Your Cart UMS

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

DakhaBrakha in Hill AuditoriumUkrainian “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

Students in Hill AuditoriumA 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

U-M CREES students with DakhaBrakhaImmediately 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)

Akropolis Reed Quintet at Scarlett Middle School

The Akropolis Reed Quintet with students at Scarlett Middle School

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

Akropolis Reed Quintet with Pascal Le Boeuf and Christian HumanThe 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

Neda Ulaby, Javaad Alipoor, and King Raam in Penny Stamps lecture

Neda Ulaby, Javaad Alipoor, and King Raam in Penny Stamps lecture. Photo by A.J. Saulsberry

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

Javaad Alipoor leading a workshop at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & DanceThings 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

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.

Make a Gift

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.

Get Tickets

Meet our four amazing soloists this year: Rachele Gilmore, Gina Perregrino, Paul Appleby, and Nicholas Newton. 

Rachele GilmoreRachele 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 PerregrinoGina 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 ApplebyPaul 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 NewtonNicholas 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

Composer Nino Rota

Legendary film composer Nino Rota

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 Godfather score

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.

Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather'

Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in The Godfather

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.

Diane Keaton and Al Pacino in 'The Godfather'

Diane Keaton as Kay and Al Pacino as Michael in The Godfather

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.

More Info & Tickets

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Principal Sponsors

Neil and Annmarie Hawkins

Patron Sponsor

Susan B. Ullrich Endowment Fund

Media Partners

wemu logo

wrcj logo

wgte logo

wdet logo

annarbor107one logo

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.

More Info & Tickets

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; 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.

A Study in Arts & Resistance: How DakhaBrakha Breaks Barriers


Eclectic. Innovative. Captivating. DakhaBrakha’s upcoming performance in Hill Auditorium is a vital artistic contribution to the University of Michigan’s Arts & Resistance theme semester, and presented in association with the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia.

DakhaBrakha is a Ukrainian quartet that blends folk, world, rock, and avant-garde elements into a unique and mesmerizing sound. Their name means “give/take” in the old Ukrainian language, and they certainly live up to it by giving audiences a thrilling and unforgettable experience.

DakhaBrakha was founded in 2004 by Vladyslav Troitskyi, a theater director who wanted to create a musical accompaniment for his plays. He recruited four talented singers and musicians who shared his vision of exploring the rich and diverse heritage of Ukrainian culture. Together, they experimented with various instruments, vocal styles, and rhythms, creating a new musical genre they call “ethno-chaos.”

DakhaBrakha’s music is not only influenced by Ukrainian folk traditions, but also by the sounds of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. They use a wide range of instruments, from drums and accordions to cellos and flutes, as well as exotic ones like the didgeridoo, the tabla, and the darbuka. Their vocals are equally impressive, ranging from haunting chants and harmonies to powerful solos and rap-like verses. Their lyrics are mostly in Ukrainian, but they also incorporate words from other languages, such as English, Russian, Arabic, and Mongolian.

DakhaBrakha’s live performances are an absolute spectacle to behold. They dress in striking outfits that combine traditional Ukrainian costumes with contemporary fashion. They also wear tall woolen hats that add to their distinctive appearance. They interact with the audience with humor and charisma, inviting them to clap, sing, and dance along. They create a dynamic and energetic atmosphere that transcends language barriers and cultural differences.

“Considering that Ukraine has a big neighbor who thinks that even the existence of our country is a historical misunderstanding… every one of our concerts abroad can be regarded as a political act in itself.” (Marko Halanevych, DakhaBrakha)

DakhaBrakha’s upcoming presentation in Ann Arbor is part of their North American tour, which also includes stops in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see DakhaBrakha live in Hill Auditorium on Friday, November 3. This is a concert experience you’ll never forget!

More Info & Tickets

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Principal Sponsor

Ken Fischer Legacy Endowment Fund

Funded in Part By

a grant from the Arts Initiative at the University of Michigan

Office of the President Arts Initiative U-M Arts and Resistance Theme  College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Behind the Program: Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería

Every opportunity we have to introduce new artists, ensembles, and repertoire to Ann Arbor becomes a highlight on a UMS performance season. This year, we are especially proud to welcome a number of debuts on our October 27 presentation of Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería, widely regarded as a top ensemble and musical institution in Mexico.

Discover the debuting artists and the music behind this program, which includes works that have never been performed before on a UMS presentation:

Meet the Artists

Carlos Miguel Prieto

Carlos Miguel Prieto

Carlos Miguel Prieto is considered the leading Mexican conductor of his generation. A highly respected cultural leader, Prieto is Musical America’s 2019 Conductor of the Year. He possesses a wide-ranging repertoire, has led over 100 world premieres, and is a champion of American and Latin American composers.

In addition to his role as Artistic Director of Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería, Prieto serves as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Music Director of North Carolina Symphony, and Music Director of the Orchestra of the Americas. Prieto is a graduate of Princeton University and received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Gabriela Montero

Gabriela Montero

Latin Grammy Award-winning pianist/composer Gabriela Montero’s visionary interpretations and unique compositional gifts have garnered her critical acclaim and a devoted following on the world stage. Celebrated for her exceptional musicality and unique ability to improvise, Montero has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, and is a frequent collaborator with maestro Prieto.

While it is true that improvisation is more frequently associated with pianists belonging to the realms of jazz and popular music than with concert pianists, a substantial part of Gabriela Montero’s well-earned prestige comes from her great gift as an improviser. On that subject, she has stated:

I connect with my audience in a unique manner, and the audience connects with me. Since improvisation is a big part of who I am, it is the most natural and spontaneous way for me to express myself.

On the program with Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería, she will perform her own Concierto Latino for piano and orchestra. Completed in 2016, the concerto is a tribute to the diverse and rich cultures of Latin America, as well as a reflection of the challenges and struggles that some of its nations face. The concerto has three movements: Mambo, Habanera, and Joropo, each inspired by a different musical genre and rhythm from the region. The concerto showcases Montero’s virtuosic, expressive, and individualized piano playing, as well as her ability to blend classical and popular elements in a coherent and captivating way.

