UMS Staff Playlist: Leap Day
To celebrate this bonus day, UMS staff members contributed songs for a playlist of their favorite bonus tracks (and other leap day songs!)
Listen on your preferred streaming service, and read about the inspiration behind some of our picks below:
“Train in Vain (Stand by Me)” by The Clash
Submitted by Lisa Murray, Associate Director of Development and Terri Park, Associate Director: Learning & Engagement
I’ve been re-listening to the Clash lately, and this song was always a fave. I don’t think bonus tracks were a thing way back in 1979, but “Train in Vain” was a ‘hidden’ track; it wasn’t listed on the original album cover because it was added at the last minute, though I think it appears now.
The title of this song never made it to the first printing of the album cover of “London Calling” which in my opinion is one of the greatest rock, new wave, punk albums of all time. Originally written and recorded for a promotional give away in connection with a popular British music magazine, the deal fell through. The song was so amazing the group decided to added it to the end of side four of the album, however the cover sleeves were already printed so it never made to track list. Of course people were very surprised when they played the album on this bonus track appeared.
“Tell Him” by Lauryn Hill
Submitted by Rochelle Clark, Patron Services Associate
This was a hidden track on “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” album. I remember when this song popped up and it just about took my breath away. At the time it wasn’t listed, but I think it became so popular that you’ll now find it on reissues. One of my favorite albums of all time!
“Tight” by Samara Joy
Submitted by Amy Valade, Finance Clerk
The interplay between the instruments and her voice is amazing! I’m so excited for her upcoming performance! This is a self-produced release, but it appears as a bonus track on the Japan special edition of her album “Linger Awhile Longer.”
“Questions for the Universe” by Laufey
Submitted by Candace Jung, Digital Marketing Assistant
This album expresses the often confusing emotions of yearning in a beautiful way, and “Questions For the Universe,” a bonus track on the deluxe version, ends the album asking for guidance to begin moving forward.
“Tristeza (Versión Acústica)” by Silvana Estrada
Submitted by Maddy Wildman, University Programs Manager
Former UMS employee Jake Gibson is actually the person who hipped me to this artist, listening to her in the office we shared. Her voice is so transportive, and much of her music is gorgeously orchestrated (highly recommend the album “Marchita”). I don’t think she’s super well known in the anglophone world, but I think she should be!
“One Day More” by the Original Broadway Cast of Les Misérables
Submitted by Miranda Tolsma, Digital Marketing Coordinator
Les Mis is always a bop, and what could be more appropriate for Leap Day than “One Day More”!
“Possession (Piano Version)” by Sarah McLachlan
Submitted by John Peckham, Director of Administration & Information Systems
My favorite bonus track is Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession.” It is the title track on her album and the first song, and this hidden track at the end is a piano acoustic version of the same song.
“Punk Rock 101” by Bowling for Soup
Submitted by Corrinne Hamilton, Group Sales and Promotions Associate
I grew up during the punk rock (emo) era of the mid 2000s and have always loved Bowling for Soup. As their songs are often in jest of themselves or the world around them. This song is a perfect example of this, as they point out how quickly the “punk rock counter culture” become mainstream and in turn an over the top stereotype.
“Untitled” by Eminem (Explicit)
Submitted by Lilian Varner, Marketing and Media Relations Manager
The album is such a time capsule with a few undeniable bangers. The song leads in with, “Nah man. Not quite finished yet.” Goes too hard for a bonus track!
“Time” by Pink Floyd
Submitted by Justine Sedky, Community and Audience Programs Manager
you already know
UMS & Santa Ono Remember Maestro Seiji Ozawa
UMS and the classical performing arts community mourn the passing of conductor Seiji Ozawa, who led the Boston Symphony Orchestra for nearly three decades and was one of the most recognized and important figures in classical music around the globe.
Ozawa conducted six times in UMS performance history between 1966 and 1996, in concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. These programs can all be explored in our UMS Rewind archives.
Ozawa has another meaningful connection to the University of Michigan community through U-M president Santa Ono. Ono shares his fond memories below.
From University of Michigan President Santa Ono:
Seiji Ozawa’s death is a massive loss for classical music. He leaves a huge legacy through his recordings, the memories of his thousands of concerts, and the countless young musicians he mentored over the years. I was fortunate to listen to the Boston Symphony during his long tenure as Music Director there and also at Tanglewood.
He also had a connection to our family. Ozawa and my father were prodigious emerging stars in music and mathematics when they were in Paris. Naturally, they became friends as Japanese citizens in Paris. My mother tells me they were 2 naughty young men during those days: “Ozawa was jumping parking car to car! Takashi was driving Motorcycle around City of Paris! When he came to Philadelphia to conduct, we met him after concert. Ozawa said to Takashi, Onosan! You are USA now! Then he talked about his wife and his daughter (also a pianist of Shacho at Mitsui Bussan).”
I had the privilege of speaking with Ozawa on a plane on a business trip many years ago. He had just won the Kennedy Center honors. He was gracious and said that my parents should be very proud of me, just as he was of me as a Japanese citizen.
What a loss. My Aunt pointed out that it was snowing on the day he died. Ozawa apparently loved the snow, partially from the many years he enjoyed the snow in New England. He was also a huge Red Sox fan.
I said to my Aunt:
When you die surrounded by nature’s beauty, you aren’t dying, you are actually entering heaven.
— Santa Ono
Hear a Beethoven Symphony Like Never Before, Courtesy of Liszt
UMS is delighted to welcome internationally acclaimed pianist Igor Levit to Ann Arbor on Friday, March 8. His innovative program features rarely performed piano transcriptions (arrangements of large ensemble works for solo piano) of powerful orchestral works by Mahler and Beethoven.
A great example of transcription is this 2020 video, in which Igor Levit demonstrates Franz Liszt’s arrangement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony and its famous “Ode to Joy” (originally featuring a full orchestra and choir):
Beethoven’s nine symphonies were all painstakingly transcribed for solo piano in the 1800s by the famous composer and pianist Franz Liszt. But what inspired Liszt to take on such a daunting task, and what makes Liszt’s transcriptions a special treat for listeners?
Liszt started his project in 1838, when he was still a young and dazzling pianist, touring Europe and impressing audiences with his unparalleled technique and expressive power. He initially transcribed the fifth, sixth, and seventh symphonies, which were published by different publishers in Germany and Austria. Liszt then put aside his work for more than two decades, until 1863, when he received a request from the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel to transcribe the complete set of symphonies for a future publication. Liszt agreed and revised his earlier transcriptions, adding more details, indications, and fingerings.
Liszt’s motivation for undertaking this monumental task was not only his admiration for Beethoven, whom he regarded as the greatest composer of all time, but also his desire to make Beethoven’s music more accessible to the public.
At the time, orchestral concerts were rare and expensive, and most people could only hear Beethoven’s symphonies through piano arrangements. Liszt wanted to provide the most faithful and accurate versions possible, using all the resources of the modern piano, which had improved significantly since Beethoven’s time.
Liszt wrote in his preface: “Through the immense development of its harmonic power, the piano is trying increasingly to adopt all orchestral compositions. In the compass of its seven octaves it is able, with only a few exceptions, to reproduce all the characteristics, all the combination, all the forms of the deepest and most profound works of music.”
His transcriptions are not only faithful to Beethoven, but also witty, creative, and original. He does not merely copy the orchestral parts but adapts them to the idiomatic possibilities of the piano, adding embellishments, variations, or modulations to enhance the musical effect. He also uses a wide range of dynamics, articulations, and pedaling to create contrast and clarity.
