Your Cart UMS

This Day in UMS: Sergei Rachmaninoff

Editor’s Note: “This day in UMS History” is an occasional series of vignettes drawn from UMS’s historical archive. If you have a personal story or particular memory from attending the performance featured here, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

November 11, 1920: Sergei Rachmaninoff in UMS Choral Union Series


Photo: Advertisement in the Ann Arbor News (Ann Arbor News Ann Archives, Arbor District Library).

The celebrated Russian pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff performed solo in Hill Auditorium as part of the 42nd season of the Choral Union Series on November 11, 1920. He opened his recital with a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” during which the entire audience remained sanding. The remainder of his program consisted of six pieces: Beethoven’s Sonate Opus 90 in e minor, Mendelssohn’s Six Songs Without Words, Chopin’s Ballade, Valse, and Barcarolle, Grieg’s On the Mountains, Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnol, and his own Prelude, C-sharp minor Etude-Tableaux, Opus 33.

His masterful tone, unique personality, and flawless technique delighted a sold out Hill Auditorium, as audience members were in awe of his interpretation of his own works and how he portrayed the sorrow and fatalism of his own Russia. Sergei Rachmaninoff returned to Ann Arbor and Hill Auditorium for a second time in 1939, performing another solo recital as part of the 61st Choral Union Series.

100 Years in Hill & Hundreds of Menus

Meet Charles and Alva Sink, the couple behind UMS for a remarkable 64 years.

Charles Sink was president of UMS between 1904 and 1968. During this time, UMS presented many of the world’s great orchestras and recitalists. Coupled with Charlies’s vision were Alva Gordon Sink’s hostessing abilities. At their home on Olivia Street, Alva welcomed hundreds of guest artists for post-concert receptions and dinners, preparing a spectacular feast for everyone from Eugene Ormandy to Sergei Rachmaninoff.

On February 2, 2013, UMS is throwing a free day-long celebration for Hill Auditorium’s 100th Birthday. Meet us at Hill for a special Saturday Morning Physics event, the premiere of our feature-length documentary on the historic concert hall, and much more. Come to any or all activities, and yes, there will be cake.

Photo: Charles and Alva Sink: A Day’s catch, 45 speckled trout, July, 1945.


Will our party be as fancy as an Alva Gordon Sink party? Check out the images of her amazing menu cards over the years, along with the artists she honored and events she celebrated.

1934 – Sergei Rachmaninoff came to Hill Auditorium, and after he ate Creamed Chicken in Patty Shells. (L: 1934 Rachmaninoff Program, R: Menu for Rachmaninoff.)

1934 Rachmaninoff Program


1935 – The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed under conductor Serge Koussevitzky. After the concert they all enjoyed Broiled Whitefish and Baked Macaroni. (L:  Charlie Sink, Serge Koussevitzky, Earl V. Moore in 1935. R: Menu for Serge Koussevitzky and The Boston Symphony Orchestra.)



1936 – William D. Revelli, the grandfather of bands at the University of Michigan, had a taste of Vanilla Ice Cream, Nutcake, and Hot Chocolate after conducting a performance. (L: Revelli performs in Hill Auditorium in 1935. R: Menu for Revelli.)

1936 William D. Revelli



1940 – Eugene Ormandy enjoyed Meatballs and Swedish Cakes after conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra at the May Festival in Hill Auditorium. (L: Eugene Ormandy conducts in Hill Auditorium in 1940. R: Menu for the May Festival and Mr. Ormandy.)




1941 – Grace Moore, the American operatic soprano and actress, enjoyed Ham and Spiced Peaches after her performance. (L: 941 Grace Moore, Gail Rector, Charlie Sink, R: 941 Menu for Grace Moore)



1943 – Yehudi Menuhin
, the violin virtuoso, had Creamed Chicken, a Salad, and Ginger Ale after his performance in Hill. (L: Yehudi Menuhin backstage in 1943, R: Menu for Mr. Mehuhin.



Continue browsing Alva’s menu, featuring her annual feasts for the Messiah performance and the May Festival.

This content is funded in part by The Michigan Humanities Council an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.