REVIEW: Michigan Pops Orchestra “A Night at the Popscars”

The featured image above was taken from their Instagram: @michiganpops

This semester’s Michigan Pops Concert has been my favorite out of all the concerts I’ve attended! There was a crazy line at the door and the crowd turnout was also the largest I’ve seen, so much so that the start time was postponed to accommodate more audience members. It’s always refreshing to see that both children and the elderly are present in addition to college students; it shows that this student organization is popular among locals too.

They had a large and impressive list of repertoire (most were already familiar to the audience thanks to the theme they chose) and I appreciated how well they balanced the amount and order of classical and contemporary music. My favorite and most anticipated piece was Howl’s Moving Castle, but I wished it was longer. I felt that the arrangement could’ve been better too, though that doesn’t mean the Pops Orchestra didn’t play it well.

It seemed like there were more featured soloists in this concert than in the previous ones, but I think it still showcased the orchestra as a group pretty well without being overshadowed. Unfortunately, there were some balance issues and at times it was hard to hear the soloists.

The winner of this year’s high school concerto competition was a Sophomore from Huron High School, which is so impressive since the winners have historically mostly been Seniors. She played the Lalo Violin Concerto, and she exuded so much power and charisma as she performed. Shoutout to the violist who gave an amazing show of Bohemian Rhapsody and the pianist who shined during La La Land! You can watch them on Youtube, but nothing will beat the live music so pull up next year!

As for the skits, the most memorable part for me was when some students wore paper swans on their heads as they performed swan lake. It impressed me how well-made the swans looked!

It appears lots of members will be graduating, which is a little sad, but I’m looking forward to what changes the remaining and new Pops board and members will bring us next year.


REVIEW: Michigan Pops Orchestra Concert “Tick Tock, It’s Pops O’Clock”

*Photo of the conductor, Luca Antonucci, taken by @willzhang*

The Michigan Pops Orchestra concert “Tick Tock, It’s Pops O’Clock” had an impressive turnout despite being at the same time as the game, and there were many elderly people in the audience for an organization even students don’t know about. It was heartwarming to see the local community and the University come together.

The most memorable part of the concert for me is actually the opening piece: it began quietly and suspensefully before growing into a fascinating, powerful melody that really boasted how wonderful the acoustics in the Michigan Theater is. I normally attend orchestral performances in Hill Auditorium, which is renowned for its acoustics, but due to its sheer size, the music doesn’t reach the outer audience as well.

Another highlight was concertmaster Katie Sesi’s solo in Vivaldi’s Winter. I don’t know what to comment on her playing beside it being phenomenal. This will be the last semester Katie, who is also Executive Director, will be in Pops. Her speech was very bittersweet, and I’m glad she got to be featured in various ways like also being conductor.

How hard the students worked really showed in their performance: it was incredible how well-timed the OSTs and films were with each other, and I particularly enjoyed the scene in the Harry Potter film when Buckbeak, a dog, bites Malfoy by yawning. The audience’s offbeat clapping for the Victors was also hilarious.

Unfortunately, the singers’ voices didn’t project clearly, possibly because of the mics. The collaboration with the SMTD theater students was one of the pieces I was looking forward to the most, so that was rather disheartening.

Nevertheless, I still loved the event, and I look forward to what Pops will bring us in the future. 

Get it? Time theme? 😀

PREVIEW: Michigan Pops Orchestra Concert “Tick Tock, It’s Pops O’Clock”

This semester, the Michigan Pops Orchestra chose ‘Time’ as the concept for their concert, meaning the pieces they’ve selected have some kind of tie-in to that theme. On their instagram @michiganpops they’ve advertised OSTs from Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Star Trek, as well as pieces from classical composers like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. I’m assuming that they chose timeless classics (heh) that everybody has heard alongside other iconic soundtracks, so it’ll be music familiar to the audience. Full orchestral symphonies aren’t as commonly heard though, so it’ll still be a new experience for a crowd not as well-versed in classical music.

The Michigan Pops Orchestra is one of the only (perhaps the only) ensemble on campus that is completely student run. This allows the performers much more artistic freedom, so each one of their concerts is unique. One aspect of Pops that differs the most from other ensembles is their inclusion of skits and films; I’m not sure what the skits will be, but the films they’ve created will be playing during Jurassic Park and Harry Potter!

Everybody is welcome to attend their concert: K-12 students get free entry, Adults pay $9 per ticket, and University students get discounted tickets for $5.

Tickets will be sold in the Posting Wall at Mason Hall from November 28th to December 2nd and at this MUTO link:

Don’t worry if you missed these dates, though, because tickets are also being sold AT THE DOOR the day of the concert on December 3rd at 7:00pm in the Michigan Theater.

REVIEW: Celebrasia

*The image above is rXn, CSA’s dance group*

Celebrasia is definitely one of the events on campus with the best attendance turnout. The posting wall was flooded with people, truly resembling a night market, and people had already begun waiting in line thirty minutes before the performance. Unfortunately for those who didn’t come early, there weren’t enough seats (even for the performers); the aisles and back of the auditorium were flooded with people too, and they all stood for the entirety of the two-and-a-half-hour show. It was impressive how eager everybody was to watch the student organizations.

Having The Qingyun Chinese Music Ensemble perform first was a good decision; it established Celebrasia’s emphasis on cultural diversity by presenting various Chinese instruments such as the erhu and guzheng. It was also my first time hearing traditional Chinese music performed live; the sight and sounds of their ensemble were captivating with its heart-tugging melodies and gentle rhythms.

One of the most hyped-up performances was by DB3, the all-male K-pop dance group. It’s unsurprising how excited the audience was, as DB3 went hard on promoting their concept: ‘School Daze’. Each member wore a cute school uniform, and on their Instagram, they posted pictures of their group and all members too. 