Liszt’s virtuosic transcriptions are among the most technically demanding piano music ever written. They require not only speed, agility, strength, and endurance, but also finesse, sensitivity, and imagination. They offer a unique listening experience and perspective on Beethoven’s symphonies, revealing new aspects and details that might be overlooked in the orchestral version.
In a 1988 interview, famed pianist Vladimir Horowitz stated: “I deeply regret never having played Liszt’s arrangements of the Beethoven symphonies in public – these are the greatest works for the piano – tremendous works – every note of the symphonies is in the Liszt works.”
None of these transcriptions have ever been performed in UMS’s 145-year history…until now!
On March 8, Igor Levit will perform Liszt’s arrangement of Beethoven’s beloved Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica” (Heroic).
Levit is one of the most celebrated pianists of our time, whose accolades include prizes at numerous international competitions, including the Maria Callas Grand Prix in Athens, the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan, and the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv. Most notably, he won the 2018 Gilmore Artist prize — the most elusive and prestigious of them all, only awarded every four years to an exceptional pianist who has the potential to make a lasting impact on the musical world.
We cannot wait to hear his own virtuosic interpretation of Beethoven’s symphony…courtesy of Franz Liszt!
A New Generation of Mariachi
Mariachi music is a rich and diverse musical tradition that originated in Mexico and has spread across the world. Combining elements of Spanish, African, Indigenous, and European musical influences, it features instruments such as violins, trumpets, guitars, harps, and the distinctive guitarrón (a large bass guitar). Mariachi is often associated with festive occasions like weddings, birthdays, religious celebrations, and national holidays, and it’s a beloved form of cultural expression and identity for many Mexican and Mexican American communities.
One of the most prominent and successful groups in the contemporary mariachi scene is Mariachi Herencia de México, a Grammy-winning ensemble of young musicians from Chicago. The group was founded in 2016 by César Maldonado, a former member of the Mariachi Heritage Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that promotes mariachi education in Chicago public schools. Maldonado wanted to create a professional-level group that could showcase the talent and potential of the students who participated in the foundation’s programs.
Mariachi Herencia de México made their debut with the album Nuestra Herencia (Our Heritage), which featured collaborations with renowned mariachi artists such as Lila Downs, Aida Cuevas, and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán (all of whom UMS has presented!). The album was a critical and commercial success, reaching the top of the Latin streaming charts and earning a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album. The group followed up with Herencia de la Tierra Mía (Heritage of My Land) in 2018, which was produced by Javier Limón, a celebrated Spanish musician and producer, and featured guest appearances by Pedro Fernández, Christian Nodal, and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.
In 2019, Mariachi Herencia de México released Esencia (Essence), a double album that showcased their versatility and range. The first volume focused on traditional mariachi songs, while the second volume explored other genres such as bolero, son jarocho, huapango, and cumbia. The following songs are from volume I and II, respectively:
In 2022, Mariachi Herencia de México released their fifth album, Herederos (The Heirs), which celebrated their legacy and evolution as a group. The album, also nominated for a Latin Grammy Award, included original songs written by the group members, as well as covers of classics by Vicente Fernández, Lola Beltrán, José José and more. The album also featured a collaboration with Camila Cabello on a bilingual version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” The album was praised by critics and fans alike for its innovation and authenticity.
Mariachi Herencia have performed extensively across North America, sharing their music and culture with diverse audiences at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Ravinia Festival, the Hollywood Bowl — and now Hill Auditorium! The group has participated in SXSW, the Chicago World Music Festival, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, as well as being featured on national media outlets such as NPR, PBS, Telemundo, and Univision.
Mariachi Herencia de México is more than just a musical group — they are also ambassadors of their heritage and role models for their generation. They represent the power and beauty of mariachi music, the diversity and creativity of the Mexican American community, and proof that mariachi music is alive and thriving in the 21st century!
UMS will present the Ann Arbor debut of Mariachi Herencia de México on their Herederos tour on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 featuring special guest La Marisoul.
Behind the Voice: La Marisoul’s Exquisite Expression
La Marisoul is the stage name of Marisol Hernández, a Mexican-American singer and songwriter who is best known as the lead vocalist of the Grammy-winning band La Santa Cecilia. She is one of the most prominent voices in Mexican-American music today, creating original and innovative music that transcends borders and genres.
Before she makes her UMS debut with Mariachi Herencia de México on January 23, learn more about her distinctive and versatile voice that leaves audiences breathless.
La Marisoul was born and raised in downtown Los Angeles, where she was exposed to a diverse and vibrant musical culture. Introduced to song by her mother’s voice and her father’s love of music, she began to interpret various musical styles at an early age, ranging from traditional Mexican songs, to romantic boleros, to jazz classics and rock. Growing up part-time in Mexico and the United States created a duality of American pop culture and the roots of traditional folkloric music that shaped her unique voice.
Her voice is a reflection of her bicultural identity and her musical influences, switching between Spanish and English with ease and fluidity. (Check out her cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” below, featured in the HBO series Amsterdam.)
La Marisoul can adapt her voice to different genres and moods, from soft and sweet to powerful and passionate. She has a rich and expressive tone that can convey both joy and sorrow, love and pain, hope and despair. And, she can also improvise and scat with ease, adding her own signature flair and personality to performances.
She has collaborated with many artists from different backgrounds and genres, and he has performed with Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Juanes, Café Tacvba, Lila Downs, Pepe Aguilar, Little Joe Hernández, and many others. Her latest album, Corazones y Canciones (Hearts and Songs) with San Antonio’s Los Texmaniacs, features a repertoire of cherished canciones rancheras and boleros that celebrate love, life, and culture.
But perhaps the most inspiring aspect of La Marisoul’s voice is her ability to connect with the audience and the message of the songs. She sings with heart and soul, putting her own emotions and experiences into the lyrics, and her charismatic and captivating presence on stage radiates warmth and energy.
We hope you can join us January 23 to hear La Marisoul’s exquisite voice for the first time on the Hill Auditorium stage, together with Mariachi Herencia de México.
Announcing the 2023 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year
The University Musical Society (UMS) and the DTE Energy Foundation are pleased to honor Skyline High School teacher and vocal music director Lindsay CieChanski as the 2023 DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year.
The award recognizes and celebrates educators who value the importance of arts education and create a culture for the arts to flourish in their school communities.
CieChanski, who is a vocal music director and teacher at Skyline, has the distinction of having been nominated twice for this award, by different individuals, over the past several years.
A University of Michigan graduate with a dual major in Voice Performance and Choral Music Education, a minor in Music Theory/Musicology, and a Master’s Degree in Music Education, CieChanski has experience directing concerts at several mid-Michigan schools and has led Skyline’s choirs to successful performances and tours.
The selection team was especially impressed by her commitment to inclusivity, designing her choir offerings to accommodate different levels of musical expertise, and running multiple annual fundraisers to help ensure that students with limited means can participate in extracurricular arts programs.
CieChanski also champions the inclusion of all arts disciplines in her classroom instruction, often inviting guest artists to her classes, and advocates for the arts in her school and district. The active involvement of many alumni of her vocal programs also serves as a testament to her lasting impact on students’ lives.
“We’re so thrilled to present Lindsay CieChanski with the DTE Educator of the Year Award for 2023,” said Terri Park, UMS Associate Director of Learning & Engagement. “CieChanski is not only an educator who works to expand the musical skillsets of students, but she provides a culture of the arts that is simultaneously rigorous and accessible.”
