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Stew, Space, and UMS: UMS Off-site

Can you imagine how it would feel to watch a football game on the stage of Hill Auditorium? Or how about listening to a string quartet in the Michigan Stadium? Just plain wrong, right? These questions are comical, but not unlike the questions UMS has to ask when deciding on where to present our artists.

The subject of venue space is an important factor in arts presentation. By its nature, each venue has a character or personality of its own. When exploring the choices of where to present a particular artist, UMS has several factors to consider. First, we must consider whether the venue can deliver practically and technically for the performer. Second, is the place acoustically right for this performer? The third and possibly most important question is does the space add or subtract from the experience as a whole?

This week UMS presents Tony award-winning Stew and his eclectic and theatrical band, the Negro Problem. Stew and the Negro Problem combine biting social satire, gritty folk with psychedelic pop. When UMS decided to present Stew, the subject of space–where to present his concert–was an extra hot topic around the UMS offices. What kind of space would give patrons the best Stew experience? We wanted a space that we could make into our own. We searched for a space that is casual, cabaret and would allow the audience to move around throughout the concert. We wanted a space that was grungy and downtown; a place that perhaps could feel a little bit like New York City for Stew and the audience. We found all these factors and more in the warehouse-like space at 523 S. Main Street, which is the former Leopold Brothers. Come check it out.

UMS loves playing with space and has been presenting off-site for decades. Here are, in no particular order,  our top 10:

1.       Twelfth Night by the Globe Theater in the Michigan Union Ballroom (November 18-23, 2003)

2.       Susurrus at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens (September 9 – October 3, 2010)

3.       River , a butoh-inspired work by Eiko and Koma in the Huron River/Nichols Arboretum (September 11 and 12, 1998)

4.       A concert by U Theater from Taiwan in the Nichols Arboretum (September 16-20, 2003)

5.       So Percussion’s strolling concert through the U-M Museum of Art (February 6, 2010)

6.       James Galway’s mini concert at the Gandy Dancer Restaurant (March 11, 1999)

7.       Shostakovich String Quartet concerts in the Apse at UMMA (January 25-29, 1994)

8.       Jazz @ Lincoln Center Swing Dance “participatory concert” at the EMU Convocation Center (February 4-5, 2000)

9.       The Vienna Philharmonic at the Detroit Opera House (February 27, 2003)

10.   Pushkin’s Boris Godunov directed by Declan Donnelan at the U-M Sports Coliseum (October 29 – November 2, 2003)

Do you have a favorite UMS experience from a off-site performance?

This Week in Numbers: Where in Southeastern Michigan is UMS?

This week at UMS is one of the busiest all season, so you  might notice that posting on the UMS Lobby is a little lighter than usual! With the presentation of three different ensembles three days in a row (The Tallis Scholars, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, and Assi El Helani) combined with our collaboration on the presentation of the ONCE. MORE. event, UMS staff will be all over southeastern Michigan between Ann Arbor and Detroit, with many stops at the airport! Here’s what we’re up to, by the numbers:

  • 6 concerts (including one youth performance)
  • 11 airport runs
  • 4 school visits
  • 1 hospital visit
  • 5 community receptions
  • 3 artist/student workshops
  • 1 Arts & Eats
  • 4 exhibits/installations
  • 3 public lectures

We hope you’ll find a way to participate in this week’s offerings–check out the public events here.

UMS’s Arts Round-Up: July 16, 2010

arts roundupMany members of the UMS staff keep a watchful eye on local and national media for news about artists on our season, pressing arts issues, and more. We thought we’d pull together a list of interesting stories each week and share them with you. Welcome to UMS’s Arts Roudup, a weekly collection of arts news, including national issues, artist updates, local shout-outs, and a link or two just for fun. If you come across something interesting in your own reading, please feel free to share!

National Issues

  • Feeling a little less creative? You’re not alone, as a new study shows a dramatic decline in creativity among US citizens.
  • The Big Read just got a lot smaller, as the NEA slashed funds to the nation’s largest book club program.
  • Can you carry a tune? Here are two new reasons to sing. First, putting words to music appears to dramatically help stroke patients who have lost speech skills recover. Second, singing together encourages cooperation. Looks like Maria Von Trapp got it right with those kids!
  • Remember Gustavo Dudamel’s rise to fame through Venezuela’s El Sistema? A group of hand-picked music educators on fellowship at the New England Conservatory is now attempting to bring its principles to the US with El Sistema USA. Here’s the first in a series of articles and videos about the incredible phenomenon.

Artist Updates & New Companies to Watch

  • Rumors abound that Pierre Boulez may be writing an opera based on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
  • Simon McBurney’s A Disappearing Number disappeared from Ann Arbor nearly two years ago, but it’s been found again — at the Lincoln Center Festival this weekend, and coming to a theater near you as part of the National Theater of London’s live broadcast series this fall.  Stay tuned for an announcement about a local screening…
  • What’s that up in the sky? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no…it’s Ameba Acrobatic and Ariel Dance.

Local Shout-Outs

  • Congratulations, Ann Arbor! Our college town was noted as a “mecca of arts and culture” as it was named one of CNNMoney’s top 100 best small cities in which to live.
  • The annual Ann Arbor Art Fairs run next Wednesday-Saturday, and the line-up of live music has been announced. Check out the performers on the lawn outside our offices at Burton Tower and the Sesi Mazda Ann Arbor’s 107one stage on South University.
  • Detroit’s 17th annual Concert of Colors, an free festival of international music, takes place this weekend at the DIA and the Max. A complete line-up was announced by the Detroit Free Press earlier this week.

