Michigan Pops Orchestra, the fully student-run ensemble that brought “Pops Lock and Drop It” to campus last spring, returns with its brand of classical-turned-modern fusion of music and skits. The group’s “Once Upon a Time” concert this Sunday will take the audience back to its childhood, retelling stories with the voices of brass and strings.

Once Upon A Time: Michigan Pops Orchestra’s Annual Fall Show

Sunday at 7 p.m.
Michigan Theater
From $5


“One of our goals is to give the concertgoer a completely different idea of what an orchestra show is like,” said LSA junior Jennifer Wei, Pops’s external publicity director. “We mix pieces that are more traditional with atypical sounds for an orchestra. We’ve played Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin and even techno.”

This fall, the orchestra’s eclectic repertoire takes elements from Disney’s “Fantasia,” themes from “Harry Potter” and jingles from classic cartoons, all interspersed with showtunes, operatic numbers and classical scores.

“It’s more than just a diverse set list — we’re telling the audience stories,” Wei said. “That is where our ‘Once Upon a Time’ theme came from and it ties the concert together.”

“Many of these pieces tell stories that we all have grown up with,” said LSA sophomore Liz Cvercko, Pops’s internal publicity director. “We’re trying to take something that iconic and raise it on different levels — be it by inverting a melody or emphasizing a new harmony. We want the audience to appreciate old stories in new lights.”

To create these new perspectives, the show features original short films along with the pieces. The concert’s first film accompanies Berlioz’s “March to the Scaffold,” in which Pops members act out the plot. In addition, the orchestra’s rendition of Dukas’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” accompanies a surrealist film.

“It’s a very different approach to ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’ but it manages to capture the essence of the plot with only a few images,” said LSA senior Alex Carney, Pops’s small ensembles director. “It’s actually quite moving in its simplicity.”

Yet another component of the performance experience is the skits, which involve everything from costumed conductors to pranks and props this year.

“Humor is our pretext,” Wei said, acknowledging that Pops is never afraid to approach the absurd.

“ ‘Popslove’ is our slogan — the idea is to create a community bound by our love of the orchestra,” Wei said. “We’re always having fun together. It’s that sense of enjoyment and diversity that we always want to bring to our audience.”

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