Skyline High School is the newest high school in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, having opened its doors in 2008 for a freshman class and graduating its first senior class in 2012. Its mission is to build and sustain a community that promotes personal connections, inquiry, agile minds, and determination.
As part of the award, UMS will bring an artist for a class visit or provide an opportunity to meet with the artist at a UMS School Day Performance next season in addition to a $250 award honorarium.
“The DTE Energy Foundation is proud to support the University Musical Society and to honor Lindsay CieChanski,” said Rodney Cole, President of the DTE Energy Foundation. “CieChanski’s dedication to ensuring all students have the opportunity to participate in a multitude of arts disciplines emulates all the qualities that we look for in the DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year.”
Memorable Moments of 2023
What a year of unforgettable memories! From our No Safety Net 3.0 Festival to our Arts & Resistance theme semester events at U-M, we thank you for joining us in 2023. Enjoy a look back at some of our favorite moments of the year:
The Plastic Bag Store Opens No Safety Net 3.0
Robin Frohardt’s performance installation of The Plastic Bag Store offered more than 40 public performances throughtout UMS’s No Safety Net 3.0 Festival. In total, more than 5,000 audience members of all ages participated in No Safety Net, which featured five unique performances centered around critical topics in today’s modern world.
Spotlighting the Frieze Memorial Organ
We’re still talking about Brno Philharmonic’s epic UMS debut, which featured Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass with the UMS Choral Union, as well as a work by U-M emeritus professor and Pulitzer Prize winner William Bolcom. The program also showed off Hill Auditorium’s Frieze Memorial Organ, played by Christian Schmitt, who also filmed and recorded a special UMS Live Session digital performance.
A New Take on Swan Lake
UMS and Detroit Opera co-presented Ballet Preljocaj’s modern take on Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet in three performances at the Detroit Opera House. In this adaptation, blending classical and new, the evil sorcerer von Rothbart was portrayed as an industrialist who wanted to exploit fossil fuels against a backdrop of unbridled capitalism, while Siegfried and Odette were two eco-conscious heroes who tried to thwart his plans.
A Stepped-Up School Day Performance
UMS welcomed 3,500+ young audience members in a sold-out School Day Performance performance by Step Afrika! in Hill Auditorium. The energy of the hall was literally through the roof!
In March, UK-based Chineke! Orchestra made its much-anticipated UMS debut on the ensemble’s first-ever North American tour. The ensemble was founded in 2015 as Europe’s first majority Black and ethnically diverse orchestra. Soloist Elena Urioste stunned the audience with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s violin concerto, and maestro Andrew Grams led Florence Price’s first symphony.
First Ypsilanti Freighthouse Residency
In April 2023, UMS piloted a week of arts programming at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, in advance of new four-week residencies that will take place at the historic Depot Town venue each Fall and Spring. The pilot week included nine unique programs — all free or Pay What You Wish — and brought together multi-generational audiences from Ypsilanti and beyond.
Pride Digital Presentation
UMS presented the debut of Wild Up, a Los Angeles-based musical collective whose most recent work has been to celebrate the legacy of Julius Eastman — one of the most overlooked and underappreciated composers of the 20th century, and a trailblazer as a young, gay, and Black artist who challenged the norms and conventions of his time.
After Wild Up’s performance of Julius Eastman’s Femenine in Rackham Auditorium, we filmed LA-based music collective Wild Up in two other works by Eastman for a UMS Live Session digital presentation, which was offered for Pride month in June.
A Powerhouse Opening Week
The 23/24 UMS performance season opened with a powerhouse week of performances, including superband Snarky Puppy and the 50th-anniversary world tour with the legendary ensemble Shakti — a tour that also featured special guest Béla Fleck as its opening act.
Meaningful Sonic Contributions
Detroit-based saxophonist Marcus Elliot led a seven-piece band of musicians and artists as part of UMS’s Fall residency at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, in Sonic Contributions — a special collaboration with the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County that celebrated the history of Ypsilanti as a refuge for Black Americans dating back to the 1830s. The work was also filmed and will be released for streaming in February 2024. Sign up for our digital presentations newsletter for a reminder when it becomes available.
Renée and Inon
In addition to the world premiere of their Voice of Nature recital program, soprano superstar Renée Fleming and pianist Inon Barntan immersed themselves on the U-M campus.
Fleming led a Music and Mind panel discussion that explored the relationships between the arts and neuroscience, presented in partnership with Michigan Medicine.
Inon Barnatan’s week-long residency included a week-long series of performances and activities at the University of Michigan, with master classes at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance plus a preview solo recital of his just-released new album, Rachmaninoff Reflections.
Arts & Resistance at U-M
This fall, UMS presented performances and many campus engagement events surrounding the University of Michigan’s Arts & Resistance semester theme. Performances included the return of Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha, Ireland’s Druid Theater with SeanO’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy (including a 7-hour long immersion day!), and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World by British-Iranian theater artist Javaad Alipoor.
Minería’s Extraordinary Debut
The energy and passion of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería sent the Hill Auditorium audience into rapturous applause following the ensemble’s debut UMS performance in October. Mexico’s top orchestra was led by maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto and featured pianist Gabriela Montero, who performed her own Piano Concerto No. 1, as well as an encore improvisation of a song suggested on the spot by an audience member.
Holidays in Hawai’i
Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro has been a favorite artist for Ann Arbor families since his UMS debut 10 years ago! This December he returned for an-in person and livestreamed School Day Performance, followed by a family-friendly holiday-themed concert in Hill Auditorium. His music and messages of kindness always warm up Hill Auditorium, no matter the time of year!
UMS’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide
UMS gift certificates or tickets to UMS performances create unforgettable experiences for you or anyone on your holiday list! Check out our recommendations for a new year of performances to remember:
For the Film Buff
The Godfather Live
Sun Jan 7 at 3 pm // Hill Auditorium
Talk about epic family drama! With all of the plot twists, emotional outbursts, and suspenseful scenes of a true grand opera, Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece gets a full sensory experience with the Grand Rapids Symphony.
For the Piano Enthusiast
Hélène Grimaud, piano
Thu Jan 18 at 7:30 pm // Hill Auditorium
French pianist Hélène Grimaud makes her much-anticipated UMS recital debut, bringing her thoughtful and tenderly expressive sound to the stage in a program of Beethoven, Brahms, and J.S. Bach.
Igor Levit, piano
Fri Mar 8 at 7:30 pm // Hill Auditorium
Praised as “one of the most important artists of his generation” by The New York Times, pianist Igor Levit returns to the Hill Auditorium stage for the first time since 2016, performing transcriptions of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony and the Adagio from Mahler’s unfinished 10th symphony.
For the Friend Who’s Always on the Dance Floor
LaTasha Barnes’ The Jazz Continuum
Jan 19-20 // The Power Center
LaTasha Barnes presents The Jazz Continuum, a new production centering the prolific artistry of jazz music and dance as a cornerstone of Black American culture and community.
For the Whole Family
Mariachi Herencia featuring La Marisoul
Tue Jan 23 at 7:30 pm // Hill Auditorium
A new generation takes mariachi to whole new heights when Latin Grammy nominee Mariachi Herencia de México presents Herederos (the “heirs”). Los Angeles-born singer La Marisoul, the lead singer of La Santa Cecilia, fronts the Mariachi ensemble with powerful and captivating vocals.
