Want to see and hear some of the world’s most exotic instruments played on campus? The Michigan Pops Orchestra will perform their spring concert, a hybrid program of orchestral music featuring seldom-heard ethnic instruments entitled “Pops Around the World,” this Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Michigan Theatre. The orchestra is comprised of more than 80 students from different schools and colleges throughout the University. The concert will feature pieces from all over the world, from Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 to the dazzling Lawrence of Arabia Overture.
The only student-run and student-directed orchestra on campus, the ensemble will challenge itself by performing pieces that combine different cultural traits into one work. Several guest musicians will be performing with the orchestra on such ethnic instruments as the Indian sitar, a guitar-like instrument with a long neck; the Argentinan bandoneon, which is a close relative of the accordion; and even the Australian didgeridoo, a long, hollow wooden tube that’s held up to the mouth and played by vibrating the lips against one end.
Music graduate student Christopher Lees, in his third year as director of the Michigan Pops, excitedly described the concert’s cross-cultural appeal. “This, to my knowledge, has never been done at this University before. The fact that we are having original, authentic, cultural instruments like the sitar and the tablas … (these instruments) have never been played with full orchestra before (at the University),” Lees said.
As expected, finding repertoire for such a unique concert was no easy task. “Some of these arrangements have never been heard before because we arranged them ourselves,” Lees said of pieces such as the traditional Indian Rag Yaman and the classical Irish Uillean Sketches, on which Tyler Duncan will play the Uillean pipes.
“It’s such a neat opportunity to hear both Western instruments like (those in) the orchestra combined with the authentic sounds of Australia, India, Ireland and Argentina,” Lees said. “Where else are you going to hear sitar and orchestra?”
The concert gives Pops members a chance to showcase their talent and enjoy performing with one another. “That’s what Pops is all about — doing good music well and having a fun time doing it,” Lees said.