Ethan Iverson on “The Rest Is Noise”

Later this month pianist Ethan Iverson joins author Alex Ross for The Rest is Noise in Performance — a live performance based on Ross’s award-winning book about music in the 20th century.  Iverson is better known as the pianist of the jazz trio The Bad Plus.  When the trio appeared at UMS in February, we had a chance to talk to Iverson and ask him how the project with Alex Ross came to be (you can catch all this in the video above).

Ethan is also blogging about the tour (including details on the repertoire) which visits San Francisco, Ann Arbor, and Kalamazoo.

If you’re really looking forward to this event, you should make sure to check out Alex Ross’s The Rest is Noise blog — it’s an amazing treasure chest of musical clips, videos, and short articles related to the book.

UMS on TV!

Way back in January (it seems especially way back on this beautiful 63-degree day!), UMS was approached by Michigan Productions about being profiled on a TV show called “Out of the Blue” which airs on the Big 10 Network.

Of course we were really excited about being on TV, and having a chance to share what UMS does with an even wider audience.  What followed was three weeks of taping at concerts and special events, interviews with UMS staff like Ken Fischer and Michael Kondziolka, and a look into UMS’s extensive historical archive.   Chris McElroy was our fantastic producer for the segment and, when it was all over, we asked him what impressions of UMS he was taking away now that he’d had the complete behind-the-scenes experience.  We caught him for a few minutes on video here:

We haven’t seen the segment yet (it premieres today at 3:00 pm), but we’ve heard from Chris and others on his team that it’s really great!

You can catch it on the Big Ten Network (channel 65 on Comcast Cable and channel 650 on AT&T U-verse) at the following times:
Fri, March 26 at 3:30 pm
Sat, March 27 at 3:30 am
Fri, April 9  12:00 Noon
Tues, April 13  8:30 PM
Fri, April 16  12:30 PM
Sat, April 17  3:30 AM

When the segment is posted online, we’ll be sure to link to it here on

UMS and the Grammys

Artists presented by UMS had a great showing at the Grammy Awards last night, with the following winners from the 09/10 and 08/09 seasons:

Béla Fleck / Thrown Down Your Heart (Concert on Wednesday, February 17)
Best Pop Instrumental Performance
Best Contemporary World Music Album

Thrown Down Your Heart

San Francisco Symphony / Mahler Symphony No. 8 (Concerts on Friday-Saturday, March 19-20)
Best Classical Album
Best Choral Performance
Best Engineered Album, Classical

Kurt Elling / Dedicated to You (Performance in April 2009)
Best Jazz Vocal Album

Kurt Elling / Dedicated to You on YouTube

Chick Corea & John McLaughlin / Five Peace Band (Performance in April 2009)
Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Chick Corea and John McLaughlin: Five Peace Band on YouTube

Emerson String Quartet / Intimate Letters (Performance in September 2008)
Best Chamber Music Album

Welcome to!

UMS Lobby ModelIn June 2009, UMS was one of four organizations awarded an “Innovation Lab” grant by EMCArts, with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The grants were awarded to allow organizations to develop an idea that could have a profound impact on how they do business.

During the summer, a team of UMS staff members and volunteers researched new ideas related to social media. A week-long intensive retreat in October resulted in further development of this project.  We’re now prototyping the UMS Lobby project with this new website and blog, and with several live events that will happen during the next three months as we wrap up the 09/10 season.

The UMS Lobby will expand and redefine what we mean by “the UMS experience.” By combining online and live components in everything UMS does, we’ll  enable a greater amount of people to engage more continuously and deeply with each other, with the extraordinary history of UMS, with the artists we now present, and with the life of UMS in Ann Arbor and throughout the region.

The UMS Lobby is a place where people meet, exchange ideas, and build relationships — a bridge between daily life and the special places we devote to artistic experiences. UMS has many “lobbies,” and we’ll use these physical spaces in new ways to welcome our audiences and invite them to learn from us and from each other.  And, of course, the learning goes both ways — we at UMS always find that we learn so much from you, our audiences, whenever we have the opportunity to meet up socially.

At the same time, the UMS Lobby is a virtual space, accessible year-round, where we will offer multiple streams of activity to engage anyone interested in art and ideas, or in UMS specifically. Among the virtual offerings — some of which are already active, and some of which are still in development:

  • A multimedia blog with text, video, audio, photos, and links (that’s what you’re reading now!)
  • Conversation areas that include feeds from our facebook, twitter, and other networks, but that also provide a place to listen and to be heard
  • A digitized historical archive that includes access to UMS’s extraordinary 131-year history, including the opportunity to submit your own comments, memories, and observations about events that you’ve attended.  We’re working closely with the Ann Arbor District Library to bring this project to fruition.
  • Stories from patrons and others about the impact of UMS —in essence, a “living archive” that will grow with time and supplement the historical archive

So what does this mean for the regular UMS website?  You can continue to visit for all of the information you need about UMS and upcoming events — sound clips, video clips, program notes, and information about purchasing tickets.  Think of as a site filled with information, and as a site filled with conversation.

So what do you think?  What do you want to read more about?  Let us know — we want to hear from you!

See you in the “Lobby”!