Here is a video of her performing the work from 2019, with Carlos Miguel Prieto and the Orchestra of the Americas:


More On the Program

Gabriela Ortiz Kauyumari

Latin Grammy nominated Gabriela Ortiz is one of the foremost composers in Mexico today, and one of the most vibrant musicians emerging in the international scene. Her musical language achieves an extraordinary and expressive synthesis of tradition and the avant-garde; combining high art, folk music and jazz in novel, frequently refined and always personal ways.

In Kauyumari, she explores aspects of aboriginal cultures and contrasting them with aspects of the modern world. She writes:

Among the Huichol people of Mexico, Kauyumari means “blue deer”. The blue deer represents a spiritual guide, one that is transformed through an extended pilgrimage into a hallucinogenic cactus called peyote. It allows the Huichol to communicate with their ancestors, do their bidding, and take on their role as guardians of the planet. Each year, these native Mexicans embark on a symbolic journey to “hunt” the blue deer, making offerings in gratitude for having been granted access to the invisible world, through which they also are able to heal the wounds of the soul. When I received the commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to compose a piece that would reflect on our return to the art stages following the pandemic, I immediately thought of the blue deer and its power to enter the world of the intangible as akin to a celebration of the reconvening of live music.

The world premiere of Kauyumari took place on October 9th, 2021, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. The following excerpt of the work is courtesy of the New York Philharmonic.

Carlos Chávez Symphony No. 2 (“Sinfonía India”)

It can be said without exaggeration that Carlos Chávez’s Sinfonía India is the best known and appreciated Mexican symphonic work in the United States. In the winter of 1935-1936, Chávez paid one of his many visits to the United States, and the Sinfonía India was born from an invitation to conduct a concert for the Columbia Broadcasting System. The work was written in New York between the end of 1935 and the beginning of 1936 and was first performed by Chávez himself conducting the CBS Orchestra on January 23rd, 1936. Among the first (of many) famous international conductors who soon took up Chávez’s Sinfonía India, special mention should be made of Leopold Stokowski, who wrote a letter to the composer asking for the score only five months after the work’s premiere.

Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería’s percussion section is known for its technical mastery, which will be on full display in this work! Sinfonía India’s orchestration includes a full suite of indigenous percussion instruments, in addition to familiar instruments such as tympani, tenor drum, cymbals, xylophone, and claves.

Silvestre Revueltas La noche de los mayas
La noche de los Mayas is a symphonic suite by the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, based on his film score for the 1939 movie of the same name. The film explores Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage and culture, and the suite consists of four movements, each depicting a different aspect of the Mayan civilization.

The first movement, “Noche de los Mayas” (Night of the Mayas), is a slow and mysterious introduction. The second movement, “Noche de Jaranas” (Night of the Revelry), is a lively dance with complex rhythms. The third movement, “Noche de Yucatán” (Yucatán Night), is a lyrical and expressive nocturne that features an authentic Mayan melody. The final movement, “Noche de encantamiento” (Night of Enchantment), is a theme and variations that showcases the rich and colorful percussion section, which includes instruments such as bongos, congas, rattles, güiro, caracol, and tumkul.

La noche de los Mayas is a brilliant example of Revueltas’s fusion of Mexican folk elements and modern orchestral techniques.

Hear the Performance

Join us for the UMS debut of these spectacular artists, Friday, October 27 at 7:30 pm in Hill Auditorium!

More Info & Tickets


Thank You to Our Supporters

Principal Sponsor

Wacker Chemical

A Fantastic Fall at the Freighthouse

Following a successful 10-day pilot at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse in the spring, UMS just concluded a full four-week residency of programs for all ages. From showcasing local talent, to welcoming families for interactive workshops, to premiering an all-new work inspired by the city’s rich history, take a look back at some of our favorite moments from Fall 2023 at the Freighthouse:


Ypsilanti’s Got Talent

Shara Nova hosting Open Mic at the Freighthouse

Singer, songwriter, and Ypsilanti native Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond) hosted a free open mic night, inviting local musicians and artists to share their unique talents on our new stage.


Namaste, Ypsi

Yoga at the Freighthouse

UMS offered two yoga classes led by Ypsi resident Marly Spieser-Schneider, accompanied by the soothing sounds of harpists Beth Henson and Jordan Key.


A Slappin’ Good Time

slapslap family workshop at the freighthouse

Families experienced an absurdly fun musical performance and workshop with electric bassoon and percussion quartet slapslap! Kids got to make their own “slapsticks” and improvise alongside the musicians on stage.

Learn more about slapslap’s upcoming performances and sign up for their newsletter at

slapslap family workshop at the freighthouse


Sonic Contributions

Marcus Elliot’s Sonic Contributions

Detroit-based saxophonist Marcus Elliot led a seven-piece band of musicians and artists in Sonic Contributions — a special collaboration with the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County that celebrates the history of Ypsilanti as a refuge for Black Americans dating back to the 1830s. Visual artist Curtis Wallace created two original pieces inspired by the sounds and stories shared live on stage.

In addition to two nights of full audiences attending the world premiere performances, the work was filmed and will be released for streaming in early 2024. Sign up for our digital presentations newsletter for a reminder when it becomes available.


Dancin’ the Night Away

Square Dancing at the Freighthouse

The Detroit Square Dance Society brought Southern Square Dancing tradition to the Freighthouse, with live music, non-gender calling, and line dances for anyone and everyone to enjoy!


An Electrifying Show

LIGHTNING Drag Show at the Freighthouse

The energy was absolutely electrifying at LIGHTNING: A One of a Kind Drag Show Extravaganza, featuring Heads Over Heels Productions and Chroma Productions. Two unique sets celebrated queer performance art at the historic Freighthouse.


Movement for All Ages

Teaching artist Heather Mitchell led workshops for adults and for families, exploring traditional West African Dance and contemporary AfroBeat dance moves.

