PREVIEW: Michigan Pops Orchestra – aPOPScalypse

Date: Sunday, Nov 22nd, 2009
Location: Michigan Theater
Time: 7pm
Tickets: $5 students and $8 adults
Buy them from the Pops Orchestra members or at the Michigan Theater right before the concert.

Watch this exciting performance by the only student-run and student-directed orchestra at Michigan! The Michigan Pops Orchestra, comprised of about 100 students, performs popular music from movies, shows, and classical works. In addition to the captivating music, there’s often a fun PowerPoint presentation full of fun pictures.

The Pops Orchestra was founded in 1995 by Warren Hsu to provide non-music major undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to continue playing their instruments. From within the orchestra, chamber ensembles and a smaller string orchestra is formed, giving students even more chances to play their instruments in a relaxed atmosphere.

The theme this semester is aPOPScalyse. The program has not been posted yet, but based on the name, there will be a lot of music related to fighting, the end of the world, and whatever other themes the name conjures up.

PREVIEW: Berliner Philharmoniker

Berliner Philharmoniker

Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Tuesday, November 17, 8 pm
Hill Auditorium

This is THE perfect orchestra experience you have been looking for. Founded during UMS’s third season in 1882, the Berliner Philharmoniker has long been considered one of the world’s finest orchestras.

To quote from the UMS website:-

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Sir Simon Rattle,  their new music director, has conducted many of the world’s great orchestras. In addition to his duties in Berlin, he regularly guest conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and other celebrated ensembles. Rattle makes his UMS debut with this appearance, which features Brahms’s final two symphonies as well as film music composed by Schoenberg. This exclusive tour will include only a handful of US cities — New York, Chicago, Boston, and Ann Arbor.

Please note that the Berliner Philharmoniker has requested that late seating for this performance occur at intermission — after the first complete work on the program.

· Brahms : Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 (1883)
· Schoenberg : Begleitmusik zu einer Lichstspielszene, Op. 34 (1929-30)
· Brahms : Symphony No. 4 in e minor, Op. 98 (1884-5)

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On 18 December 2008, the Orchestra announced the creation of a Digital Concert Hall: this new Internet platform will enable music fans all over the world to see and hear the Philharmonic’s concerts – live or on demand. There was a free performance sponsored by the Deutsch Bank around two months back. But I had missed it. So I am so excited to see the real deal.

Student rush tickets are difficult to get. But there might be some rush tickets at the box office on the day of the performance due to cancellations. See you there, folks.

Krithika, [art]seen reviewer

Krithika loves to get comments 🙂

REVIEW: Yasmin Levy

To the gentle strumming of the guitar and the strains of the flute, Yasmin Levy, dressed in black and the ever enticing enchantress, cast a spell on the audience with her tremor-filled “La Serena”. It was just a start.

Firstly,a lil more about the Ladino music that Yasmin Levy sings. In her rendition, she maintains the original lyrics and melody of the  songs (some of them nearly 500 years old), but changes the rhythm to a Flamenco style. She also mixes Turkish, Egyptian and other Middle-eastern music in her own Spanish compositons and the result is unbelievably beautiful.

To understand the Ladino songs better, we would have to delve a little into the Ladino culture.  In 1492,in an attempt to flush the land of all non-christians, the Catholic rulers, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issued a decree that all Jews, Gypsies and Moors (a population of Muslim peoples from Northern Africa who conquered the lands of Spain and Portugal in 711 CE) living in the Spanish kingdom were either to convert to the Catholic faith or leave the country. Thousands of Jews were exiled from their homes, and in the years that followed these Jews settled in other parts of Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East (see the map of Jewish Migration).

The Jews from the Iberian peninsula carried their language with them and settled in the Ottoman empire. They became known as the Sephardic Jews and their language became known as Ladino.