For Those Looking for New Experiences
Nkeiru Okoye’s When the Caged Bird Sings
Sat Feb 10 at 7:30 pm // Hill Auditorium
This world première performance by composer Nkeiru Okoye fuses elements of oratorio, theater, and opera in a multi-movement musical ceremony that invokes the ritual of the concert experience as a ritual of community. Drawing inspiration from the Black church, it celebrates the spirit of rising above expectations and transforming adversity into triumph.
Sullivan Fortner, piano and Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet
Fri Mar 22 at 7:30 pm // Rackham Auditorium
Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and pianist Sullivan Fortner join forces for a program unique to UMS, inspired by the collaboration between the great Louis Armstrong and Earl “Fatha” Hines, whose unparalleled improvisations resulted in spontaneous and playful musical storytelling.
For the Midcentury Modern Collector
Martha Graham Dance Company
Feb 17-18 // The Power Center
The Martha Graham Company, recognized as a primal artistic force of the 20th century, gives a performance rooted in cultural history. These performances will include a new work choreographed by Jamar Roberts and set to music by Rhiannon Giddens, as well as Agnes DeMille’s 1942 classic Rodeo, with its iconic score by Aaron Copland reorchestrated for a bluegrass ensemble. Martha Graham’s final complete work, Maple Leaf Rag, rounds out the program.
For the Francophile
Orchestre de Paris
Thu Mar 14 at 7:30 pm // Hill Auditorium
The Orchestre de Paris returns to Hill Auditorium for the first time since 2002, featuring the UMS debuts of two young superstar artists — music director Klaus Mäkelä and Van Cliburn gold medal-winning pianist Yunchan Lim — in a program of Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky.
For the Hard-to-Please
Wed Mar 27 at 7:30 pm // Hill Auditorium
Absolutely no one can resist Samara’s voice. At 24, Samara Joy is already setting the music world on fire, winning the 2023 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album, as well as Best New Artist — only the second time in Grammy history that award has been bestowed upon a jazz musician.
For the Choir Singer
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Apr 20-21 // Hill Auditorium
The Philadelphia Orchestra and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin close our 23/24 in two programs, including Sunday’s performance of Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem with the full force of the UMS Choral Union.
Still can’t decide?
Personalize a UMS Gift Certificate, valid for 5 years and redeemable for any UMS events.
5 Pivotal Scenes from ‘The Godfather’
The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and for good reason. The 1972 epic crime drama, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the novel by Mario Puzo, tells the story of the Corleone family, a powerful mafia clan in New York City. The film is full of memorable scenes that showcase the brilliant acting, writing, directing, and cinematography of the movie.
Preview some of the most pivotal scenes in The Godfather before UMS’s upcoming presentation of The Godfather Live with the Grand Rapids Symphony on Jan 7, 2024.
The opening scene
The film begins with a close-up of a man named Bonasera, who is asking Don Vito Corleone, the head of the family, for a favor. He wants the Don to avenge his daughter, who was brutally beaten by two men. The scene establishes the power and influence of the Don, as well as his code of honor and loyalty. The scene also introduces the iconic line “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” which is repeated throughout the film.
The horse head scene
One of the most shocking and disturbing scenes in the film is when Jack Woltz, a Hollywood producer, wakes up to find the severed head of his prized racehorse in his bed. The scene is a result of Woltz refusing to cast Johnny Fontane, a singer and godson of Don Corleone, in his new movie. The scene shows the ruthless and violent nature of the mafia, as well as the lengths that the Don will go to protect his interests and family.
The restaurant scene
One of the most pivotal and suspenseful scenes in the film is when Michael Corleone, the youngest son of Don Corleone, kills two men in a restaurant. The men are Sollozzo, a drug dealer who tried to assassinate the Don, and McCluskey, a corrupt police captain who was protecting Sollozzo. The scene marks Michael’s transition from a war hero and outsider to a cold-blooded killer and heir to the family business. The scene is masterfully executed, with the tension building up as Michael retrieves a hidden gun from the bathroom and shoots both men in the head.
The baptism scene
One of the most iconic and contrasting scenes in the film is when Michael becomes the godfather of his sister’s baby, while simultaneously ordering the murders of his enemies. The scene intercuts between the solemn ceremony in a church and the brutal executions in various locations. The scene shows Michael’s complete transformation into a ruthless and powerful mafia boss, as well as his hypocrisy and loss of morality.
The closing scene
The film ends with a chilling scene that mirrors the opening scene. Michael lies to his wife Kay about his involvement in the murders, while his men address him as “Don Corleone.” The scene shows Michael’s isolation and deception, as well as his ascension to the throne of the family. The final shot is of Kay looking at Michael through a door that closes on her face, symbolizing her exclusion from his world and his secrets.
Donor Spotlight: Neil Hawkins and his Love of ‘The Godfather’
Neil and Annmarie Hawkins are film buffs, longtime supporters of UMS, and enthusiastic sponsors of The Godfather Live in our 23/24 performance season. We sat down with Neil to discuss his interest in the film and why he thinks it’s one of the great movies of all time.
UMS presents The Godfather Live with the Grand Rapids Symphony and conductor John Varineau on Sunday, January 7 at 3 pm in Hill Auditorium (presented with subtitles and performed with one intermission).
Sara Billmann, UMS: Neil, can you start off telling us a little bit about yourself?
Neil Hawkins: I’m president of the World Environment Center and also a Harvard professor. The World Environment Center is a sustainable business organization headquartered in Washington, DC and focused on bringing together business to solve sustainability challenges, which fits closely with my career. In my Harvard role, I teach sustainability in their master’s program. That’s what I do. I’m a sustainability guy, professionally, when I’m not doing film.
Sara: And how did you get involved with UMS?
Neil: I met [UMS president emeritus] Ken Fischer at a U of M football game about 10 years ago, and Ken and I were talking about theater. We’re big theater junkies, and we wanted more theater in UMS, and he said, “Hey, you get involved with us. We’ll find a way to have more theater,” and that’s how I became involved with UMS. Later on, I met [former board chair] Rachel Bendit, who introduced me to Matthew VanBesien, and then two of them brought me onto the board in 2021.
Sara: That’s excellent, and we’ve really enjoyed your perspective as a board member. So, give us a little bit of the backstory on The Godfather Live and how you ended up sponsoring it. What is it about the film with live music concept that’s compelling to you?
Neil: Okay. First off, we’re really very keen on theater and film, the Hawkins family, Annmarie and I. For me, the film part of that goes back to when I was in high school and college. I have 40 years of intensive film study, and I went through a period of time where, in one year, I was watching about two films a day because I was trying to catch up on all of the classic canon of films.
This love of film is a big thing.
Most cinema, most films have a very integral relationship with the music. There’s this whole subculture of writing scores and performing scores that it’s an art form in and of itself, the writing of a score to match a film. You’ll have a director that has an artistic vision that they put onto film, but then they have to marry that with a composer that really understands what they’re trying to achieve in that scene. When that really works and when it meshes, it’s magical. It’s very fun to experience. It’s very meaningful. The depth of the experience is much greater than if you just had the visual without the score, and the score is not particularly meaningful without the visual because it was written specifically for it.
When you hit those magical moments in cinema and film where you have both, it’s very exciting. If you go back to the silent era, you had music performed in the theater live with organs and whatnot. I recognize and enjoy the interaction of scores with film and scenes. That’s something longstanding.
