When a concert opens with anime, you know you’re in for an interesting night. The Michigan Pops Orchestra did not disappoint. In their second and final concert of the school year, Pops put on an evening filled with hilarious videos, cringy skits and phenomenal music.
The Michigan Pops Orchestra is a student run, student directed organization that is committed to enhancing musical diversity on campus. With over 100 members, most being non-music majors, Pops provides opportunities for all to play and enjoy music.
The music was a blend of modern and classical in a fun and enlightening concert. True to the name of the concert, “Pops Braves the Elements,” each piece related in some way to earth, air, fire and/or water. They played everything from the powerful “Infernal Dance” and “Finale” from “Fire2bird Suite” to a lively “Pirates of the Caribbean Medley.” Most entertaining was “Fireworks” by Nicholas Hooper, the iconic piece played in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” when Fred and George made their explosive exit from Hogwarts during the students’ OWLs. Pops flawlessly executed the piece, reminding the audience of childhood (or just anytime there was a “Harry Potter” marathon on Freeform).
The concert brought in singers and soloists, including more than just orchestral players in their event. Lauryn Hobbs, SMTD junior, was accompanied by the orchestra in “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana” and “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas.” The concert also featured violinist Eugenia Cho, the Michigan Pops Orchestra 2019 concerto competition winner and a senior at Novi High School. She stunned during Violin Concerto in E minor and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from her when she comes to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan next year.
Other little elements of the show made it even more fun to watch. My friends and I questioned whether the lighting team attended Hash Bash that day, with lights flashing lime greens in “Firebird” and changing colors mid note. We thoroughly enjoyed the audience participation Pops put on in the form of a game show. Two audience members came to the stage to answer some trivia based on the theme of elements, providing impressive knowledge and fun banter.
And of course, no Pops performance would be complete without their famous “Screen Actors Guild” videos. Accompanying specific pieces were home-video style silent skits, loosely based on the movie that the music is from. They made spoofs of “Jurassic Park,” “Harry Potter” and “Pokemon.” Though the “Pokemon” medley and video went completely over my head, the “Harry Potter” skit had me on the edge of my seat and the “Jurassic Park” film had me laughing at how surprisingly accurate they captured the plot of the movie in a five minute silent video.
Being the last concert of the year, it was especially touching to see the seniors in their last performance. With one song to go, executive director Elizabeth Lohr stood up to tell a story about her experience in Pops and the “Pops love” she found with the group. They used that phrase as an acknowledgment of shared experiences and a proclamation of friendship. All the graduating members then stood up and received some “Pops love” from their friends, family, fellow players and the audience.
As the title suggests, “Pops Braves the Elements” wasn’t just an orchestra concert. It was an interactive evening of stunning music and hilarious parody videos that brought joy to everyone. Michigan Pops Orchestra taught us what “Pops love” really means: fun and friendship.