Heather’s West African Dance teaching unit is also available for streaming on UMS Performance Playground:


A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster

Leonardo! at the Freighthouse

Our Fall residency at the Freighthouse concluded with Manual Cinema’s Leonardo: A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster. Four performances for Ypsilanti schoolchildren, plus two public family performances of this magical production used hundreds of illustrated puppets, book pages, two-dimensional props, furry monster puppets, live music, and the wonder of real-time filming to bring Mo Willems’ books to life.


Thank you to all who participated in our Fall 2023 residency at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse! UMS will be back in Ypsi for another four weeks in April 2024. Sign up for our Freighthouse interest list for a reminder when full details are announced in the new year.


Thank You to Our Residency Supporters

The Ypsilanti Freighthouse residency is made possible by Menakka and Essel Bailey and Matt and Nicole Lester.

Family programs are sponsored by Michigan Medicine.

Michigan Medicine logo

Promotional Support Made Possible by Helga and Jerry Bilik.

Funded in Part by

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

A Deep Dive: The Plough and the Stars

The Plough and the Stars

Learn more about Druid Theatre’s October 2023 production of The Plough and the Stars, part of Sean O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy.

Characters & Cast

Tenement Residents

Jack Clitheroe, a bricklayer and former member of the Irish Citizen Army // Liam Heslin
Nora Clitheroe, his wife // Sophie Lenglinger
Peter Flynn (a laborer), Nora’s uncle // Bosco Hogan
The Young Covey, a fitter, ardent socialist, and Jack’s cousin // Marty Rea
Bessie Burgess, a street fruit vendor // Hilda Fay
Mrs. Gogan, a charwoman (housecleaner) // Sarah Morris
Mollser, her consumptive child // Tara Cush
Fluther Good, a carpenter // Aaron Monaghan

Other Characters

Lieutenant Langon, of the Irish Volunteers // Gabriel Adewusi
Captain Brennan, of the Irish Citizen Army // Garrett Lombard
Corporal Stoddart, of the British Army’s Wiltshire division // Robbie O’Connor
Sergeant Tinley, of the British Army’s Wiltshire division // Sean Kearns
Rosie Redmond, a prostitute // Anna Healy
A Bartender // Sean Kearns
A Woman // Catherine Walsh
A Figure in the Window // Robbie O’Connor

Expand for Synopsis (Spoiler Alert)
Act I (November 1915). Newlyweds Nora and Jack Clitheroe are among the many residents of a tenement house in Dublin who face hardship and poverty as working-class citizens. When Captain Brennan arrives referring to Jack as Commandant Clitheroe, Jack realizes that his wife has burned a letter announcing his promotion. His battalion is ordered to join Irish Citizen Army General James Connolly at a public meeting for Irish independence that evening.

Act II (Later that evening). The setting is the interior of a pub near the location of a political rally. Rosie complains to the bartender that the meeting is bad for business, while Peter Flynn, Fluther Good, and Young Covey come in and leave again for quick drinks during the speeches. Jack, Lieutenant Langon, and Captain Brennan carry the Plough and the Stars flag, a green, white, and orange tricolor; they are moved by the speeches and determined to fight for Ireland, regardless of the circumstances.

Act III (Easter Week 1916). Mrs. Gogan worries about the health of her daughter, Mollser, who is sick with tuberculosis. Residents in the tenement discuss the fighting that has started in response to a proclamation of Irish independence. Nora is frantically searching for Jack, and when he appears with a wounded rebel soldier, tries to convince him to leave the fight and stay with her. Jack ignores her pleas and leaves with his comrades.

Act IV (A few days later). Mollser has died, and Nora is increasingly delirious searching for Jack. Disillusionment and tragedy from the failed rebellion affect everyone in the tenement, with the struggle for independence juxtaposed with the human cost and personal sacrifices made by ordinary people.

There is one intermission between Acts II and III.



Easter Rising of 1916: The setting for The Plough and the Stars. For information, read A Crash Course in the Irish Revolutionary Period.

Irish Citizen Army (ICA): a well-organized paramilitary socialist organization made up of trained volunteers from the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Originally formed in 1913 to protect trade union workers during labor strikes, the ICA became a revolutionary army, participating in the Easter Rising of 1916 and in the War of Independence in 1921. Sean O’Casey was very involved in the ICA’s early years, but he withdrew in 1914, criticizing the group for wavering in its socialist mission under James Connolly’s leadership. In The Plough and the Stars, Jack Clitheroe is a Commandant in the ICA.

The Plough and the Stars (Flag): The title of this play references the flag of the Irish Citizen Army, sometimes called the “Starry Plough.” The flag depicts the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper, called “The Plough” in Ireland) over a plough on a green flag. It symbolized a free Ireland that would control its own destiny by controlling its means of production… “from the plough to the stars.”

Tricolor Flag of Ireland: During the Easter Rising, the Irish tricolor flag was flown as well as the Starry Plough; it began to be seen as the national flag when it was raised above Dublin’s General Post Office by the revolutionaries, and has been the official flag of Ireland since it gained independence. Its three colors signify a lasting truce (white) between the Catholics (green) and Protestants (orange).

General James (Jim) Connolly: a co-founder of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) with James Larkin, Jim Connolly was an Irish republican and socialist leader. He was a leader of the Easter Rising and organized the ICA to join the fight. In The Plough and the Stars, Jack Clitheroe is an ICA Commandant under Connolly. After the rising, Connelly was executed by firing squad, despite the fact that he was already dying from wounds sustained during the fight. He was carried out on a stretcher and tied to a chair for the execution, a cruel act that turned public opinion against the British.

Irish Volunteers: The bulk of the revolutionary fighters during the Easter Rising belonged to the military arm of the Irish Republican Brotherhood known as the Irish Volunteers. They fought alongside the much smaller but better-organized ICA.

Dublin Fusiliers: An Irish infantry Regiment of the British Army that began in 1881 and continued until the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. Irish soldiers who fought for the British in World War I were generally Dublin Fusiliers. In The Plough and the Stars, Bessie Burgess’s son is a member.
Tommies: a general term for British soldiers.

