PREVIEW: Michigan Pops Orchestra Concert “A Night at the Popscars”

As we approach the end of the semester, the time for the Michigan Pops Orchestra’s concert approaches too! This semester’s theme is “A Night at the Popscars,” meaning they’ve selected a variety of music that’s related to Oscar and other award-winning films.

Many pieces they have selected are teased on their poster (the featured image above) which can be found around campus and on their Instagram @michiganpops. It looks like Howl’s Moving Castle, Star Wars, and West Side Story will be featured, with Howl’s being my most anticipated one!

I’m wondering how the Pops members will have done justice to the Oscar-winning films with their own directing and acting. I’m sure they won’t disappoint though, and I’m looking forward to which movies they’ve chosen to recreate (Star Wars probably being the most likely one).

The concert is at 7:00 PM at the Michigan Theater on Saturday, April 8th. Tickets can be bought online, at the ticket office, and sometimes at Mason Hall, or you can even get a free ticket with a passport of the arts!

REVIEW: FASA’s Philippine Culture Night

The featured image above is a performance on a musical instrument called a kulintang, and the weaving of the mallets represents the motion of weaving a basket.

Saturday night, the Michigan Union was bustling with activity for FASA’s long-awaited PCN. Everybody was elegantly dressed in long gowns and suits. The audience consisted of not only students, but friends, families, alumni, special keynote speakers, and even Filipino American student associations from Universities in Grand Rapids, Oakland County, and Dearborn.

FASA prepared multiple acts, such as various live singing performances (including a featured performance from FASOU, a student band from Oakland University), traditional instrumental music accompanied by dance, a poem reading, and many more.

 

A cover of “All I Ask” by Adele

This was the most memorable live music performance for me. The students covering the song showcased so much musical talent in their harmonies and synchrony with one another, and they’re not even an established music group. I don’t even see the same chemistry or skill in groups that focus on live singing.

 

The traditional music ensemble

 

The fan dance performed alongside the ensemble

What interested me the most about this dance is the lack of facial expressions on the dancers. Normally, facial expressions are a key focus in dance, because it’s the most blatant way to express emotional depth. In this case, the poker faces created a very elegant atmosphere.

 

Dance incorporating modern music with a cultural twist

This was another performance that really stood out to me. It was so much fun seeing how modern and cultural art can collaborate with each other. As they performed the traditional dance steps, students showcased goofy and joyful facial expressions in contrast to the fan dance performed just previously.

 

FASA’s band

 

A hip-hop dance to American and Philippine pop music to end the night

 

Unfortunately, there were serious sound issues at PCN. The mics often rang and that really took away from the experience. In addition, the technical difficulties dragged the event to become an hour longer due to frequent awkward pauses between and even in the middle of performances. Overall, it was an amazing, lively, and lovely event to attend. However, I’m not sure if I would come back to PCN next year because of how long it was. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider going again, though, and I highly encourage anybody interested to attend the event next year!

REVIEW: 6th Annual Multicultural Yardshow

It was unbelievable how much fun the Yardshow was. The event had one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen at The Diag, and people at the back even huddled onto lampposts to get a better look. Before the show started, it was heartwarming to see the organizations already introducing themselves to each other and cheering each other on; of course, the cheers for each other grew even louder during the actual performances! Sometimes, it even became hard to hear the music over the screams and clapping.

It was clear how much pride each brother and sister had too: the members wore matching outfits representing their organization; their introductions were empowering; and their performance included dance moves significant to their history and representation. Some also included demonstrations of their values before dancing. Members of the organization who weren’t performing would chant from the crowd too, creating an even more immersive experience for the audience.

Because each group was so distinct from one another, the energy and attention didn’t die down despite the long acts (some performances even went up to 10 minutes). One of my favorites was a group that only had four students dancing. They exhibited so much charisma and earned lots of cheering for their simple yet exciting moves, and because of their small numbers, it made each dancer that much more memorable. Other memorable moments were the sorority that made use of golden belts and

I also want to give a massive shoutout to Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Inc. for hosting the event and giving an amazing last performance to end the night. They collaborated with another sorority and even gave some lucky audience members flowers!

I’m already looking forward to the 7th Annual Multicultural Yardshow to see what else the Multicultural Greek Organizations have in store for us.

PREVIEW: RE:CLAIM : IMMERSION

 

Come visit the Washtenaw County Courthouse tonight (9/15) from 5:30 to 8:00 pm to experience the opening night of RE:CLAIM. RE:CLAIM is a project seeking to honor the complexity and diversity of the community impact of the criminal legal system as it affects youth, adults, and families.