It is no wonder that the Ladino songs are mostly about longing, love, desperation, passion and of course hope. These songs, handed down from generation to generation by mother to daughter and father to son, survived purely by word of mouth. They are based on simple themes from everyday life- like a mean mother-in-law or the unrequited love of a heartless lover. To those persecuted Jews, stripped of their lands and property and enslaved by new rulers, music must have been the only means to give vent to their melancholy, solitude, frustration and the occasional happiness.  The wailing laments in the songs show this pain clearly. What is common in all these songs is the singer’s candid admission of his/her true feelings. It is such a contrast to the norm of the sophisticated upper class where emotions are best hidden and there are euphemisms, innuendos and a tendency to be emotionally aloof.

Coming back to the performance, Yasmin Levy is of those singers who have a “heart” voice- she sings with such feeling in her songs that you don’t need to know to language to appreciate the pathos or empathise for the loss. Be it the complex rhythmic phrasing or the slow vibratos, she  modulates her voice so perfectly to bring out the right emotion. She is a brilliantly talented singer with a deep soulful and sensuous voice. It just doesn’t get better than that. Period.

She was accompanied on the percussion by Ishay Amir, her husband, who kept perfect rhythm.  For some songs like the haunting “Mano Suave”, he played the darbouka (see pic below), a drum that is often used in music for belly dancing.

I was so thrilled by the Armenian Vardan Havanissian who played the wind instruments flute,clarinet and zurna (see pic below).

I thought was very similar to an Indian musical instrument called the nadaswaram (albeit a shorter version of it). He was just superb. His smooth flowing style with the ornamentation and variations was out of the world.

On the electric upright bass was Miles Danso from Ghana. The bass melded so well into the songs.  On guitar was Yechiel Hasson, a master of Flamenco style.  There were songs which had Ms Levy singing with only the guitar to accompany her. Both the artists’ amazing talents could be seen  in those duets.

Unlike in Western music where ensembles play with sheet music, in this kind of music the musicians just play by memory. This is definitely harder as it needs perfect co-ordination. But this kind of setting leaves so much of room for improvisation and encourages spontaneity based on the mood of the audience and that was what we saw in the performance.

One perfect example of the amalgamation of Falmenco and Ladino was “Noches Noches”. The Flamenco genre’s staccato clap punctuating a vocal line was shown so beautifully in this one. It is such an evocative song.

“Una Ora” had Arabic music elements and would have been a great one for belly dancing, as would have been the funny song, “Mi suegra la negra”(The mean mother-in-law). You can imagine a newly-wed daughter-in-law singing this to herself, gritting her teeth, as she is doing some chores for her mother-in-law instead of being with her husband. Here’s a translation of the lyrics. Ms. Levy also showed some of her Flamenco moves here.

“My mother-in-law the evil one

Takes revenge on me.

I can no longer live with her.

She is stronger than death itself.

Soon I shall get rid her.”

The old cantina, “Adio Kerida” (Farewell,my love) was so beautiful. She had the audience singing to it. It might as well have been an metaphorical ode sung by a Jew to his native land.

My favorite of the evening was “la Alegria”. Contrary to its name (which means “happiness”), the song is about a woman who is pining for her love. It is so sad that it churns your insides and leaves you with a deep disgust for that imaginary cruel lover. The whooshing sound of the bass in this is so moving.

Yasmin Levy’s own compositions “Una Noches Mas” (a very slow moving number) and “El Amor Contigo” (a fast paced flamenco style song) were also about love. The Ladino style could be seen in her compositions as well.

That Yasmin Levy brings together musicians from so many different countries and different faiths is a testimonial to the respect the musical world has for her. May her efforts to bring people together with music bear fruits.

I was not the only one to have fallen for her music. There was an encore and Yasmin ended with a really sad Spanish song. As I was heading out, I overheard someone say, “That wasn’t fair. The last song only left me yearning for more. Wished she had sang some more.”  Sigh, sigh, I defintely agree.