Orange: Mrs. Gogan refers to Bessie as “Orange,” meaning that she is a Protestant loyalist, a fact that would have been clear to Irish audiences at the time through contextual references to her hymn-singing, her support of the British in The Great War, and her mockery of her Catholic neighbors

Harp: The official emblem of Ireland; harps are a symbol of national pride and tradition.

Shinner: A pejorative term for a supporter of Sinn Féin, an Irish political party that supported the creation of an independent Irish Republic during the Easter Rising.

Production History

In 1926, The Abbey Theatre premiered The Plough and the Stars, the highly-anticipated third installment of what would become known as Sean O’Casey’s “Dublin Plays” or “Dublin Trilogy.” The first two plays, The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) and Juno and the Paycock (1924), had been unprecedented successes for both O’Casey and the Abbey. However, some people were becoming increasingly incensed by the themes in O’Casey’s works, particularly his skepticism towards Irish nationalism and his criticism of religion and its moral rigidity. With The Plough and the Stars, these objections reached a boiling point.

Unlike his earlier plays, which premiered either during or immediately after the conflicts in which they were set, The Plough and the Stars was set during The Easter Rising of 1916, ten years prior to its premiere. Over the course of those ten years, the revolutionaries who participated in the Rising had risen to hero and martyr status in Ireland. However, O’Casey chose to focus on the innocent victims of the conflict and to present Ireland as he saw it, refusing to shy away from criticism of nationalism, religion, or prudishness.

After a successful opening for The Plough and the Stars, controversy began to spread throughout Dublin and all subsequent performances were interrupted by demonstrators. Four days later, protests escalated to riots as the play was brought to a halt in the third act. A yelling, booing, and whistling crowd began to throw items at the stage, stink bombs were set off throughout the theater, and a group climbed on stage and began a fight with the actors. After police restored order, W.B. Yeats, then a Senator as well as Director of the Abbey, chastised the crowd from the stage.

Of course, there’s nothing like a riot to gain attention, and O’Casey’s fame began to spread far beyond Ireland. Simultaneously, O’Casey began to feel alienated from his homeland. O’Casey soon moved to England, where he remained in self-exile with his wife and family.

A Deep Dive: The Shadow of a Gunman

The Shadow of a Gunman

Learn more about Druid Theatre’s October 2023 production of The Shadow of a Gunman, part of Sean O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy.

Characters & Cast

Tenement Residents

Donal Davoren, a poet // Marty Rea
Seumus Shields, a lazy peddler disillusioned by the Nationalist cause // Rory Nolan
Tommy Owens, a young man infatuated with the Nationalist cause // Robbie O’Connor
Adolphus Grigson, an alcoholic supporter of the Protestant cause // Sean Kearns
Mrs. Grigson, his wife // Catherine Walsh
Minnie Powell, a young woman // Caitríona Ennis

Other Characters

Mr. Mulligan, the landlord… // Lombard
Mr. Maguire, a soldier in the IRA // Liam Heslin
Mrs. Henderson, a resident in a neighboring tenement // Anna Healy
Mr. Gallogher, a resident in a neighboring tenement // Bosco Hogan
An Auxiliary (a soldier in the auxiliary division, which conducted counterinsurgency operations against the IRA) // Gabriel Adewusi

Expand for Synopsis



The Irish War of Independence: (sometimes called the Anglo-Irish War or the Black and Tan War) was a deadly guerilla war fought throughout Ireland from January 21, 1919 – July 11, 1921. After years of political movements towards Irish independence, the Republican (separatist) party Sinn Feín won a landslide election and declared Irish independence from Great Britain. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) fought against British police and special forces known as the Black and Tans, who became infamous for cruel and brutal attacks against civilians. The war ended with the creation of the Irish Free State. The Shadow of a Gunman is set during this conflict.

Irish Republican Army (IRA): The IRA has existed in many forms throughout Irish history. The IRA referenced in The Shadow of a Gunman is often referred to as the “Old IRA” and is different from the anti-treaty IRA referenced in Juno and the Paycock or the Provisional IRA active during The Troubles from 1969-1998. During the Irish War of Independence, the IRA was recognized as the legitimate army of the Irish Republic. It was formed by volunteer Irish forces that supported the creation of an independent Irish nation. In The Shadow of a Gunman, Donal Davoren is suspected of being a high ranking member of the Old IRA.

Black and Tans: a special temporary police force made up primarily of unemployed World War I veterans who were sent to Ireland from May 1920 to early 1921 to support British police during the Irish War of Independence. With little training and minimal oversight by the British government, these forces became infamous for brutal attacks on Irish civilians, including the burning and sacking of many small Irish towns and villages. Their name comes from the mismatched uniforms worn by the first wave of recruits, a moniker that persisted even after they were issued the dark green uniforms.

Many of the terrible events attributed to “Black and Tans” have now been traced to other police units, but “black and tans” remains a catch-all term for violent British police during that time.

Curfew: During the Irish War of Independence, British police enforced a nightly curfew that ultimately ran from 8 pm to 5 am nightly in Dublin. Tenement residents would have been subjected to this curfew (and the accompanying cabin fever) in The Shadow of a Gunman.

Kathleen Ní Houlihan: a mythical symbol of Irish nationalism generally depicted as a poor old woman who enlists the help of young Irish men to fight and die to free Ireland from colonial rule. She is invoked often by Seumas Shields in The Shadow of a Gunman.

Dublin Tenements: a collection of buildings, typically mid-18th century aristocratic townhouses, that were adapted from the 1870s-1890s to house Dublin’s working poor. These opulent mid-city mansions were divided into up to 20 apartments, housing as many as 100 people per building. A single family usually shared a one-room flat, and bathrooms and water were shared by everyone in the building. Cramped conditions resulted in rampant disease and a high mortality rate; O’Casey himself lost eight siblings in infancy to croup. In the early 1910s, Dublin was notorious for some of the worst urban poverty in Europe, with approximately 20,000 families living in tenements. Tenement occupancy peaked in the 1910s, but it continued through the late 1970s. All three O’Casey Cycle plays are set in tenements with the exception of one act in The Plough and the Stars.

