When I entered UMMA last Saturday, the first thing I noticed was the sound of a violin. I followed the music and wandered around until I found a violinist playing in the corner of the Apse.
I was expecting a formal performance for UMMA’s Pop Up Series. Instead, I quickly realized the Pop Up Series is designed to be a relaxing and informal way to explore the museum with the background of live music, as there weren’t any chairs set up. Other visitors lingered around Alena Carter’s performance while viewing the art in the Apse, and I followed suit.
Carter, who plays for the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and the A2SO String Quartet, played a variety of fiddle tunes from the British Isles and America. I found the backdrop of the music to be perfect for viewing the art in UMMA. Aside from a few class trips to the museum, I’ve never taken the time to wander around and fully appreciate everything displayed in UMMA. Yet her performance made it easy to explore without feeling overwhelmed, and its informal nature encouraged visitors to pop in for a bit without being pressured to stay for the entirety of her performance.
The mood of her music also matched the collection of European art from 1100 to 1650 on the first floor of the museum. Filled with Baroque pieces and surrounded by the grandeur of the Apse, the violin was the perfect instrument to complement the art on display.
Carter switched locations a few times during the hour of her performance, moving from the Apse to the other side of UMMA. Where she went, many followed, and I found it to be an effective way to get everyone to see the majority of the museum. I’ve never been good at pacing myself in museums, but her location changes made it the perfect way to check out the other galleries.
It was clear from everyone’s reactions that they enjoyed the concept of the Pop Up Series. Especially for those like me who find viewing art to be tedious or boring at times, the addition of live music really brightened up the atmosphere in UMMA. Carter herself seemed to really appreciate everyone’s admiration for her performance and was charismatically humble after every applause.
During Carter’s Pop Up performance it was enchanting to watch people enter UMMA, hear the music and immediately walk around to find it. Maybe it was because I did the exact same thing, or maybe it was because it showed how impactful the sound of one instrument can be, but everytime someone did it, I couldn’t help but smile. If you’re in Ann Arbor or closeby, you should definitely pop in for a while and listen to Michael Malis’s music.