#UMSplaylists: Chamber Arts (yMusic Takeover)
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In advance of their November 1 performance, yMusic has “taken over” UMS’s Chamber Arts playlist with works of their own discography, including collaborations with Paul Simon, Ben Folds, and Regina Spektor.
Hear the virtuosity and variety of sounds, ensembles, and works by composers featured in UMS’s Chamber Arts Series. This playlist updates with new tracks regularly, so be sure to follow/subscribe on your preferred streaming service!
How Isango Ensemble and Shows Like ‘Hamilton’ Integrate Audiences
Finding new context for stories within a South African township setting, Cape Town-based theatre company Isango Ensemble makes its UMS debut this October 16-20 in two programs: The Magic Flute and A Man of Good Hope.
In her 2018 book Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement (University of Illinois Press), University of Michigan’s Naomi André (Professor of Women’s Studies, Professor in the Residential College and Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts) discusses how companies like the Isango Ensemble and shows like Hamilton imaginatively revisit powerful moments of history while integrating audiences in meaningful ways. Here is an excerpt, used with gracious permission by the author and publisher:
The Isango Ensemble has been bold and thoughtful about promoting black South African singers in opera after apartheid. they present a new model of how to perform opera in a way that brings together the opulent Western art music legacy with new surroundings. They achieve that almost impossible combination of making something universal by bringing in the utterly specific. The Isango Ensemble is showing us how opera from the past — Carmen, La bohème, The Magic Flute — can become newly relevant. Additionally, their new ventures with [Jonny] Steinberg’s recent novel about a Somali refugee who has traveled down the eastern African coast to find a livelihood in South Africa show an engagement with stories that have roots in the present as well as the past. Through their work with the local people in the Cape Town area who love to sing and the connections to international tours and co-productions with Shakespeare’s Glboe Theatre, the Young Vic, and the Royal Opera House, the Isango Ensemble articulates a salient portion of the new opera scene in South Africa after apartheid.
In a 2010 article Mark Dornford-May wrote before the Isango Ensemble had to leave their space at The Fugard Theatre in the District 6 Museum Homecoming Centre, he outlined a thorny issue around building audiences in the new South Africa. He opened the article with a question:
“How come the audience is so white?” is perhaps the most frequently asked question by visitors from abroad to our theatre. It is a complex and difficult one to answer and to be honest I know I blush with embarrassment at our continued failure. It is no comfort at all to me but it is not just at The Fugard that this “whiteness” is: I am afraid to say the same is true of every theatre in this city and nearly every restaurant and cinema.
The integrating of audiences is something that the United States has also struggled with. While there are different issues for the nonwhite audiences in Cape Town and in most United States theatrical venues, there are also important similarities. Dornford-May talks about the difficulty of finding transportation that gets back to the townships after 10 pm and the short-term goals to get financial sponsorship for shuttles as well as the longer-term goal of “a proper bus/transport plan.” Though not an issue in every U.S. city, such logistical issues are still problematic when trying to recruit audiences who live far from theaters and are cut off from certain parts of town after hours due to the lack of public transportation. Another challenge Dornford-May alludes to is the energy needed to attract new audiences to events that have been considered off limits, whether “officially” through apartheid or Jim Crow laws or through internalized cultural biases that the arts (and especially the “elitist” art of opera) are not meant for, or welcoming to, nonwhite audiences. Even when there are black and other nonwhite singers in the show — such attitudes need to be actively overcome.
Through the use of language — translating European languages into Xhosa — in the opera and the placement of stories in South Africa’s township settings, the Isango Ensemble is doing a lot to bridge the connection between black South African audiences and the productions. The other South African opera houses, such as the Artscape and Baxter Theatres in Cape Town or the Black Tie Ensemble and Gauteng Opera in Johannesburg, are also reaching out to nurture young singers through apprentice programs and to feature works that combine the standard Western European opera canon with newer works by indigenous composers
The presence of black composers, singers, and interracial collaborations that feature subjects about black history in American opera is a narrative that has been primarily played out alongside the mainstream opera tradition, albeit frequently obscured in the margins. I have traced this story back to the nineteenth century, and scholars are beginning to find evidence of this tradition in archives, newspapers, opera house records, and recovered materials from private collections. A new chapter emerging in the United States has a connection to the adapted and newer productions seen in South Africa in a related musical-theater arena through the use of spoken word and hip hop.
The most dazzling example is in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (2015), a story of the establishment of the United States wherein the founding fathers (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and others) are all portrayed by black and Latino performers. “In this telling, rap is the language of revolution; hip hop is the backbeat. In each brilliantly crafted song, we hear the debates that shaped our nation and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation.” These are the words President Barack Obama said to introduce a performance of Hamilton — the blockbuster musical that was then playing on Broadway — at the White house for Washington, D.C.-area high school students on March 16, 2016. In these opening comments, the president linked this presentation of the story behind Hamilton with the reality of how this work has meaning today.