When we moved to Michigan in 1988, within a few months of moving to Michigan, I noticed in the [Detroit] Free Press that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was going to have a screening of Alexander Nevsky with the DSO playing the score. It was an amazing experience. Alexander Nevsky was a film from the silent era, a film created and filmed by Sergei Eisenstein, and the score was written by Sergei Prokofiev, one of the great Russian composers of that century. It was magical to be able to see the silent classic and to experience an orchestra playing that miraculous score by Prokofiev. That was my first experience seeing the performance of a score with a film, and that really got me excited about it. It made an impression that this is an area of performance art that the melding of the two can really be spectacular.
UMS has put on some amazing [film-in-concert] performances. I saw On the Waterfront with the New York Philharmonic, which is a fantastic film, but the score is equally amazing. UMS did Amadeus with an orchestra, but also with the chorus singing the Requiem and other choral parts. That was amazing. You’ve also done 2001: A Space Odyssey. So I said to Matthew, “Look, given my longtime interest in film and orchestral performance, we should try to have one.” And he worked on it, and was able to put together The Godfather for the current season.
Sara: You said you first saw The Godfather in high school or college. What would you want people to know about the film?
Neil: The Godfather is one of the great films of all time. It has one of the great film performances of actors, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, Robert Duvall. These are just spectacular performances. They’re once-in-a-career performances.
The story was based upon a Mario Puzo book, and he also adapted it for the screenplay with Francis Ford Coppola. I actually recently saw the annotated screenplay out in a museum in LA where Francis had… It was the screenplay, and then he was writing in his notes around what he was trying to do with the actors in the scene.
It’s one of the great movie experiences. On paper, it might seem to be about violence. It’s really not. There’s plenty of violence in the film, but I would say it’s more about family. It’s about family ties. It’s about the loyalty within the family. The Godfather himself is extremely loyal to both his family, and to his friends… He really built his crime family through assisting people, not so much the violent kind of crime we think of today associated with organized crime. It was a little different. I’m not saying it was good, but it’s not just a straight violent crime story.
Sara: I love that you focus on it not really being a movie about violence, but more about family. I think I mentioned to you that, over the last, since the pandemic, I’ve been working my way through The Sopranos for the first time, and the same thing strikes me with that. I mean, there are certainly those brutal moments that are eye-averting and pretty awful to watch. But at the end, I think what I find so compelling about it is there’s this person who appears to be in control of everything, but who is also super vulnerable and the tiniest slights really hurt him so deeply. Ultimately, I think both of the shows are really human stories more than anything.
Neil: You have the Godfather, Vito Corleone, and you have Michael, you have Sonny and you have Fredo. You have four godfather men. Plus, you have Tom, who’s sort of an adopted son. Just seeing the differences in the Godfather himself versus Fredo and Michael and Sonny, they’re very different people, yet they’re all in the same family, and the hopes and aspirations that the family had for each of them was very different. It’s very interesting. I know we’re only watching The Godfather coming up here, but The Godfather II is really an outstanding film. The background on how The Godfather got to where he is really completes the family story a lot, and I would recommend that highly.
Let me comment also on the score. I recently re-watched it, and I’ve watched this film many times. I’ve probably seen it 50 times, so quite a few times.
Sara: No kidding? 50 times?!?
Neil: Well, I’m guessing. Let’s say it’s 30, but it’s definitely more than 20.
Sara: That’s amazing.
Neil: Well, I tend to study films, so then, once I’ve watched it, if I think it’s good, I’ll watch it again. I recently watched it, and there’s actually a lot of parts to this film where it’s silent in the background. I had never thought about that before because, a lot of films, it’s playing the whole time. This one, there’s a lot of parts where the orchestra will just be sitting there. I think it’ll be very interesting to experience that feeling of the orchestra coming in after long pauses and understanding where in the film they chose to do that.
Sara: That’s so interesting that you say that because I think I mentioned to you that I did my Godfather immersion last week and watched all three films over five days. I think you’re right about the silence of the orchestra, and I think, particularly in the live orchestra experience, it becomes so much more potent about how important the music is to the film when you have the immediacy right there. It doesn’t fade into the background, and the silent moments are all the more powerful.
Neil: The score itself was written by Nino Rota. It has great beauty and it’s very provocative. It elicits a lot of emotion. I think that it will be thrilling for the audience to hear that score and, at critical moments, match that to what’s going on. Nino Rota was the composer that did almost all of Federico Fellini’s films. I’m a big Federico Fellini fan, and seeing, hearing Nino Rota as part of, I don’t know, 10 or a dozen Fellini films like La Strada or 8½, those are great, great films that are driven by the scores. Linking Nino Rota to Francis Coppola, this is pretty exciting.
[Learn more on our blog: Why Nino Rota’s Score for ‘The Godfather’ is So Memorable]
The other thing is that the 50th anniversary of this film just came by a year or so ago, so this should be a new print that is very high quality. Most people who have seen The Godfather have never seen a clean print. From what I understand, it will be much brighter in the backgrounds compared to what most people have seen so they’ll be able to see pieces of it that they’ve not actually seen before.
Sara: This has been such a fun conversation, and I so appreciate your taking the time to chat about the film. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Neil: One other thing, you may or may not know this, but on Paramount+ Streaming, there’s a fantastic show called The Offer, which was based upon a book written by the producer of the film, and it’s the backstory on how The Godfather was made. It’s fascinating. How did Marlon Brando get in the film? How did Al Pacino get in the film? The studio did not want Pacino because he was a unknown stage actor in New York. They wanted other people to play that role. There’s just a lot in there, and most of it is accurate. It’s a narrative, fictionalized account, but from what I understand about The Godfather, it’s actually pretty accurate.
The man who produced it, he was actually a Rand Corporation security analyst who was a genius, who was bored and decided to get into movies. This was only his second film. He also had to deal with the Mafia itself, because the Mafia was concerned about this movie coming out. The book had already upset them, but then, having a movie about it, that was potentially a problem. He had to negotiate with the organized crime families of that time to get their agreement to allow it to be made. One of the things they insisted upon is they did not want the word Mafia used, and so, actually, in the first film, I don’t think there’s any reference to Mafia. It was due to their sensitivities, but they were pleased at the final result. It required this newcomer producer to manage the studio, manage the Mafia, work with Marlon Brando and all these folks. You would enjoy it. You ought to watch it.
Sara: Ok, I have to ask one last question, which is: what is your favorite scene, favorite lines from the movie?
Neil: Well, The Godfather is full of famous lines, so I don’t really necessarily have a favorite. I think my favorite scene is when his dad has been shot and he’s in the hospital and he goes to see his dad, and all his policemen and protectors are gone, and he’s moving him around within the hospital to protect him, and then Enzo the baker comes. I don’t know if you remember this. Enzo the baker comes and helps, and he’s shaking when he’s trying to light a cigarette. That’s my favorite scene. Enzo the baker. He’s in that first scene where the Godfather’s granting audiences and giving out favors. He is one of the people that gets a favor. He’s not asking for it, but he gets the favor. I will stop what I’m doing and watch that scene every time.
The Maestro at Michigan: Remembering Leonard Bernstein in Ann Arbor
How does one transform into a musical legend? Actor and director Bradley Cooper spent six years preparing for his role as Leonard Bernstein in the much-anticipated film, Maestro. He learned how to conduct music in the style of Bernstein, and was coached by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra (who, coincidentally, will be closing the 23/24 UMS season in April).
