill, similarly to G-Fest. 

The University of Michigan boasts an established and engaged acapella community, with fourteen groups affiliated with the Michigan Acapella Council, but this minimally attended performance led me to ponder how frequently these groups interact after the ICCAs conclude each year. When each group gets immersed in their own winter programming, does the community momentarily disband?

I look forward to attending more G-Men events in the future, and I sincerely hope that more students get the opportunity to check out their impressive performances. Keep an eye out for the next G-Men album, which was recorded recently and will be released in late 2024.