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Ann Arbor History: Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea’s Hill Auditorium Reunion

If you’re a jazz lover, chances are you’re just as excited as we are to see jazz legend Chick Corea with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on March 31, 2018.

January 26, 1978 concert poster found in Lee Berry's office.

January 26, 1978 concert poster found in Lee Berry’s office.

But, did you know that this upcoming performance won’t be the first time that the master pianist will be in Ann Arbor? In 1978, jazz legends Chick Corea  and Herbie Hancock were brought to Ann Arbor by Eclipse Jazz, a University of Michigan student group that existed from 1975 to 1987. Eclipse brought world-class jazz musicians to Ann Arbor for concerts, lectures, and workshops, and presented such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Sun Ra, Oscar Peterson, Mary Lou Williams, Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

We asked Lee Berry, former director of Eclipse Jazz and current Chief Development Officer at the Michigan Theater, to tell us all about the epic concert.

Hancock and Corea’s first show together at Hill Auditorium was scheduled for January 26, 1978, a date that might ring some bells for those who were university students during this time, because it was also known as the Great Blizzard of 1978. The University shut down due to snow that day.

Says Berry, “I think we learned that school was being cancelled, and then they called and said that [Herbie and Chick] couldn’t get out of New York.” The only reschedule date that worked for the musicians, Eclipse, and Hill Auditorium was February 26, 1978. The sold-out performance was to occur that day during the day time. Still, most of the 4177 ticket holders showed up, and, as Berry puts it, “it was a beautiful, beautiful show.”

220px-Hancock_Corea_EveningThe encore of that Hill Auditorium performance is side four of An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert, an album that Berry describes as a departure from the electric keyboard and fusion style of jazz that Corea and Hancock were known for before that album, and as a return to the acoustic piano and older, more collaborative style of playing that is the kind of jazz that has survived and is still thriving today.  The recording, featuring two jazz greats changing the course of jazz’s future, was a moment in history. As Berry remembers, “Not too long after is when Wynton [Marsalis] came out, maybe ’81, and it was like old-school was back. This was kind of like a link between those two periods.”

Updated 6/5/2017

UMS Hill Auditorium Documentary

FMA-FrontElevation

Photo: Hill Auditorium front elevation. Image courtesy of the Albert Kahn Collection, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Hill Auditorium opened on May 14, 1913, and UMS celebrated the venue’s 100th birthday throughout our 2012-2013 season.

“A Space for Music, A Seat for Everyone” is the UMS documentary about the past century of UMS performances in the auditorium. The documentary had its world premiere on February 2 in Hill Auditorium at a free day-long celebration event. The film has been nominated for several awards, and earned the “Best Historical Documentary” Michigan EMMY.

View the full documentary film

Synopsis

Hill Auditorium, a building incredible not only due to its rich history and remarkable acoustics but also due to its function as a cultural incubator for the arts community in southeastern Michigan, has united a diverse community of music enthusiasts for 100 years. Through concert recordings, news articles, and anecdotal interviews, this documentary will provide historical context for UMS performances in Hill Auditorium while highlighting the evolving community function of the venue.

Length and format: 56 minutes, widescreen, HD.

Additional Videos

30 second trailer:

60 second trailer:

Ann Arbor’s two Big Houses:

Singer Audra McDonald wishes Hill Auditorium a happy birthday:

The history of Hill Auditorium’s Frieze Memorial Organ:

Sponsored by AnnArbor.com, part of the MLive Media Group. Funded in part by the Michigan Humanities Council.

Share Your Hill Auditorium Memories

We’re celebrating Hill Auditorium’s 100th birthday during this 2012-2013 season, and we want to know about your experiences in Hill!

Check out our gallery of select “In Hill Auditorium, I am…” submissions below. We’ll grow it throughout our 2012-2013 season.

Download a flyer and submit your own Hill Auditorium Experience.

Featured memory, collected at the Mariinsky Orchestra performance on October 27, 2012:

“I used to sit up here in the 2nd balcony when a student at U-M (1953-56). This time, I was startled all over again by the clarity and distinctness of the separate instruments. Magical acoustics!

My father told me, years ago, that it was a picture of the just-built Hill Auditorium that inspired him to yearn for higher education. One of ten children on a farm near Fremont, he had never traveled further than a horse and wagon could go. He had never seen a remarkable building. In his memoirs he wrote, more than 60 years later, “I leafed through a “Michiganesian” in the school library and was captivated by a photo of Hill Auditorium, so majestic, so academic. Desire for college sprouted anew.”

After crops were planted in the summer of his senior year, he was released by his father to earn money as a laborer in Grand Rapids. That fall he had saved enough to enroll as a freshman at Calvin College.

In 1925, he and his new bride (my mother) came to Ann Arbor for graduate study. Two years later he was offered a job as instructor in the U-M Rhetoric Department, later absorbed into the English Department where he taught until he retired. Many many times they entered the great doors of Hill Auditorium and sat under the soaring bands of lights, and then in darkness heard the music.

His name was A. K. Stevens.”

Read the U-M memorial for A. K. Stevens. Notably, in 1944, A. K. Stevens was the faculty sponsor of the first University of Michigan Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC) co-op house, which was named in his honor, the A. K. Stevens Cooperative House.

Gallery of recent submissions:

PS. Yes, we love MoMA.

In Hill Auditorium I am

We’re celebrating Hill Auditorium’s 100th birthday during this 2012-2013 season, and we want to know about your experiences in Hill!

Check out our gallery of select “In Hill Auditorium, I am…” submissions below. We’ll grow it throughout our 2012-2013 season.

Download a flyer and submit your own Hill Auditorium Experience.

Featured memory, collected at the Mariinsky Orchestra performance on October 27, 2012:

“I used to sit up here in the 2nd balcony when a student at U-M (1953-56). This time, I was startled all over again by the clarity and distinctness of the separate instruments. Magical acoustics!

My father told me, years ago, that it was a picture of the just-built Hill Auditorium that inspired him to yearn for higher education. One of ten children on a farm near Fremont, he had never traveled further than a horse and wagon could go. He had never seen a remarkable building. In his memoirs he wrote, more than 60 years later, “I leafed through a “Michiganesian” in the school library and was captivated by a photo of Hill Auditorium, so majestic, so academic. Desire for college sprouted anew.”

After crops were planted in the summer of his senior year, he was released by his father to earn money as a laborer in Grand Rapids. That fall he had saved enough to enroll as a freshman at Calvin College.

In 1925, he and his new bride (my mother) came to Ann Arbor for graduate study. Two years later he was offered a job as instructor in the U-M Rhetoric Department, later absorbed into the English Department where he taught until he retired. Many many times they entered the great doors of Hill Auditorium and sat under the soaring bands of lights, and then in darkness heard the music.

His name was A. K. Stevens.”

Read the U-M memorial for A. K. Stevens. Notably, in 1944, A. K. Stevens was the faculty sponsor of the first University of Michigan Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC) co-op house, which was named in his honor, the A. K. Stevens Cooperative House.

Gallery of recent submissions:

PS. Yes, we love MoMA.

Love great music, theater, and dance?

Love great music, theater, and dance?

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