Krithika, [art]seen reviewer

Krithika likes to jump in puddles of water, especially when a person wearing all white walks past by

REVIEW:Gal Costa and Romero Lubambo

Sat, Nov 7,2009

Today was one of those rare days in fall when it feels like a perfect summer day with a cool breeze and a benevolent sun. It also turned out to be one of the most beautiful evenings  with the Gal Costa and Romero Lubambo performance at the Hill auditorium.   I just LOVE  the Hill auditorium. Its awesome acoustics and ambience add that special something to every performance. Close your eyes and you will feel as if the performers are putting an exclusive performance only for you. The Hill just seems to have so much of positive vibes to it and there’s magic in that place.  I just can’t get enough of it.

Ok, now back to the evening’s performance.

Mr.Lubambo started  by playing a medley that involved  a blend of  jazz  improvisation and  Brazilian music, showing a glimpse of his commendable repertoire.  It was superb. He has such command over his  instrument and is a master guitarist.

Then, the much awaited Gal Costa, in a lovely flowing red and lavender dress entered to thunderous applause. She started with a lovely slow song.  I was amazed. Her age (she was born in 1945) doesn’t show either in her voice or appearance. I, at once, knew why she was one of Brazil’s most famous pop divas.

Her voice is smooth, deep and at the same time, so melodious.  In these days, with the auto tuning and with singers who lip-sync all the time, it is such a treat to hear a singer who hits her high notes with perfect clarity and so effortlessly, especially in a  live performance.  I don’t think she ever missed a note in the entire show that lasted one hour and forty minutes.  Some singers are born with the magic in their vocal chords and Gal  Costa is one of them.

Ms .Costa and Mr. Lubambo shared such a  nice camaraderie that comes only when two artists truly respect each other for their mastery in their respective fields.  Her deep full-bodied voice blended very well with the twangs of his guitar perfectly.  They complemented each other so well and it was evident that they enjoyed it as much as the rest of us.

Mr. Lubambo cracked us up with his humorous introduction of the songs and comments. During the performance, Ms. Costa sang close to Mr. Lubambo’s ear playfully. He was thrilled with it and he said  that it was so good to be listening to her so close, something he could get only in a live performance where the musician feels “the love energy” of the audience and responds to it and there is such a  synergy of good vibes. Like true performers they also engaged the audience. For one of her other songs, the audience doubled as her backup singers and it sounded so good as if they had rehearsed before.

As for the songs, I wished I knew Portuguese so that I could relate to the lyrics in spite of the fact that I could totally  connect with the music. I guess this only proves how music truly appeals to the soul.  I noted some of the songs though (by noting words by their sound) and looked the songs up after the show (ah, Google, where will I be without thee?). I loved her  “Triste” ,”Aquarela do Brasil” and “As time goes by” .

As the show ended, we wanted more of course and there were two encores. My only regret was that with UMS’s policy, I couldn’t get a picture/video of the performers on stage at the Hill. 🙁

Luckily, I can still listen to their music on the net. Hope you guys do that too.

Krithika Srinivasan

REVIEW: In A Sea of Shadows, Wilco Floats

Wilco As of Late
Wilco As of Late

Everything was setting up for the perfect enjoyment of a crisp October night.  It was fall break, I had no worries (albeit momentarily), and I was about to see one of my favorite bands perform live.  After a very booked week, I had almost forgotten about the Halloween treat I had been waiting for since school started and if it wasn’t for some minor obstacles, it would have been a nearly perfect night.

I guess I can be grateful that after an hour of searching for my hidden tickets in a sea of papers, I found them.  And I guess I could also be grateful that despite being eons away from the galactic center of Hill Auditorium, it still felt as if I was floating peacefully above the action.  And yet even more, I must be grateful that although I haphazardly forgot my glasses, the miniscule blurs down below swirled to create a larger, more pleasing image.  Most of all, I am grateful for my courage to “not wilco” in a move of utter defiance at a most crucial moment (read more to find out why).

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