Orangemen: members of the Loyal Orange Institution — or Orange Order — a Protestant fraternal order with lodges throughout Ireland, but primarily in Northern Ireland. It is named in honor of the Protestant King William of Orange (William III), who defeated the army of Catholic King James II in 1691. During the Irish War of Independence, most members of the Orange Order were loyal to the crown and opposed to the creation of Ireland as an independent Catholic nation. In Act 2 of The Shadow of a Gunman, Mr. Grigson is a proud “Orange Man.”

Production History

After years of writing plays and submitting them to the Abbey Theater, Sean O’Casey’s fifth manuscript, The Shadow of a Gunman, was finally accepted in 1922. It premiered at The Abbey Theatre in 1923 to immediate success, selling out tickets for the first time in Abbey history, and establishing Sean O’Casey’s career as a playwright at age 43. O’Casey was working as a laborer during the play’s three-day run, which earned him just four pounds in royalties (approximately $300 today). He would continue to work as a cement mixer on a road repair job until the next year, when his second play, Juno and the Paycock, proved to be another resounding success. Together, The Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock provided a financial boon for both the playwright and for The Abbey Theatre, which was at risk of bankruptcy before O’Casey’s arrival.

Set in 1920 during the Irish War for Independence, The Shadow of a Gunman premiered less than two years from the end of the war, when its effects and aftershocks were still being felt strongly throughout Ireland. O’Casey quickly followed this play with 1924’s Juno and the Paycock, set during the Irish Civil War in 1922, and 1926’s The Plough and the Stars, which was set during the Easter Rebellion of 1916, a major turning point of the Irish Revolutionary Period. These three works, often called The Dublin Trilogy, chronicle the birth of the Irish nation through the eyes of Dublin’s impoverished tenement residents.

Filled with “some of the most memorable characters of the Irish theater,” (The New York Times), this two-act work introduced O’Casey’s characteristic tragicomic style. Although it is widely considered a masterpiece, it is lesser-known and less frequently performed than the other two plays in the Dublin Trilogy.

A Deep Dive: Juno and the Paycock

Juno and the Paycock

Learn more about Druid Theatre’s October 2023 production of Juno and the Paycock, part of Sean O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy.

Characters & Cast

Tenement Residents

“Captain” Jack Boyle, an unemployed ne’er-do-well // Rory Nolan
Juno Boyle, his wife // Hilda Fay
Johnny Boyle, their son, who was wounded in the Easter Rising and the Irish Civil War // Tommy Harris
Mary Boyle, their daughter // Zara Devlin
“Joxer” Daly, Jack Boyle’s best friend and drinking companion // Aaron Monaghan
Mrs. Maisie Madigan // Caitríona Ennis
“Needle” Nugent, a tailor // Marty Rea
Mrs. Tancred // Catherine Walsh

Other Characters

Jerry Devine, Mary’s boyfriend and a supporter of the Irish Republican cause // Gabriel Adewusi
Charles Bentham, a school teacher // Liam Heslin
An Irregular Mobilizer // Tara Cush
Two Irregulars // Robbie O’Connor and Marty Rea
A Coal-Block Vendor // Anna Healy
A Sewing Machine Man // Robbie O’Connor
Two Furniture Removal Men // Garrett Lombard and Sean Kearns
A Neighbor // Sarah Morris

Expand for Synopsis (Spoiler Alert)
Act I (1922, the living room of the Boyle family). The Boyle family, consisting of the hardworking and responsible Juno Boyle, her husband Captain Jack Boyle, and their children Johnny and Mary, are struggling to make ends meet. Johnny has returned home and is agonizing over his betrayal of his friend Robbie Tancred, who was murdered by Free State supporters. Mary is on strike and feels guilty about dumping her boyfriend, Jerry Devine. A schoolteacher, Charles Bentham, brings news that one of Jack’s relatives has died and the Boyles will receive a large inheritance.

Act II (a few days later). Jack has already begun to spend the anticipated inheritance, causing further deterioration in Juno’s relationship with Jack. The Boyles throw a party and invite Bentham, who is courting Mary after her breakup with Jerry, and Mrs. Maisie Madigan, a neighbor to whom Jack owes money. During the party, Robbie Tancred’s funeral procession passes the tenement, but the Boyles continue celebrating until his mother stops by. While Juno offers support to Mrs. Tancred, Jack ignores her suffering.

Act III (two months later). Bentham abandons Mary, who is pregnant with his child. Jack’s debts come due, with a variety of creditors demanding repayment and repossessing his new purchases. As Juno begs Jack to use the inheritance to move to a different city, he reveals that Bentham made an error in drafting the will, and they will receive nothing. Jack and Johnny both disown Mary, Johnny’s involvement with the anti-treaty forces catches up with him when the IRA takes him away, and Juno decides to leave Jack and to start a new life with Mary. Jack returns home from the pub, unaware that his family has fallen apart.



Republicans (“Diehards”) vs. Free Staters: In Juno and the Paycock, set during the Irish Civil War (June 28, 1922 – May 24, 1923), the two warring sides are referred to as either Republicans or “Diehards” on one side, or “Free Staters” on the other. After the War of Independence, representatives of the Irish Republic signed The Anglo-Irish Treaty in December of 1921. The treaty compromised on the Republic’s stated goal of full independence by establishing the Irish Free State as a dominion of the British Commonwealth with its own government, army, and police force; it also allowed Northern Ireland to opt out of the Free State and remain part of the United Kingdom. For some Republicans who were fighting for full Irish independence, these terms were unacceptable. A deep schism developed between Irish political leaders and revolutionaries, turning former allies in the Republican movement into two new segments: pro-treaty Nationalists, or “Free Staters,” and anti-treaty Republicans, or “Diehards.”