President Obama is among the many people who understood that the wild success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton was due to its tapping into something other than being an evening of entertainment that provides a getaway from life’s regular events. “The show reminds us that this nation was built by more than just a few great men; it is an inheritance that belongs to all of us, and that’s why Michelle and I wanted to bring this performance to the White House. Because Hamilton is not just for people who can score a ticket to a pricey Broadway show, it is a story for all of us and about all of us.” Audiences have been drawn in because this work says something relevant and pressing about that present time: who matters, who gets to have a voice, and who can make a country great. Hamilton has brought us a history of the United States that goes back to the eighteenth century and that, now more than ever, has resonance.
As an area for future inquiry, the success of Hamilton seems to build on the currents happening on formal concert stages and opera houses. Both in opera in the United States and South Africa the relevant themes emerging engage how histories are told and who gets to tell them. These works demonstrate that there are audiences who are eager to see their nation, including wider representations of themselves.
Naomi André is Professor of Women’s Studies, Professor in the Residential College and Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. She received her BA in music from Barnard College and MA and PhD in musicology from Harvard University. Her research focuses on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race. Her publications include topics on Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her books, Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera (2006) and Blackness in Opera (2012, edited collection) focus on opera from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries and explore constructions of gender, race and identity. Her current research interests extend to opera today in the United States and South Africa.
An Interview with Paul Neubauer, viola
A 33-year history with UMS…
Violist Paul Neubauer is set to make his seventh UMS appearance since 1986 with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on October 11. 21st Century Artist Intern Karalyn Schubring recently interviewed the distinguished musician about his history with the ensemble and his memories of performing in Ann Arbor.
How did you you first came to play with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center?
“While I was a member of the New York Philharmonic, I was invited to take part in a CMS tour — which included a stop in Ann Arbor! After I left the Philharmonic, I joined CMS as a regular member. I have had countless memorable experiences in my time as part of this esteemed ensemble. Over the years, it has been amazing to study and perform interesting repertoire together around the world, during ‘Live from Lincoln Center’ broadcasts, and of course in our home at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.”
CMS operates under a “collective” model, where different artists from their large, star-studded roster come together to play depending on the needs of each concert. What is it like to play with different collaborators all the time?
“I have been playing chamber music with hundreds of different collaborators since I started playing the viola. Everyone you work with adds to your knowledge of music as well as your own personal musical history and growth.”
The first time you came to Ann Arbor with CMS was in 1986, and this will be your sixth time back since then. Do you have favorite artists that you’ve worked with in Ann Arbor?
“Some of the programs I’ve been part of in Ann Arbor include two of my favorite singers, Anne Sofie von Otter and Heidi Grant Murphy. I also see some of my wonderful long time collaborators like violinist Ani Kavafian and cellist Fred Sherry.”
This season’s program, which features 13 CMS artists, celebrates composers who have contributed to our idea of the “American” sound in the 20th century, including Copland, Bernstein, Dvořák, and his student, Harry Burleigh. Is there anything about this program you’re excited to share with us?
“This is all great music and it looks like a wonderful combination of pieces. The Dvořák Viola Quintet is one of my favorite chamber works. This is sometimes called Dvořák’s ‘American’ Quintet since he wrote it during his stay in Spillville, Iowa, and you might hear an influence of Bohemian and American folk music in the work.”
What’s an important life lesson you’ve learned from playing chamber music?
“You always are working to be the best diplomat as possible when you are working with other players.”
Do you have a favorite thing to do in Ann Arbor, or whenever you’re on tour?
“Ann Arbor is of course a vibrant and exciting college town, but when you are on tour, you rarely have time to get the full flavor of a city. The usual routine is to arrive the morning of the concert, head to the hotel and try to sleep or relax, then head to the hall for a rehearsal and concert. But more often than not, there’s a party or dinner where we might celebrate the evenings performance. Maybe this visit, I’ll have more time to enjoy Ann Arbor!”
Interview conducted by University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance composition major Karalyn Schubring, who spent Summer 2019 in New York City working with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as part of her 21st Century Artist Internship.
11 Virtuoso Pianists to Know in 2019
UMS’s 2019/20 season welcomes back legendary classical and jazz pianists to Ann Arbor, and introduces incredible new talent to our stages. Enjoy listening to our guest artists on our ‘Piano Virtuosos’ playlist, and learn more their upcoming appearances below.
1. Emanuel Ax
In his seventh UMS appearance since 1978, the esteemed pianist joins violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cello superstar Yo-Yo Ma for an evening of Beethoven Trios.
