Most memorable performances of 2017
I found myself sitting in the back of the Kerrytown Concert House amid classical music lovers, professors and students who were actively talking in a strange, jargon full tongue. A strange hybrid of a classical music concert and “America’s Got Talent,” songSLAM is one of the most unique events I have been to in Ann Arbor. I thought I would be sitting there alone and unable to comprehend or enjoy what was about to go down on stage. However, once the musicians started playing, I forgot I knew little about classical music, or that I was noticeably overdressed for the occasion. When the music started, it was like a story was being told through song. The piano was not only background music — it perfectly accompanied and accentuated the important parts of the story, being crucial to the audience’s understanding. Groups of students, community member composers, pianists and singers were all competing for three final prizes: The audience was the judge. Suddenly, my fear disappeared as I rooted for my favorite songs.
— Andrea Perez, Daily Arts Writer
4. UMS with Zakir Hussain and CrossCurrents
In early November, UMS welcomed Indian classical music legend Zakir Hussain to the Michigan Theater to perform with his newest musical venture, CrossCurrents. CrossCurrents, which includes famous bassist Dave Holland, is a musical group that blends Indian classical and jazz music together. Growing up surrounded by Indian classical music, I was pleasantly surprised at the jazz influence CrossCurrents brought to such a traditional genre. As a University student who witnessed many racially charged incidents throughout the semester, this message of co-existing peacefully gave me hope. From the racial slurs written in the West Quad dorms to the current protests over Richard Spencer’s possible appearance on campus, the student body needed CrossCurrents's reminder that, though we may be incredibly different, we’re all united as students of the same university.
— Trina Pal, Daily Arts Writer
Like all the best pieces of my life, Ukrainian folk-punkers DakhaBrakha first fell into my world via an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. It’s 13 minutes and 57 seconds of otherworldly rhythms, unbelievable artistry and woolen hats. I, of course, was in love. I didn’t really understand it — and I still don’t really understand it — but I loved it nonetheless. The quartet came to the Michigan Theater back in March, and I threw myself at the opportunity to go because I wanted to live in the feeling of suspension their Tiny Desk gave me. The group is so intensely mesmerizing. It’s hard to describe how acutely their sound resonates because everything about them — from their look to their instruments to the language they sing in — is foreign to me. Yet, they still cut deep. The show was entrancing. DakhaBrakha is a testament to the universality of music, using traditional Ukrainian folklore as a launching point to navigate the sounds of our world. It was a meditative moment in a semester of chaos, and it was one I’ll always love.
— Arya Naidu, Senior Arts Editor
2. The New York Philharmonic’s performance of Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5”
This past November, the New York Philharmonic performed Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5” in Hill Auditorium as a part of their weekend-long orchestral residency. It seemed as if all of Ann Arbor showed up to watch these world-class musicians perform the work of one of the greatest composers of all time. Mahler’s symphonies are known for their lengthiness and unpredictability. However, time seemed to fly by while sitting and hearing the glorious sounds that resonated on the stage before me. The unpredictability of Mahler’s music comes from his attempt to describe the highs and lows of life through music, challenging the conductor, musicians and audience members to embark on their own personal emotional journey throughout the symphony. I found myself really getting into the emotions that the music conveyed and ended up sobbing the entire time — a response that surprised myself. The conductor, Jaap van Zweden, masterfully shaped each phrase of music with his entire body, keeping strong communication with the orchestra. Van Zweden’s energy was contagious, and the audience was at the edge of their seats the entire performance.
— Isabelle Hasslund, Daily Arts Writer
Watching this performance tore my heart out of my body, placing it in a vulnerable light where I was faced with my own deep sorrows of loss, the kind I tend to conceal. It was that beautiful kind of sadness, where I couldn’t help but stare in awe at a man who poured out his desolation into divine, moving art. Jonathan Young, co-founder and artistic director of Electric Company Theatre, wrote and starred in “Betroffenheit.” His daughter died in a house fire, while he survived, and Young choose to publicly express that personal trauma through a blend of theatrics and dance. It is the greatest performance I have ever witnessed. Voices were everywhere; they seemed to be attached to the walls, to the doors and to the fixtures. The five other dancers elevated elements of madness and feelings of isolation with intricate costumes, schizophrenic personalities and absolutely stunning dance. With a thousand layers, this piece got inside my head. “Betroffenheit” is profound because it drew out raw emotion that will stay with me for years to come.
— Fallon Gates, Daily Community Culture Editor