Irish Republican Army (IRA): The IRA has existed in many forms throughout Irish history. During the Irish War of Independence (depicted in The Shadow of a Gunman), the IRA was recognized by the Irish Republic as its legitimate army, and they fought for the creation of an independent Irish nation; the IRA from this period is sometimes called the “Old IRA.” In the time of Juno and the Paycock, set during the Irish Civil War, the IRA had split into two factions: pro and anti-treaty. Soldiers with the anti-treaty faction, sometimes referred to as “Irregulars,” continued to use the IRA name, while pro-treaty forces began to represent the new Free State government as the National Army. The anti-treaty IRA of this period is a precursor to the Provisional IRA active during The Troubles from 1969-1998. In Juno and the Paycock, Johnny Boyle was active with the Old IRA, but is avoiding active duty with the new IRA.

Dublin Tenements: a collection of buildings, typically mid-18th century aristocratic townhouses, that were adapted from the 1870s-1890s to house Dublin’s working poor. These opulent mid-city mansions were divided into up to 20 apartments, housing as many as 100 people per building. A single family usually shared a one-room flat, and bathrooms and water were shared by everyone in the building. Cramped conditions resulted in rampant disease and a high mortality rate; O’Casey himself lost eight siblings in infancy to croup. In the early 1910s, Dublin was notorious for some of the worst urban poverty in Europe, with approximately 20,000 families living in tenements. Tenement occupancy peaked in the 1910s, but it continued through the late 1970s. All three O’Casey Cycle plays are set in tenements with the exception of one act in The Plough and the Stars.

Trades Union Strike (The Postal Strike of 1922): In Juno and the Paycock, Mary Boyle and Jerry Devine are involved in The Postal Strike of 1922, referenced in their talk of Trades Unions and labor. Taking place from September 9-29, 1922, at the height of the Irish Civil War, this strike caused significant political problems for the newly formed Irish Free State. Labor organizing and general strikes had been a powerful part of the Irish Republican movement for over a decade, but this particular dispute pitted the postal union against the fledgling Free State and its police forces rather than the British government or independent companies.

C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department): an armed police unit organized by the Irish Free State to investigate and suppress the anti-treaty IRA. They were criticized for their forceful interrogation techniques, and after the Irish Civil War, they were disbanded. In Act II of Juno and the Paycock, Juno complains that they have been holding investigations in the Boyles’ tenement.

Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891): an Irish Nationalist politician who organized the early Home Rule movement. He is celebrated as one of Ireland’s most important political leaders, and many historians believe he could have achieved Home Rule peacefully were he not forced out of office due to a scandal over his long-running affair with a married woman. Her divorce proceedings brought the affair to light, and objections from both the Catholic leadership of Ireland and English liberals in Parliament ended his political career.

’47: Shorthand for 1847, the worst year of the Great Famine, which resulted in the death of more than one million Irish people and the emigration of a million more. “Captain” Jack Boyle references it in Act II.
Fenians: members of the Fenian Brotherhood and Irish Republican Brotherhood, two organizations instrumental in building the Republican movement in the turn of the 20th century.

St. Anthony: (St. Anthony of Padua) the patron saint of lost things known for his devotion to the poor and the sick. In Juno and the Paycock, the Boyle family lights a candle to him in the off-stage room.

St. Brigid: (St. Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland) one of Ireland’s patron saints along with St. Patrick. “Captain” Boyle evokes her name at the end of Act I.

Chassis: Captain Jack Boyle’s word meaning, approximately, “chaos”

Production History

Juno and the Paycock premiered at The Abbey Theatre in 1924, just one year after Sean O’Casey’s debut play, The Shadow of a Gunman, became The Abbey’s first sold out production. O’Casey immediately surpassed his earlier success with Juno and the Paycock, which was extended due to audience demand, becoming the first play at The Abbey Theatre to run for more than one week. Its success encouraged O’Casey to quit his road repair job and became a full-time writer at age 44. The play wasn’t just a windfall for the playwright, the success of Juno and the Paycock and The Shadow of a Gunman saved The Abbey Theatre, which was at risk of bankruptcy before O’Casey’s arrival.

Set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, Juno and the Paycock premiered in an embittered and deeply divided Ireland in March of 1924, less than a year after a ceasefire ended active conflict. Its immediacy to audiences of its time echoed that of The Shadow of a Gunman, set during the Irish War for Independence, which took place just two years before the play’s premiere. These two plays along with 1926’s The Plough and the Stars — set during the Easter Rebellion of 1916 — depict each major event of the Irish Revolutionary Period. Often called The Dublin Trilogy, the works chronicle the birth of the Irish nation through the eyes of Dublin’s impoverished tenement residents.

Due to its irreverent and critical approach to Irish nationalism and revolution, Juno and the Paycock was as controversial as it was popular. In the past 100 years, the play has lessened in controversy, but its popularity remains. Juno and the Paycock is now one of O’Casey’s most frequently performed and studied works. It has been adapted several times, including into a 1930 film by Alfred Hitchcock and a 1959 Broadway musical entitled Juno.

A Crash Course in the Irish Revolutionary Period

Artist Statement: Renée Fleming on ‘Voice of Nature’

Renée Fleming

When I was 14, the film Soylent Green was released, a sci-fi thriller about a dystopian future of worldwide pollution, dying oceans, depleted resources, and rampant starvation. The story was set in the year 2022.

The movie has faded from memory, but one scene left a profound impression. An aged researcher, unable to go on, has chosen assisted suicide at a government clinic. To ease his last moments of life, he is shown videos of a world that no longer exists: flowers and savannahs, flocks and herds, unpolluted skies and waters, all set to a soundtrack of classical music by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Grieg.

This scene captured my imagination in a terrifying way. The impact increased when I later learned that the actor playing the researcher, Edward G. Robinson, was terminally ill at the time it was filmed.