2. Chick Corea
The jazz piano legend brings together bass powerhouse Christian McBride and drum master Brian Blade for a special concert that revisits their acclaimed Trilogy album.
3. Aaron Diehl
The virtuosic jazz pianist joines forces with vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, both returning to Ann Arbor for two intimate sets in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. The program features the Great American Songbook, among other compositions growing from that tradition and history.
4. Hélène Grimaud
Renowned French pianist Hélène Grimaud makes her UMS solo recital debut, performing music from her latest album, Memory, featuring works by Debussy, Chopin, Satie, Schumann, Sylvestrov, and Rachmaninoff.
5. Benjamin Grosvenor
“Benjamin Grosvenor may well be the most remarkable young pianist of our time,” according to Gramophone Magazine. The electrifying 27 year-old British virtuoso makes his UMS debut this Spring.
6. Isata Kanneh-Mason
The Royal Academy of Music postgraduate and multiple prizewinning pianist has had a stellar year in 2019, with a new album from Decca, and an international touring schedule alongside her brother, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
7. Martin Katz
“The gold standard of accompanists” (The New York Times) returns to UMS for a special two-night program, bringing Hugo Wolf’s 53 songs set to the poetry of Eduard Mörike to life alongside four singers in this season’s What’s in a Song.
8. Denis Matsuev
One of most prominent pianists of his generation, Denis Matsuev returns for his third recital and sixth UMS performance in a program of virtuosic works by Liszt and Tchaikovsky.
9. Anne-Marie McDermott
Adding to a 25+ year career as an concert pianist and recording artist, McDermott has championed artistic leadership roles with the Bravo! Vail and Ocean Reef Music Festivals. She joins the New York Philharmonic String Quartet in recital this season.
10. Cédric Tiberghien
An exceptional chamber music collaborator, Tiberghien joins soprano Julia Bullock in the premiere of Zauberland (Magic Land) — a music/theater story of migration from war-torn Syria staged by Katie Mitchell, featuring Schumann’s Dichterliebe performed alongside 16 new songs by Bernard Foccroulle.
11. Tarek Yamani
The Beirut-born pianist and composer taught himself jazz at the age of 19, and brings his Trio to Ann Arbor — fusing the genres of African-American jazz and classical Arabic music.
Matthew’s Picks: Must-See Events in the 2019/20 Season
UMS President Matthew VanBesien shares six programs he is particularly excited to bring to Ann Arbor in our 2019/20 season. Use his recommendations to create your own Series:You performance series, or dive deeper into each performance below:
Sun Sep 15
“The best-selling event of our season on subscription features the iconic 1984 film with live music by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the UMS Choral Union.”
Thu-Fri Oct 24-25
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
“Julia Bullock is a one-of-a-kind artist who is electrifying the classical music world with her ambitious and socially conscious programming. She brings her newest song/theater work, which premiered in Paris in April, juxtaposing Schumann’s Dichterliebe with new songs by Bernard Foccroulle that focus on a woman trying to emigrate to Europe from Syria.”
Sun Feb 16
“Global pop star Angélique Kidjo reclaims rock for Africa with her version of the Talking Heads’ landmark album, Remain in Light.”
New York Philharmonic String Quartet
Sun Mar 22
“It’s a pleasure to welcome my former colleagues from NYC back to Ann Arbor, in a special opportunity to experience their incredible virtuosity up close.”
Fri-Sat Apr 3-4
“Through illusion, stagecraft, and choreography, this meditation on our relationship with our living spaces and the relentless passage of time explores what it takes to make a house a home.”
Thu-Sun Apr 16-19
Detroit Opera House
“American Ballet Theatre’s stunning production is set to Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous score, with five performances at the Detroit Opera House.”
Staff Picks: Must-See Events in the 2019/20 Season
Which 2019/20 season events are UMS staff members most excited about? Meet some of the team and use their recommendations to help create your own Series:You package, or browse all events for more inspiration as you plan your performance season!
Group Sales and Promotions Coordinator
Joined UMS in 2017
Must-See Event: Grupo Corpo
“The energy and athleticism the Grupo Corpo dancers have is astonishing. The melding of traditional Brazilian dance forms with modern techniques creates a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Chief Development Officer
Joined UMS in 2018
Must-See Event: Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal
“Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Joyce DiDonato are pure magic together…especially in Hill Auditorium!”
Shannon Fitzsimons Moen
Campus Engagement Specialist
Joined UMS in 2013
Must See Event: Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello
“Sheku’s wide-ranging musical tastes, infectious spirit, and incredible technique are a breath of fresh air…he’s a wonderful ambassador for the next generation of global classical music.”
