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: Berliner Philharmoniker (Saturday Program)

8:30pm • Saturday, November 19, 2022 • Hill Auditorium

Seeing the Berlin Philharmonic perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 on Saturday night was nostalgic for me, despite never having seen them perform previously. Back in early September, I vaguely recognized the name of the orchestra on the UMS season schedule as one of my younger brother’s favorites. He is still in high school, and lives several hours away, but when I texted him that the Berlin Philharmonic was coming to Ann Arbor, he flew into action coordinating travel plans with our parents while I bought us two student tickets. This weekend, he and my parents drove through blizzards down from northern Michigan to see the performance and kick off Thanksgiving break.

On the night of the performance, my brother and I waited anxiously in the crowded lobby of Hill Auditorium for the doors to open, and in our seats we people-watched together, with a particular eye to the eccentric winter gear of some of the older patrons. During the performance, we excitedly nudged one another whenever we heard a flute (his instrument) or clarinet (mine) playing solos, and we both fangirled obsessively over the showy flutter-tonguing of the flute in the fourth movement.

I am not an expert in music, orchestras, arranging, or conducting, but this performance was captivating for me because of the way live music engages my imagination, eases the flow of my thoughts in new directions, and awakens moments from my past to be interpreted in new ways. I have read that Symphony No. 7 seeks to represent the transition from night to day, drawing from nature. There were moments where the music made me think of a slumbering hive of honeybees beginning to stir, or the midnight walk of a lone coyote across moonlit snow. At intervals, I drifted into memories of my childhood, time spent listening to and playing my own music. Listening to the Berlin Philharmonic flow through the symphony’s five movements became a process of listening for the memories evoked by each melody.

Seeing the Berlin Philharmonic perform reminded me of music and artistry as a common thread weaving throughout my life, connecting me with my family and my memories. It also reminded me to be grateful for the advantages afforded my by attending a school like the University of Michigan, and the privilege of being able to share the arts here with my family. The performance helped me reconnect with the joy that comes with experiencing music, and my first evening upon returning home for Thanksgiving break saw me digging my old etude books out from among my mom’s stacks of piano music and brushing the dust off of my clarinet case.

PREVIEW: Campus Orchestras

Nothing quite beats a post football game concert. So if you find yourself having free time after shedding your maize and blue, you should head to Hill Auditorium this Saturday at 8 pm. Both the Campus Philharmonia Orchestra and the Campus Symphony Orchestra will be performing. Their performances will include Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Symphony No. 2 in D, movements 1 and 2, Bartok: Romanian Folk Dances, and Sibelius: Finlandia. So be sure to check it out!


REVIEW: Conduct Us

Even though mornings are always rough, especially on Fridays, attending Conduct Us made waking up worth it. Contrary to what I assumed in my preview, the weather was very warm: suitable for the festive and relaxed atmosphere at the event. Warm cider and donuts were provided too, so I even got free breakfast with the free live music (not to mention the free “Ono. Oh, Yes!” stickers)! I’m sure it was a very welcoming sight for the students heading to and leaving the MLB as well. Surprisingly, though, most of the audience was actually adults: most likely because it was a Friday morning.

Out of the many song choices, I recall hearing the Carmen Suites and In the Hall of the Mountain King the most. To those not well-versed in classical music, these titles may sound very unfamiliar, but trust me that if you look it up you’ll definitely recognize the tunes. Although I myself didn’t get to conduct, if I had the opportunity to I would have chosen In the Hall of the Mountain King too for its fun and exhilarating melody (in addition to The Victors of course). It’s a piece that starts quiet and slow like you’re sneaking inside the halls of a castle before rapidly speeding up when the king spots you! It was a lot of fun to listen to the giggles of the conductor and musicians accompanied by the sight of the conductor aggressively waving the baton (which at Conduct us, was a clothespin).