Tonight will be filled with song, dance, poetry, and visual arts. It will surely be an experience to remember with over 30 dancers, poets, and musicians performing. The night will also include poems featuring artworks from the Embracing our Difference Exhibition that took over Gallup Park, Leslie Science and Nature Center, and River Side Park.

REVIEW: Groove Robs the Louvre

I admire Groove’s creativity.

On the night that the Groove declared that they will rob the Louvre(!), the Michigan theater where the viewers would be the witness this exciting heist was filled up with the crowd. The performance was highly enjoyable because, fundamentally, the performances sounded so good! Groove is a student organization known to create amazing beats out of untraditional percussion instruments such as trash cans, plastic buckets, or anything they can beat! It was amazing how the Groove used different percussion that did not sound the same – each has a different pitch, so instead of the sounds crumbling altogether, they came together to create an exciting harmony.

Yeah, everyone knows that Groove sounds amazing, but I was wondering from my prior experience from watching their shows consisting of short performances focused solely on sounds about how they will link diverse percussion performances into a 2-hour show with theme and storyline. As always, Groove’s creativity was way ahead of me. The general storyline was that Groove had decided to rob the Louvre as a bonding activity, and each performance represented what happened during the planning of the heist, the incident they had on France, and how they finally went through all the challenges and stole Monariza. As for the story, short dialogues were inserted between shows while the stage settings were being changed. This was a smart, strategic choice not only because it prevented the audience from being bored during the pause but also because it overcame the percussion performance’s difficulty to convey the story due to the lack of lyrics in the music.

The show was well structured: as the story unfolded, the scope of their performance became wider as well. The performance started with purely percussion sounds – the ones we would expect from a typical groove performance(wait, groove performance is never typical!). Also, the performance offered interesting visual scenes while the percussion was being played – my personal favorite was where they were making music in a kitchen scene where the icebox was used as the main beat while other small kitchen utensils and cooking process, including the popping of the egg as the highlight, were added on top of it. Both visually humorous and sonically exciting, this scene was truly enjoyable. Then the wider range of performances joined on top of the beat, such as dancing or the display of talents of the members including receiving a jelly thrown across the stage by the mouth. Then, the range of instruments widened to include strings and horns, returning to percussion performance in the end. This not only showed how talented each individual of Groove is but also proved that Groove’s ability to coordinate music is not bounded to percussion.

Alas, I almost forgot to mention the incredible stage design! Stage made out of iron bars that had fake Monariza on it definitely highlighted the ‘Louvre’ part while going so well with the exciting, raw vibe of Groove’s music. In all, I really appreciated the pure creativity that Groove had enchanted us with during the two-hour show.

REVIEW: Cece June, Big Chemical, and Jacob Sigman

Last Friday at the Blind Pig, I had the pleasure of attending Cece June’s set, situated between performances by Big Chemical and Jacob Sigman. It was a cold trek out to the west side of downtown, but as I find with many shows I’ve attended at the Blind Pig, it was definitely worth it. Cece June’s presence in the University of Michigan music scene has grown immensely over this past year, and this set shows exactly why.

 

A mix of covers and originals, Cece Durán commanded the room as a solo act with her powerful voice and clear proficiency on both acoustic and electric guitar. She offered a fair amount of music from her excellent EP, and we were able to hear soon-to-be released material from her forthcoming LP. She also had a distinct grip on the mood of the room, offering both thoughtful, soulful moments and energetic, uplifting points throughout her set. Her ability to oscillate between the two and carry the room with her was a joy to witness.

 

Now a part of a group as well, Cece and the Crawlers, her ability to adapt between solo and collaborative performance shined through that evening. Speaking to this point, during her set she invited fellow act Jacob Sigman onstage and performed a touching duet of an unreleased song of his. Their voices complemented each other perfectly as the power and passion in their musical expression matched so well.

 

Another highlight included her cover of a song by Nothing But Thieves. This performance showed the way Durán was capable of filling the room with her voice, the ballad providing a certain emotional dimensionality to her set. In addition to her voice, Durán’s capabilities on the guitar were stellar, punctuating and accentuating her act in a highly effective way. The song she performed in her native language, Spanish, was also captivating and showed off yet another facet of her musical oeuvre.

 

Durán had natural stage presence, interacting with the crowd and encouraging participation in a way that didn’t feel forced or one-sided. It was easy to find oneself singing along, feeling the music just as much as others in the crowd.