Fast forward to the pandemic. After more than two decades of constant touring, usually to urban cultural centers, performances abruptly ceased, and I suddenly found myself at home. I sought comfort in long walks outside near my house. I needed this time outdoors to maintain my emotional equilibrium, and I was reminded that nature would always be my touchstone. At the same time, the news about climate change grew more alarming: the extinction of animals we took for granted when we were children, the knowledge that white rhinos had disappeared from the wild, and daily reports of heat, fires, and flooding. I realized that the crisis we had been warned of for so long had arrived.

I thought of the great legacy of song literature that I love, when Romantic-era poets and composers reveled in imagery of nature, finding reflections of human experience in the environment. I decided to record some of this music, and to juxtapose these classics with the voices of living composers, addressing our current, troubled relationship with the natural world.

The result, in collaboration with my friend Yannick Nézet-Séguin, was the album Voice of Nature: the Anthropocene. When it received the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album, I was thrilled, and I had the idea to tour music addressing this theme of nature as both our inspiration and our victim.

I was incredibly fortunate to connect with the imaginative, dedicated leadership at the National Geographic Society, the global non-profit committed to exploring, illuminating, and protecting the wonder of our world. It has been so exciting to work with this universally respected, landmark institution. I am deeply grateful for the help of President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Ulica, Chief Executive Officer Jill Tiefenthaler, and Producer/Editor Sam Deloen, whose expertise and vison have been instrumental in creating the video you will see in the second half of this program.

Thankfully, the stunning natural world depicted in this film still exists, unlike that movie scene so upsetting to my younger self. In blending these beautiful images with music, my hope is, in some small way, to rekindle your appreciation of nature, and encourage any efforts you can make to protect the planet we share.



Renée Fleming


Pianist Inon Barnatan’s Fall Residency at UMS

Pianist Inon Barnatan is no stranger to Ann Arbor audiences. Barnatan made his UMS debut in 2008 with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and has since performed with the New York Philharmonic and in recital with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and clarinetist Anthony McGill.

Barnatan is equally celebrated as a soloist, curator, and collaborator. This fall, he will showcase all these roles in his most extensive UMS visit, made possible through the support of residency sponsors Elaine and Peter Schweitzer.

Starting at the end of September, Barnatan will be part of a week-long series of performances and activities at the University of Michigan, including piano and chamber music masterclasses at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, as well as three unique public performances:


Renée Fleming & Inon Barnatan
Renée Fleming, soprano and Inon Barnatan, piano

Thu Sep 28 at 7:30 pm // Hill Auditorium

Inon Barnatan accompanies superstar soprano Renée Fleming in the world premiere of her new program, Voice of Nature. This special performance spans the classical, romantic, and contemporary eras, with beloved songs and new commissions exploring nature as both inspiration and victim of humanity. The National Geographic Society is providing an original video to reflect the musical selections.

View Program
Caroline Shaw Aurora Borealis
Gabriel Fauré Au Bord De L'eau
Gabriel Fauré Les Berceaux
Maurice Ravel Jeux d’eau (piano solo)
Franz Liszt S'il Est Un Charmant Gazon
Franz Liszt Über Allen Gipfeln Ist Ruh
Edvard Grieg Lauf Der Welt
Edvard Grieg Zur Rosenzeit
Jerome Kern All the Things You Are

- Intermission -

Second half accompanied by National Geographic video:

Hazel Dickens Pretty bird (a capella)
George Frideric Handel Care Selve from Atalanta
Nico Muhly Endless Space
Joseph Canteloube Baïléro
Maria Schneider Our Finch Feeder from Winter Morning Walks
Bjork All is Full of Love
Sergei Rachmaninoff Moments Musicaux No. 4 (piano solo)
Howard Shore Twilight and Shadow from The Lord of the Rings
Kevin Puts Evening
Burt Bacharach and Hal David What the World Needs Now

Info & Tickets


Free Recital: Rachmaninoff Reflections

Wed Oct 4 at 7:30 pm // Britton Recital Hall, U-M SMTD Moore Building

In a preview of his forthcoming album, Inon Barnatan performs a free recital for students and general public audiences on North Campus, including his own virtuosic solo piano arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s beloved Symphonic Dances.

View Program
Franz Schubert Moments Musicaux
Sergei Rachmaninoff Moments Musicaux

Sergei Rachmaninoff (arr. Barnatan) Symphonic Dances

Get a Reminder


Jerusalem Quartet
Jerusalem Quartet and Inon Barnatan, piano

Thu Oct 5 at 7:30 pm // Rackham Auditorium

In his final residency event, Inon Barnatan joins the Jerusalem Quartet in Antonin Dvořák’s sublime Piano Quintet.

View Program
Franz Joseph Haydn String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 76, No. 6
Paul Ben-Haim String Quartet No. 1, Op. 21
Antonín Dvořák Quintet for Piano and Strings in A Major, Op. 81

Info & Tickets


Don’t miss these unique opportunities to experience one of today’s most extraordinary pianists here in Ann Arbor! For more information on Inon Barnatan, visit

Listen to Inon Barnatan’s albums on Apple Music or Spotify.

Making Sonic Contributions: An Interview with Marcus Elliot

Marcus Elliot

As part of UMS’s Fall 2023 residency at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, Detroit-based saxophonist Marcus Elliot will lead a seven-piece band of musicians and artists in Sonic Contributions — a special collaboration with the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County that celebrates the history of Ypsilanti as a refuge for Black Americans dating back to the 1830s.

In advance of the world premiere this September, Marcus spoke to UMS about the inspiration and creative process behind Sonic Contributions, and what audiences can expect from these upcoming performances:


Q: What was the catalyst for this project? Was it the Ypsilanti Residency itself, or something you’ve had in mind for some time?

It was the Residency itself. When Mark Jacobson and Cayenne Harris from UMS reached out to ask me to put something together, I just started daydreaming about what some things could be. I have some family and a lot of “like family” friends in Ypsilanti, and I’ve always had an interesting relationship with Ypsilanti just growing up in Michigan.