One of my favorite performances had two friends take upon the challenge of conducting the Michigan Pops Orchestra as a duo. It was very creative and inspiring to see people so interested in participating and enjoying the event: it really emphasized the point that the event is simply to create good vibes. It’s hard not to say, though, that Ono’s conducting was the highlight. Saving the best for last, the event ended with The Victors. To be honest, it was funny to watch him be flustered about conducting. It was also very endearing that afterwards the cellists invited him to play their part on The Victors, which unfortunately Ono declined. I’m sure we’ll see him play the cello one day though (he does actually play cello and pretty well too).

If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend this Conduct Us or want to attend once more, there will be another one coming up soon. Unfortunately, I don’t think Santa will be coming to town again. You can also support the Pops Orchestra at their end of semester concerts!

PREVIEW: Conduct Us

Santa’s coming to town! Specifically, Santa is coming to Ingalls Mall outside the League this Friday morning. During Santa’s meet-and-greet, the Michigan Pops Orchestra will be providing festive music for all to enjoy. They’ll be holding Conduct Us, an event where anybody (literally anybody) can take on the task of being their conductor. A variety of pieces will be at your disposal, like Les Mis, E.T., Forrest Gump, Star Wars, How to Train Your Dragon, etc. In fact, Santa himself will be conducting The Victors: it’ll be a sight I don’t want to miss out on! Conduct Us will be a good opportunity to also hear the pieces Pops has performed at their past concerts if you missed out, and also give you a sneak peek into what kind of atmosphere their next concert will be.

I’m very excited to come watch and hopefully conduct their ensemble, and I’ll be getting two birds with one stone by also taking this chance to see Santa.

Come watch and conduct the Michigan Pops Orchestra this Friday Morning from 11:30-12:30pm! Make sure to dress up warm too, since it’ll feel like the North Pole.

REVIEW: The Philadelphia Orchestra

Call me biased, but one of the best parts of being a violinist has to be the concertos. They’re iconic, flashy, and for the musician playing, career-defining. The Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, in particular, has a special place in my heart, so I was delighted to hear that concertmaster David Kim would be performing it alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Hill Auditorium in concert last Saturday evening. A quintessential staple of violin repertoire, the piece truly comes alive with the many different interpretations by its players.

Opening the concert, however, was a more avant-garde piece by contemporary composer Missy Mazzoli. The Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) sneaks in with a distinctly soft, grainy texture provided by violin and harmonica before expanding to bellowing slides in the lower strings. A mixture of serene and ominous, the composition gives off the impression of irregular, interfering sound waves to convey the vastness of space. Due to its unique instrumentation, they had to take some time to switch out quite a few instruments before the following concerto!

If I were to give one word to describe each movement of the Bruch, I would say intense, longing, and triumphant. However, what makes the concerto so compelling is the complexity of emotion that lies within each category. The violin enters the first movement with a subtle, unassuming G, before erupting into crisp double stops and finger gymnastics. The orchestral passages here, a textbook example of tension-building, are somehow just as attractive as the solo. David Kim’s version had an unmistakably sweet quality, which particularly shined when he got to the slower second movement. From the balcony, I had a great view of his precise bow control which allowed for both a timid, “held back” sound and an unhindered singing voice above the orchestra. In contrast, Kim’s third movement was light, clean, and playful despite the heaviness of all the chords. It was a pleasure to be able to hear in person.

Concluding the concert was Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major. I had never heard it before, but a particular amusing comment written by Doyle Armbrust of the Spektral Quartet in the program guided my listening: “Franz Schubert wanted to be an opera composer with all the desperation of a hollow-eyed film school grad shopping a script from his garden-level studio in Burbank. My take on him is that he would have been a lot like that one friend — you know, the one who appears to have taken up permanent residence on your couch, but is somehow redeemed by his charisma in conversation?”

The symphony interestingly begins with just horns. A lighthearted melody gets passed around the orchestra like a breath of fresh air—this is later bolstered by bass drum and big, operatic tuttis. Nathalie Stutzmann conducts with an infectious swagger, which I enjoyed watching here. My favorite movement was probably the second one, opening with a plucky oboe solo over a quirky, mysterious, tiptoeing base of strings and interrupted with sudden outbursts of emotion.

Overall, the concert program brought forth a lovely combination of familiar and unfamiliar sounds. As expected, the Philadelphia Orchestra did justice to these works!