Nézet-Séguin also served as the conductor on the film’s soundtrack by the London Symphony Orchestra, and handpicked Bernstein’s compositions from his musicals and operettas to be featured in the film. (Maestro: Music by Leonard Bernstein (Original Soundtrack) is now available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.)
Maestro is now showing in theaters (view showtimes at The Michigan Theater) and will be coming to Netflix on December 20, 2023. Learn how Bradley Cooper immersed himself in the life of Leonard Bernstein in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, then explore Bernstein’s cherished conducting history at UMS.
Bernstein’s History in Hill Auditorium
UMS presented Leonard Bernstein in eight Hill Auditorium appearances across 25 years, from 1963 – 1988. View all programs in detail on our UMS Rewind archive, and explore highlights below:
1963-1968 // Bernstein and New York
In September 1963, Leonard Bernstein made his UMS debut in his sixth year as music director of the New York Philharmonic. The program included Johannes Brahms’s Academic Festival Orchestra, William Schuman’s Symphony No. 3, and Brahms’s Symphony No. 4.
Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic returned again in Fall 1967, in two different programs. It would then be another 17 years until Ann Arbor audiences would experience the maestro on the Hill Auditorium stage again…
1984 // Bernstein and Vienna
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra had only performed in Hill Auditorium once before, in 1956. In February 1984, they triumphantly returned, with Leonard Bernstein at the podium — the first of their three trips together to Ann Arbor within the decade.
1987 // “I love this town”
In September 1987, UMS presented Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in two different programs, which included Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, and Bernstein’s own Symphony No. 1
UMS President Emeritus Ken Fischer had just begun his tenure earlier that year. After the second performance, he approached Bernstein about a return to Ann Arbor the following season, to commemorate both Bernstein’s 70th birthday and Hill Auditorium’s 75th. In his memoir, Everybody in, Nobody Out, Ken recalls this momentous moment at the start of his career at UMS:
When Bernstein invited me into the conductor’s dressing room, he had taken a shower, donned his bathrobe, and taken the one chair in the room. He had a scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was finally my chance to be alone with him and make my pitch.
Unable to sit and aware that standing over Bernstein was not the best way to make my pitch, I got down on my right knee and looked him in the eye. Without much in the way of preamble, I invited him to return in 1988. He responded in these exact words: “I love this town, I love the people of this town, and I love this hall. We’ll be back.” A few weeks later, he chose New York’s Carnegie Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, and Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium as the stops on his birthday tour. Ann Arbor would be first. The concert was scheduled for October 29, 1988.
1988 // 70th Birthday Tour
For Leonard Bernstein’s Ann Arbor stop on his 70th birthday celebration tour, UMS made 550 student tickets available at $10 each. The first students arrived 14 hours in advance of the ticket office opening, and the line grew to more than 400 by the morning!
The first 10 students to purchase a ticket, along with 20 previously ticketed music students, were invited to a post-concert gathering at U-M President James Duderstadt’s residence, with Bernstein in attendance.
This would be Leonard Bernstein’s final performance in Ann Arbor, which poignantly featured Brahms’s fourth symphony — a work Bernstein had also led in his UMS debut 25 years earlier with the New York Philharmonic.
Leonard Bernstein passed away on October 9, 1990, just shy of two years after this last Ann Arbor appearance. His remarkable performances in Hill Auditorium will always remain treasured memories for UMS and milestones in the University of Michigan’s history of artistic excellence.
We invite you to celebrate his life and legacy in Bradley Cooper’s new film, Maestro, now playing at the Michigan Theater.
November Lookback: Activating the Arts Across Campus and in the Community
UMS’s mission is to connect audiences with artists in uncommon and engaging experiences, and we take pride in programming unique interactive opportunities for students and community members alike. This past month has been an exceptionally rewarding period with multiple on- and off-campus events with our visiting artists.
From two Arts & Resistance theme semester performances to guest lectures and school visits, discover how UMS has activated the performing arts across the University of Michigan campus and our Southeast Michigan community.
DakhaBrakha Rocks Hill Auditorium
Ukrainian “ethno-chaos” band DakhaBrakha opened our November lineup with a thrilling return to Hill Auditorium. This performance was presented in association with the Center for Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies (CREES), and was one of two UMS programs this month that tie in with the University of Michigan’s Fall 2023 Arts & Resistance theme semester.
Now Entering the M-Zone
A new pilot program this year, M-Zone seats make it easier for students to get the absolute best front-and-center seats in Hill Auditorium for just $20 per ticket. We celebrated the kick off of the M-Zone at the DakhaBrakha performance with pre-show pizza and free UMS swag. Learn more about M-Zone and all our student ticket opportunities.
Student Meet and Greets
Immediately after their performance, the musicians of DakhaBrakha were introduced to CREES students backstage for an intimate meet-and-greet. The following morning, DakhaBrakha joined CREES students and professors for brunch and a tour of the Center’s special exhibition, Guardian Passage: The Power of Ukrainian Cultural Memory in the Face of War, on display now through November 29.
Akropolis Reed Quintet
Back to School(s)
The Akropolis Reed Quintet’s residency was particularly meaningful, as we welcomed back these five Michigan alums for their first-ever UMS performance. Their residency included a class visit to second-grade students at Estabrook Elementary in Ypsilanti, a concert and Q&A at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor, and a short performance and woodwind coaching session to students of Ann Arbor’s Scarlett Middle School.
A Welcome Homecoming
Akropolis also returned home to their alma mater, leading a chamber music master class for students at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
A Musical Dream
The Akropolis Reed Quintet performed a virtuosic UMS debut in Rackham Auditorium, with an innovative, genre-defying program that included an arrangement of Gershwin’s An American in Paris, followed by jazz pianist and composer Pascal Le Boeuf and drummer Christian Euman in the spectacular Are We Dreaming The Same Dream?.
Sign up for Akropolis’ newsletter to follow along their musical adventures and get a reminder when the full album of Are We Dreaming releases in Spring 2024.
The Javaad Alipoor Company
Penny Stamps Speaker Series
In advance of their UMS performances of Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, theater maker Javaad Alipoor and musician/activist King Raam began their Ann Arbor residency with a Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series lecture at the Michigan Theater hosted by NPR’s Neda Ulaby.
The full lecture is available to stream on demand:
Class Visits and a School Day Performance
The day after the Penny Stamps lecture, Javaad Alipoor visited Pioneer High School’s World Literature classes to discuss and preview his work. The students then took a field trip to experience a School Day Performance of Things Hidden the following week.
Engaging Arts & Resistance Across Campus
Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World was supported by the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and represented UMS’s final program as part of the U-M Arts & Resistance Theme Semester. Javaad Alipoor’s residency had multidisciplinary student engagements across the U-M campus, which included a visit to the Arts & Resistance history course, On Revolutionary Iran, as well as a performance practice workshop at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Six Culminating Performances
UMS presented five public performances and a School Day Performance of The Javaad Alipoor Company’s Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World at the Arthur Miller Theatre. This new work represented a full-circle moment for UMS, as it concludes a trilogy of Alipoor’s works that explores the relationship between contemporary technology and contemporary politics. UMS presented the first, The Believers Are But Brothers, as part of its No Safety Net 2.0 Festival in early 2000.
Sign up for The Javaad Alipoor Company’s newsletter to follow along with new creative opportunities.
Thank you to all our audience members and sponsors of these programs, for making November a profoundly impactful month for UMS, the University of Michigan, our communities, and our audiences.