It’s one of those little pockets throughout Michigan that has a large African American population, so that’s kind of what sparked my interest in what I could do. I literally just typed into Google, “African American community in Ypsilanti,” and when I did that it was just, like, BOOM. All of this information started coming at me about it being tied to the Underground Railroad — it being such a Haven, connecting people from the South to Detroit.

But not just connecting people. A lot of families were getting there, and they were staying there, or they were headed to Canada and would come back to Ypsilanti. So that was really interesting to me, like, why would you come back? What was going on here that made you want to come back?

I reached out to my friend Miles Lindsey, also known as Intricate Dialect. He’s an amazing rapper, producer, poet, and storyteller. I asked him, “Hey, would you be interested in collaborating with me on this project?” And he said, “Absolutely.” Then I pitched it to Mark and Cayenne, and they said, “Absolutely!” So, here we are. It’s very exciting to really see these stories coming together and the music coming together.

Miles Lindsey and Marcus Elliot

Miles Lindsey and Marcus Elliot


Q: Can you talk a little bit about the instrumentation of Sonic Contributions, and what audiences can expect?

So the instrumentation is myself on saxophone, and we have trumpet, piano, bass, drums, and cello, plus Miles as narrator. Whenever I’m putting an ensemble together, I actually do it less about the instrumentation and more about the personalities. The personalities are really important to me.

We have Dwight Adams, one of the true legends of Detroit jazz music, but also just an amazing trumpet player. He played with folks like Stevie Wonder and Doug Hammond and I mean, just the list goes on and on of all the people that he’s played with, and so he’s kind of like a big brother mentor to me.

On bass, I have Joseph Deas. Joseph is an Ann Arbor and Detroit bass player…such a pillar in our music community. And with this project being in between in Ypsilanti, I can’t not have Joseph on this project. The energy that he brings is so potent, and it’s just exactly what this project needs.

And then on drums, we have Marquis Johnson. This will actually be my first time having Marquis on my own project, but I’ve played with Marquis a lot in different situations and Marquis is just a phenomenal drummer. Every time I see him play I’m just kind of like, Oh, my God! I can’t believe that a human being can do that on an instrument!

We have Jordan Anderson on piano. He’s originally from Minnesota but moved to Michigan to study here because he had a lot of early mentors that were originally from Detroit who told him he needed to get to Detroit. So Jordan is very invested in the scene, very invested in the history of Detroit, and so it also just felt right to have him on the project.

And then we have King Sophia on cello, and she is also someone that I actually haven’t had a chance to have in my own group yet. She’s somebody that is once again just a brilliant, brilliant person on her instrument and extremely expressive. She has this powerhouse energy and just her presence is amazing.

Sonically, I can tell you it’s going to be dramatic. It’s going to be a lot of drama inside of the music, and it’s going to take you along with the story that’s being told. It’s going to really bring you into a lot of different places. You’re going to have narration and poetry and storytelling by Miles, so he’ll be coming in and out with different stories. There’s gonna be moments honoring different people, different families, different places in Ypsilanti. There are moments of him sharing deep detailed stories of different situations and history and different people.

So there’s gonna be a lot of things happening. The other thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is that there’s a visual artist as well. Curtis Wallace, who is a visual artist from Ypsilanti, agreed to be a part of this. He’ll do some live visual art making — hearing the music, responding to that, and creating in the moment — which I’m very excited for.

So that’s what kind of people can expect. They can really expect a multimedia experience. They can expect to hopefully leave inspired by the stories and by the music, and hopefully also just be inspired to dig deeper into the history of Ypsilanti and the culture there…you know, it has its own thing. That’s the thing that I’ve been learning the most about doing this project is that Ypsilanti is not Ann Arbor. It is not Detroit. It is its own thing, and it deserves to be honored in that way. I’m really here just to bring some awareness to how amazing this place is, and to honor it in my own way.


Q: What does the rehearsal process look like?

So we haven’t gotten together yet to rehearse, just because we’re still working on finishing the music. But Miles and I have been getting together. And that’s been an amazing experience. It’s been really great to spend this time with my brother. We’ve been friends for about 10 years now, and I’ve been a fan of his work for such a long time, so it’s been great to get to work with him.

Basically, what we’ve been doing is going to Ypsilanti and going to different places. We’ve been going to South Adams Street because there’s so much history there visiting some of the churches. We went to the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County and spent some time with Joyce Hunter (AACHM President and CEO). We’ve been going to different coffee shops and bars, and just walking around in different bookstores like Blackstone, and the Ypsilanti District Library. The library’s also been a huge hub for us, dreaming up what this project could be.

So yeah, that’s what the process is looking like. We have our first rehearsal with the band in the second week of September, and I’m very excited about that. That’s gonna be really great to have everybody in the same room, and start to kind of just get into this music.


Q: Anything else you’d like to share about Sonic Contributions?

I think it’s gonna be an impactful show. No doubt, it’s gonna be an impactful show. It’s already been impactful for me.

You know, just being African American, and working on these stories…when I look back at my own ancestry in my own history, it’s very much tied to these same stories. It’s basically stories of refugees, and so there’s been a lot of healing on my own in my own personal journey. Just kind of working through these, because I haven’t been able to really trace a lot of the stories in my own history. I’m in the process of doing that, and one day I’ll find something. But you know, it’s difficult for us to really pinpoint certain stories of our ancestry. So to kinda be able to dive into these stories and to read about them and to even hear some of the voices, has been a real healing process for me.

So I think that that’s another part of this, too… for people to hear these stories, whether they’re from Ypsilanti or not. This is all of our story, you know, like we all kind of can trace back to this in some way. It’s not just Black history. This is American history. I think that there is an opportunity for some real healing as well for folks.


Experience the world premiere performances of Sonic Contributions: Honoring the Past, Present, and Future of the African American Community in Ypsilanti, MI,  live at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, September 22-23, 2023. Pay-What-You-Wish tickets are on sale now.

Buy Tickets

Love great music, theater, and dance?

Love great music, theater, and dance?

Surely your inbox has room for one more email... Sign up for notifications on new digital and live performances, plus season updates.

Thanks! We'll keep you updated.