In contrast, Moli, the female Chinese cultural dance group performed right after, and it was one of my favorite performances. They incorporated their clothing and fans into the dance as if they were extensions of their body and wore multiple outfits throughout their act. It was amazing how they managed to change clothes in such a short time and still keep the audience engaged throughout.

It’s understandable why popular songs and more powerful moves earn the most cheers, but this group stood out to me because of how different they were. While I was extremely excited watching all the hip-hop dances, I was most awe-inspired by Moli’s choreography.

Revolution, however, had a fantastic performance that successfully fused both culture and hip-hop. This group was also extremely memorable because the audience would collectively scream oooh and sigh aww. Unlike other performances, if one of the members stumbled it still added to the cheerful atmosphere in that way. It was so much fun because of that, and I would giggle at how in sync we were as an audience. Revolution is an extremely large group, but no member shined less than the others as our focus was on the Chinese Yo-Yos being tossed and twirled and caught in sync with the music. Their performances always showcase how strong their teamwork is and how much the members need to trust each other because many of the moves rely on one another to be successful. In small groups, that’s already hard, so Revolution is especially extraordinary.

I haven’t touched upon all of the groups that performed, but not because they were lesser in any way. If I did, then this review would probably be 2,000 words. As much as I’d love to do that, I don’t think it’d do justice to every group’s hard work and talent. That’s why it’s up to you, fellow reader, to go check out their performances yourselves! Especially for the groups I haven’t mentioned. If you’re interested in who did perform,

I want to give a special shout-out to those who worked through the technical difficulties at Celebrasia like Female Gayo and Seoul Juice. It showed their professionalism as performers, and they still killed it despite the additional challenges.

Celebrasia is genuinely one of the most special events on campus. If you missed it this time, don’t miss it next year!

REVIEW: Aida Cuevas with Mariachi Aztlán

8:00 pm • Friday, November 4, 2022 • Hill Auditorium

It struck me at some point during Friday’s performance that I was witnessing true mastery of an art form. Aida Cuevas and the musicians of Mariachi Aztlán–and their surprise guest, Valeria Cuevas, Aida’s daughter–demonstrated the kind of personality and confidence onstage that is only achieved by a lifetime of commitment to one’s craft. Aida in particular wowed me with her showmanship. Her banter with the audience felt warmly familiar, almost like they were all in on a little private joke. In a way, they were: conducted almost entirely in Spanish, the performance created a special celebratory bubble of Hispanic language and culture on a predominantly English-speaking, Euro-American campus. In an artistic environment that has historically been exclusive, Aida transformed Hill Auditorium into a space where Hispanics and Latinos were the insiders.

Little moments throughout the evening added to the mood of familiarity and celebration. Before the performance started, El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, a dance and mariachi company from Flint, performed a short set in the lower lobby, a space where audience and performers seemed to intermingle at one level, as one community. When I sat down in the auditorium, the couple sitting next to me made small talk for a moment, asking whether I spoke Spanish and suggesting that some 10% of the audience wouldn’t understand a word of the performance, but attended because they love how the music sounds. Later, in a particularly sweet moment, Cuevas wished a young audience member a happy birthday, having chatted with the teen’s mother via Facebook Messenger some time before the event.

The evening’s program took time to spotlight each performer, including the instrumentalists from Mariachi Aztlán. The improvised duet between the company’s pianist and percussionist especially has stayed with me–from my vantage-point on the main floor, I could see their hands flying across their respective instruments, exploring the synergy between their sounds. Near the middle of the performance, after Aida had left the stage to the band for their solos (and so she could complete a total costume change), her daughter, Valeria, entered in her mother’s place. Valeria’s voice balanced dynamically with her mother’s, adding richness to the program, especially their beautiful duet rendition of La Llorona.

Probably my favorite part of the evening was when Aida performed “El Pastor.” Aida’s voice is operatic in quality, and El Pastor exhibits her ability to deftly switch between vocal registers as well as her stunningly regular vibrato. She completed each of these challenging vocal maneuvers with ease; during the instrumental build-up to her vocal entrance, I even noticed as she jauntily tossed her microphone and caught it to reposition it in her hand.

If you didn’t make it to Friday night’s performance, I encourage you to take a look at the video attached below for a small sample of Aida Cuevas’s talent. One thing I know for sure is that should she return to Ann Arbor during my time here, I will be among the first in line for tickets.


PREVIEW: Aida Cuevas with Mariachi Aztlán

What: a mariachi concert performed by Aida Cuevas, award-winning traditional mariachi singer and recipient of a Grammy (2018) and a Latin Grammy (2010), supported by Mariachi Aztlán, nationally recognized mariachi band from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

When: Friday, November 4, 8:00pm

Where: Hill Auditorium

Tickets: free for students with a Passport to the Arts voucher, available at Residence Hall Community Centers, the Pierpont Commons Info Desk, Trotter Multicultural Center, and the Office of New Student Programs in the SAB; otherwise, student tickets are $20 each

Aida Cuevas with Mariachi Aztlán is sure to be a lively performance, showcasing both the richness of traditional mariachi and of Cuevas’s powerful voice. Cuevas last visited the University of Michigan in the fall of 2018, the same year she broke barriers as the first woman to win a Grammy Award for Best Regional Mexican Music Album in the male-dominated field of Mexican ranchera. Known as the “Queen of Ranchera,” the artist is known for her vocal range and impeccable falsetto, drawing comparisons to powerhouse vocalists like Aretha Franklin. The audience atmosphere at Hill Auditorium tomorrow evening should also be festive, with audiences often singing and dancing along in their seats. Consider grabbing a Passport to the Arts and spending Friday evening enjoying this unique cultural experience.