Meet the Soloists: ‘Messiah’ 2023
Ever since UMS’s establishment in 1879, the yearly showcase of Handel’s Messiah at Hill Auditorium has been a cherished holiday tradition. On December 2-3, the UMS Choral Union and Ann Arbor Symphony will return, conducted by Scott Hanoian and joined by four guest soloists.
Meet our four amazing soloists this year: Rachele Gilmore, Gina Perregrino, Paul Appleby, and Nicholas Newton.
Rachele Gilmore, soprano
Acclaimed for her “silvery soprano, with an effortlessness that thrills her audience,” Atlanta native Rachele Gilmore is consistently praised as “the vocal standout” on both opera stage and in the concert hall. A renowned bel canto singer, her repertoire spans a wide range, including Donizetti, Mozart, Verdi, Strauss, as well as the French and modern composers.
She is a regular performer in America, Europe, and Asia and has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including The Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper, La Monnaie, Grand Théâtre de Geneve, and Festival d’Aix en Provence. She has also regularly appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, as well as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra led by Manfred Honeck.
Watch Rachele’s resounding rendition of Olympia in her 2011 Met Debut:
Gina Perregrino, alto
Gina Perregrino’s work has been critically interpreted as “potent,” possessing “swaggering strength” and “urgency” (Opera News), as she wraps her artistry in the deep roots of her own sensuality. As a performer, whether she is on the stage, behind the screen, or she is speaking, her goal is to actively embody feminine freedom and give women the permission to be unapologetically themselves.
Due to her notable work in opera, she has collaborated alongside authors such as Salmon Rushdie and Khaled Hosseini. Behind the screen, Gina has also been featured in the film Baawal (2023), directed by award-winning director Nitesh Tiwari. The most recent opera/film-hybrid collaboration was with Afghan film director Roya Sadat and Roya Film House during the world premiere of the opera 1000 Splendid Suns with Seattle Opera. She is a regular performer with the Athena Music Foundation in New York City, where she is often called to sing programs centering around Bizet’s Carmen.
Check out Gina’s riveting interpretation of Bizet’s Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe:
Paul Appleby, tenor
Admired for his interpretive depth, vocal strength, and range of expressivity, tenor Paul Appleby is one of the most sought-after voices of his generation. He graces the stages of the world’s most distinguished concert halls and opera houses and collaborates with leading orchestras, instrumentalists, and conductors. Opera News writes, “[Paul’s] tenor is limpid and focused, but with a range of color unusual in an instrument so essentially lyric… His singing is scrupulous and musical; the voice moves fluidly and accurately.”
Paul Appleby’s calendar of the 2023-24 season includes a debut at La Monnaie in the world premiere of Cassandra, written by Bernard Foccroulle and Matthew Jocelyn under the baton of Kazushi Ono, a debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in the principal role of Caesar in the European premiere of John Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra, and a return engagement with Glyndebourne to sing Tamino in Die Zauberflöte.
Listen to Paul’s powerful execution in Mozart’s Don Giovanni:
Nicholas Newton, bass-baritone
Hailed for his “polished vocal technique” and “heart-tugging emotional communication” (San Diego Story), Nicholas Newton is garnering due attention as an up-and-coming bass-baritone in the classical music world. Nicholas’ 2023-24 season features the Houston Grand Opera world premiere of Intelligence, a new American epic created by a powerhouse trio: composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, and director/choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women.
In addition to his burgeoning profile on international opera and concert stages, Nicholas is an independent researcher whose main focus is Black composers and their operatic and vocal concert repertoire. He is building a Black Opera Database; an in-progress resource created to archive, celebrate, and preserve the vocal compositional output of Black composers and works that chronicle the Black experience. He conducts most of his in-person research in New York at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and in Chicago at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago.
Listen to Nicholas’s expressive performance of Handel’s Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto:
Why Nino Rota’s Score for ‘The Godfather’ is So Memorable
Fans of classic cinema have likely heard of Nino Rota, the Italian composer who created some of the most memorable film scores of all time. Rota is best known for his collaboration with Federico Fellini, for whom he composed the music for masterpieces like La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, and 8 1/2. But Rota also worked with other acclaimed directors, such as Luchino Visconti, Franco Zeffirelli, and Francis Ford Coppola.
One of Rota’s most famous and influential scores is the one he wrote for Coppola’s The Godfather, the 1972 epic that tells the story of the Corleone family, a powerful Mafia clan in America. The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, and its music is an integral part of its success. Rota’s score captures the essence of the film’s themes, characters, and emotions, and creates a distinctive atmosphere that evokes both the Italian heritage and the American reality of the Corleones.
The main theme of The Godfather is known as “The Godfather Waltz”, a haunting melody that is played by a solo trumpet at the beginning of the film, over a black screen.
The waltz is then repeated throughout the film, in different variations and arrangements, to underscore different scenes and moments. It is associated with Vito Corleone, the aging patriarch of the family, played by Marlon Brando. The trumpet represents his voice, his authority, and his legacy. The waltz is also a symbol of nostalgia, a longing for a simpler and more honorable past that is fading away in the face of violence and corruption.
The waltz is contrasted with a different love theme used in the film as an instrumental motif for Michael Corleone, Vito’s youngest son, played by Al Pacino.
Michael is initially reluctant to join the family business, but he gradually becomes more involved and ruthless as he tries to protect his father and his interests. The theme represents his love for Kay Adams, his girlfriend and later wife, played by Diane Keaton, and also reflects his inner conflict and struggle between his personal feelings and his family loyalty.
The Godfather‘s love theme was lyricized into the romantic ballad, “Speak Softly, Love”, and versions were released by vocalist Andy Williams, as well as Al Martino, who played Johnny Fontaine, singer and godson of Vito Corleone, in the film.
Rota’s score for The Godfather was nominated for an Academy Award, but it was later disqualified because it was discovered that Rota had reused some parts of his previous score for Fortunella, a 1958 Italian comedy. This was a controversial decision, as many critics and fans argued that Rota had transformed and adapted his own material in a creative and original way, and that his score deserved recognition. Despite this setback, Rota’s score for The Godfather remains one of the most admired and influential film scores of all time, and it has been covered and sampled by many artists in various genres.
We hope you join us for The Godfather Live, Sunday, January 7, 2024 in Hill Auditorium, presented in partnership with the Grand Rapids Symphony and Cineconcerts. Tickets start at just $14, and $12-20 student tickets are available.
Thank You to Our Sponsors
Neil and Annmarie Hawkins
Susan B. Ullrich Endowment Fund
Artist Statement: Javaad Alipoor on ‘Things Hidden’
Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World is the final part of a trilogy of shows that began in 2017. At the heart of this trilogy has been a single thread: the relationship between contemporary technology and contemporary politics.
My idea was that the relationship between contemporary technology and contemporary politics is revealing things about how our minds work, and that to try and get to grips with what is going on in the world today, we have to understand, at the same time, how we train ourselves to think about them.
Each part of the trilogy has tried to refract this idea through different lenses. The Believers Are But Brothers, the first part of the trilogy, used instant messaging technology like WhatsApp to think about masculinity, extremism, and the Internet. Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran used Instagram and video messaging to explore the Anthropocene, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the collapsing promise of the 20th century’s moments of revolution. This final part uses Wikipedia and murder mystery podcasts to confront the way the world seems to be moving closer together, at the same time that we find it harder and harder to understand each other.
At its heart is a true story. The unsolved murder of Fereydoun Farrokhzad, an iconic Iranian pop star, living as a refugee in Germany in the early 1990s.