Artist Services Manager
Joined UMS in 2010
Must-See Event: Teaċ Daṁsa
“As someone who loves theatrical dance and Nordic music, I can’t wait to see this take on Swan Lake. From what I’ve seen in clips it reminds me of one of my favorite dance works, Walking Mad by Johan Inger, which some of you may remember from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s 2010 performances at Power Center. I love the strange, dark view of the world and this piece seems to explore a similar atmosphere. They even wear pointy party hats!”
Senior Programming Manager
Joined UMS in 1998
Must-See Event: Tarek Yamani Trio
“Tarek Yamani is laying new groundwork in the development of a musical language that bridges jazz with traditional and contemporary rhythms and harmonies from the Arab World. For those who adore the unique communication possibilities that can happen within a piano trio (piano/bass/drums), this evening is highly recommended for you! We are honored to be co-presenting this UMS debut with the Arab American National Museum.”
Director of Education & Community Engagement
Joined UMS in 2008
Must-See Event: Is This A Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription
“Thrilling theater at its very best. Emily Davis and Pete Simpson give absolutely knockout lead performances. Davis’s simultaneous vulnerability and expressive power are a thing to behold…she somehow captures our deepest fears of living in a culture where technology dominates and we often feel our individual agency slipping away.”
Annual Giving Manager
Joined UMS in 2007
Must-See Event: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons / Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed
“While previously unfamiliar with Max Richter, his meditative, minimalist composition style spoke to my soul right away and I can’t wait to hear Vivaldi’s iconic work performed twice in one night…in ways so similar yet so different.”
Associate Director of Development, Foundation & Government Relations
Joined UMS in 1997
Must-See Event: Stew & The Negro Problem
“Their music is fun, insightful, sometimes uncomfortable, and often hilarious. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about the work of James Baldwin and his relevance today.”
Joined UMS in 2014
Must-See Event: Sankai Juku
“Sankai Juku’s performances are compelling, movement that creates a balance between beauty and sometimes the grotesque in a single moment. For me, the performances are meditative, and as I watch I am transported to an alternate reality.”
Ticket Services Coordinator
Joined UMS in 2014
Must-See Event: The Believers Are But Brothers
“New, interesting, timely, and fascinatingly different than other stories being told about what makes people go down the path to extremes. I keep wondering what the difference between weak-willed and weak-minded is in the case of people who don’t start out with extreme views.”
Community Programs Manager
Joined UMS in 2017
Must-See Event: White Feminist
“I’m excited to see White Feminist because I’m interested in theater that challenges the audience. Many times challenging theater reaffirms the political beliefs or ideology of the audience, but this piece promises to directly question the ways in which well-intentioned audiences can carry out decisions that are inadvertently harmful to others.”
Senior Manager of Digital Media
Joined UMS in 2018
Must-See Event: Hélène Grimaud, piano
“Grimaud’s energy and exquisite sound on the piano are uniquely hers, and the repertoire she performs from her ‘Memory’ album is a fabulous mix of timeless favorites and contemporary works.”
Feeling inspired? Craft a perfect performance season just for you and become a Series:You season ticketholder.
Introducing the 2019/20 UMS Season
“UMS’s 2019/20 season was conceived with an eye toward the familiar and the disruptive, the traditional and the uncommon, and the emotional and the provocative — sometimes even within a single work or performance.”
— UMS President Matthew VanBesien
Welcome to UMS’s 141st season
View Full Press Release (PDF)
No Safety Net 2.0 is three-week festival of four provocative theater productions that foster timely conversations around topical social themes.
Yo-Yo Ma returns in a program with Emanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos, performing Beethoven Piano Trios.
The season launches with a performance by jazz/funk collective Snarky Puppy.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and UMS Choral Union will perform the live film score to a screening of Amadeus.
Starting in 2019/20 and for the next few seasons, UMS is pleased to renew a focus on artists, institutions, and ensembles from the Arab World — including Tania El Khoury’s As Far As My Fingertips Take Me and a performance by the Tarek Yamani Trio.
Two Swan Lakes. American Ballet Theatre returns to the Detroit Opera House in a co-presentation with Michigan Opera Theatre, and Irish dance-theatre company Teaċ Daṁsa makes its UMS debut in an acclaimed contemporary and dark deconstruction of the classic tale.
UMS will present a co-commissioned work by Andrew Norman in a “composer’s evening” with yMusic, also featuring music by contemporary luminaries such as Caroline Shaw, Michigan natives Andrew Norman and Shara Nova (also known as My Brightest Diamond), Missy Mazzoli, and Gabriella Smith.
How to Order Season Tickets
Current season ticketholders can renew their series with priority seating starting Monday, April 15 at 9 am.
Season Tickets go on sale to the general public Monday, April 22 at 9 am. Choose five or more concerts and save when you create your own Series:You package, or select from one of UMS’s 10 fixed series packages, specially curated by genre.
Individual event tickets will go on sale Wednesday, August 7.