When I first began work on it in the middle of the pandemic it had a certain context. At its heart, it’s a piece about the responsibilities that people in richer and more democratic countries have towards people and countries who are fighting for more democracy. And this necessitates it also being about translation. Too often, people in our part of the world, problematically grouped together as the West, use the rest of the world as examples that flesh out their preconceived ideas about how things work.
On the right they want to claim that the world would be fine if everyone followed their example; and on the left they want to say that the West is the font of all evil. But the reality of the countries at the forefront of this struggle, whether Iran, Hong Kong, Syria, or Ukraine, is that they upend such preconceived notions. It needs to stop putting ourselves at the center.
So while Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World is in part a sort of protest song about the murder of Fereydoun Farrokhzad, it’s also about how we try and process stories like that.
It’s about the possibility of political and social solidarity in a world of superhuman complexity and interconnectedness. It’s about the thousands of ways that our brains, our devices, and our histories seduce us into simplification or terrify us into inaction. It’s about the feeling of being both overstimulated and stuck, and it’s about the bravery we need to abandon all that.
As the trilogy has developed, the level of ambition that I’ve tried to bring to it has grown, too. Collaboration has been key to all these works, and in this show, the team has been bigger and more talented than ever before. As well as the performers and creatives you see on stage and operating the show, the project would not have happened without the initial conversations I had with my co-creator, dramaturge, and partner Natalie Diddams. The co-writing relationship with Chris Thorpe that resulted in the script we perform has come out of five years of working together.
The first part of this trilogy received its US premiere here at Ann Arbor as part of the No Safety Net festival in 2020, and so it feels like an honor to share this final part with the unique community around UMS.
— Javaad Alipoor
Experience Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Nov 15-18 at the Arthur Miller Theatre.
Introducing Anthony Feimster, Flint Artist in Residence
UMS is pleased to welcome Anthony Feimster, better known by his stage name Feimstro, as this season’s UM-Flint Artist in Residence. Feimster is a Flint-based pianist, vocalist, and composer who hopes to use his residency to collaborate with musicians and other artists to create new work. On Friday, November 3, Feimster will release an acoustic version of his 2022 album, Nina, recorded in live performance in early October, that takes inspiration from legendary singer/songwriter Nina Simone.
UMS Learning and Engagement student staff member Schnadè Saintïl recently interviewed Feimster about his influences, his community, and his artistry:
How would you describe your musical sound and its influences? How has the city of Flint influenced you?
It originated from gospel roots coming from the blues and growing up in church. And Ray Charles is my greatest inspiration for a plethora of reasons. He comes from hard knocks, is a pianist, sings and plays at the same time — very soulful, very bluesy, very churchy. The musicians in my city definitely inspired me growing up. On the album cover of Nina are the names of Sidney Oliver, Rufus Ferguson, Sam Doans, Adam Bearyman, and Mike Mobley. They had a huge impact on me because they introduced me to artists outside of gospel industries.
Sydney Oliver is more of a father figure to me. He’s the one who cultivated this idea of who James Taylor is and who Steely Dan is. When I was growing up, I said, “Man, what is this stuff he got me listening to?” And now that I’m older, I just can’t get away from it. So he’s the largest influence all my life, hands down.
Why have you chosen Nina Simone for the spotlight on this project?
Listening to a lot of Nina Simone, I came across a lot of videos that inspired me. She had me thinking, “I want to speak boldly. I want to speak my mind.” I wanted to say things on this project that were really dear to me at the time. She was clever. She was a statement artist. I want to exemplify that in my writing like Nina. She was so much of herself that it makes you think about who you are. I want to be a statement writer. I want to be clever in my writings, like Nina, and it was a way to pay homage to her.
Why are you recording a live version of the album when you have a polished studio recording?
Live performance touches the soul. There are things that you can capture in live performances that you can’t capture in the studio. That’s why a lot more people are trying to get more people in the studio so they can record that moment. Having piano and vocals leaves room for more creativity — for example in not having bass, I have to create a rhythm myself, figuring out an alternative to the bassline.
Ultimately, the piano album was an effort to create an intimate space with my fans and those who have been supporting me nonstop since I’ve started this journey. This is my way of saying thank you, by inviting a small group into this process. I’m going to create something for you. I’m going to live in this moment for you.
Who do you make music for?
I make music for myself and for the listener who enjoys live music, who enjoys a good show. I know it sounds weird, but I make music for the world, man. If I had everybody’s attention in the world right now, I would probably sing a song. And my goal is to reach the hearts of those who will accept being true to myself and seeing what I grasp from that area. I know a lot of times we spend a lot of time on who’s your fan base, what’s the age limit, who are you going after? Anywhere from the age of eight and 80; if you like raw beautiful soul music, that’s who I am going for.
Could you make a five-song playlist for someone to ease into your music?
“Roll with My Baby” – Ray Charles
“I’m Black And I’m Proud” – James Brown
“Shine” – Robert Glasper
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” – PJ Morton
“Shower the People” – James Taylor
How did you hear about UMS and this residency? How is it advancing you and your work?
I heard about UMS through my bassist, John Hammons. I applied and ever since then UMS has been a great help, bringing awareness to some of the things that are happening in the community. They’ve been a great help financially to solidify some of the things to make possible, such as this piano album. I am looking forward to having creative conversations with students and artists in an upcoming event called Piano Paint. It began as something I did on Instagram during quarantine, where I took online art and I created music from scratch based upon the art. So, I’m excited about the artist dialogues that we’re going to be having with the students. Personally, there’s a lot of different things that I’m looking forward to, especially in the new year, with me coming out with my album, them playing a huge role in helping me and assisting me with space and conversation and funding. This residency couldn’t have come at a greater time. And for that, I plan on helping the programs that are attached to UMS with education, artists, information, knowledge, performance, composition, wherever it may be. I’m excited to give back as well to that. UMS has been more than a blessing to me.
You’re releasing this new album on Bandcamp, an untraditional route. Not being signed to a label, is being an independent artist a status you want to keep?
I think staying independent is the goal right now. The way business is working, in 3 years of streams I’ve made around $160. With that knowledge, I do notice that I can make more money doing live shows. I can make more money by releasing my album on platforms such as Bandcamp.
I do believe that being independent is a harder role, don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot more work because you don’t have the backing of the labels and the things that they provide, A&R rep marketing, etc., but you can build yourself a team, and do things your own way. Over time, if the numbers are right, if everything lines up and the contracts are right, I wouldn’t mind signing to a label after I’ve already established myself independently, maybe, but I think independence is my current goal for the sake of freedom.
If you were a Nina song right now, what would you be?
“Seasons,” because I’m in a season of my life where things are happening that I didn’t expect to happen. Some of those things are horrible and are absolutely great. I’m taking time to balance out life, marriage, ministry, and a lot of different avenues. I’m reminded that seasons may not come, and the leaves may not fall at all. Some of the leaves in certain seasons just don’t, may not fall, who knows.
Is there anything upcoming you have coming up?
If the people could follow me on Bandcamp, as we are releasing the Nina Piano album there on November 3, 2023. I’ll also be releasing some visuals from that live recording every week. If you want to get to know me, check out my linktree.com; it has everything from new music to what I’m doing now, to events coming up, my calendar, and ways we can connect. In May, I’ll be releasing a new album entitled This Ain’t No Joke. And that whole concept is amazing in itself. But, for now, follow me everywhere at Feimstro on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat.