Beautiful Blend: Emerson and Calidore String Quartets at Rackham


Emerson and Calidore String Quartets at Rackham

The legendary Emerson String Quartet (above) was joined by the Calidore String Quartets at Rackham Auditorium for octet performances in addition to their usual foursomes. Photo by Lisa Mazzucco.

Classical music fans clapped in high anticipation as the Emerson String Quartet walked onstage at Rackham Auditorium for its UMS concert on Thursday, Oct. 5. But it wasn't just the four-decade-old Emerson ensemble for which the audience was excited; fans were also eager to hear the Calidore String Quartet, a newer ensemble that hooked up with its mentor group for this concert, including performing as a blended octet.

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All Wrapped Up: Christo at the Michigan Theater


Christo at the Michigan Theater by Adrian Deva

U-M Stamps School of Art & Design hosted mega-famous artist Christo at the Michigan Theater; he told the crowd, "All our projects are totally useless!" Photo by Adrian Deva.

On Thursday evening, world-renowned sculptor Christo, 82, told a huge crowd -- packed into the Michigan Theater to see him -- what might be the best, most succinct courtship story of all time.

Of his longtime partnership with Jeanne-Claude, with whom he collaborated on his massive art installations (and who died in 2009), Christo said, with a shrug, “I was very young, we make love, and we like each other. That’s all.” Moments later, he added, “She was very pretty.”

But Christo -- dressed in dark slacks, a collared white shirt, and a big-pocketed beige jacket that hung off his lean frame -- initially kicked off his Penny Stamps Speaker Series lecture with a few parameters: “I will answer all questions, but I will not talk about politics, religion, and certainly not about other artists. I talk about myself, my work, and anything that I can tell you about my work.”

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Protect Your Neck: Author, throat puncher Jen Mann hosts a moms' night out at AADL


Jen Mann

Jen Mann's publishing career began when a blog post about Elf on the Shelf mania went viral.

When you put the wrong date in your calendar for an interview with Jen Mann, the blogger/author behind People I Want to Punch in the Throat, you kind of fear that you’ll be added to the list.

But Mann -- who will be coming to the downtown library for a moms’ night out event on Wednesday, October 11 at 7 pm, as part of a book tour to promote her latest humorous essay collection, Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat -- couldn’t have been more understanding, despite her famously feisty, tell-it-like-it-is persona.

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Colorful & Comical: Adnan Charara's "Constructs (Noun)" exhibition


Adnan Charara's Constructs (Noun)

Adnan Charara's Constructs (Noun) exhibit includes these Munch-inspired canvases.

“Human identity is built upon strong currents that are constantly changing, [over] ... a well-traveled riverbed of history.”

Detroit artist, gallerist, and thinker Adnan Charara knows a thing or two about art and about history, and in Constructs (Noun), a colorful and comical exhibit of his recent paintings, he shows himself an able architect of identity, using bits and pieces of art history to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Twelve large acrylic paintings from two different, but related, bodies of work form the substance of this beautifully installed exhibit, on view at the Rotunda Gallery in Building 18 of the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Center until December 18.

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Musical Maestro: Shafaat Khan at The Ark


Shafaat Khan at The Ark

Shafaat Khan.

Sitar and tabla player Shafaat “Maestro” Khan demonstrated the aptness of his title at The Ark on Tuesday, Oct. 3. Khan’s command of his instruments evoked select meditative, spiritual, and romantic moods and the evening passed as more of a conversation than a one-sided performance.

To call Indian classical music a tradition in Khan’s family would be an understatement. Indian classical music is an institution in the Khan family. Shafaat Khan is the nephew of legendary Ustad Vilayat Khan and son of Inayat Khan. His brother is Shujaat Khan, another eminent sitarist whom I had the privilege of attending his performance in Kolkata, India in 2009.

As a student of sitar, I have an appreciation for the advanced skill these teachers bring to the instrument. But it was clear that by the sheer talent Shafaat Khan brought to the stage, anyone and everyone could appreciate his music and skills.

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Cantina Jams: A2SO plays the music of "Star Wars"


A2SO Star Wars

Return of the Jedis: Last year's A2SO Star Wars concerts were sold-out affairs, so the symphony brought them back.

Not so long ago -- last year, to be precise -- in a venue that’s close, close by, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (A2SO) played two sold-out concerts featuring John Williams’ music from the Harry Potter films. The audience response was so enthusiastic that A2SO immediately started making plans to perform two concerts featuring Star Wars music, and those concerts will happen Saturday night and Sunday afternoon (October 7-8) at the Michigan Theater.

“We were so overwhelmed (last year) ... and the audience, some of whom had never seen a live symphony concert before, told us that the music evoked powerful images for them, even though there was no visual component accompanying the music,” said A2SO conductor Arie Lipsky. “They also told us that they’d never thought that music had played such a vital role in the movies, and they thanked us for highlighting the music on its own. So many said, ‘Now we’re hooked on seeing live symphony orchestra shows,’ and we responded by investing in music from all the Star Wars movies.”

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Visceral Violence: "Sweeney Todd" is Encore Theatre's finest production yet


Sweeney Todd at The Encore Musical Theatre Company by Michele Anliker Photography

Director/choreographer Matthew Brennan brings a distinctive vision to Sondheim's Sweeney Todd at The Encore Musical Theatre Company. Photo by Michele Anliker Photography.

In 2015, I pronounced Into the Woods to be Encore Theatre’s strongest overall production since the Dexter company opened its doors in 2009.

Well, move over, Into the Woods. There’s a new Sondheim show in town, and when it opened on Friday night, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street quickly established itself as the best thing yet to happen on Encore’s modest, black-box stage.

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Hot Fight, Hot World: Environmentalist Bill McKibben at U-M


Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben believes the Great Lakes deserve and need better environmental stewardship.

Bill McKibben has long been sounding the alarm about our changing climate.

The renowned environmentalist and author (including the landmark The End of Nature) founded 350.org, a worldwide organization dedicated to climate-change issues. He will speak at Hill Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 5, on the topic “Down to the Wire: A Hot Fight in a Hot World.”

If it seems like the fight has gotten more difficult lately, given the current federal administration’s refusal to even acknowledge the problem, McKibben isn’t about to give up. He says it’s still possible to take significant action.

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Simultaneous Strings: Emerson and Calidore team up at Rackham


Calidore String Quartet

The Calidore String Quartet met the Emerson String Quartet by going backstage and asking the legendary group to give the young ensemble a listen.

When Jeffrey Myers, first violinist for the Calidore String Quartet, grew up watching the Emerson String Quartet, he didn’t imagine members of the world-acclaimed quartet would mentor him -- or that he would share the stage with them.

After all, the Emerson, named for Ralph Waldo Emerson, has accepted nine Grammys for its 30-plus recordings and performed all over the world since being established in 1976. Its members, violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins, have notable careers individually, too.

Yet, when the Emerson performs in Ann Arbor on October 5 at Rackham Auditorium, it will perform with the Calidore, which Myers and three friends -- second violinist Ryan Meehan, violist Jeremy Berry and cellist Estelle Choi -- formed when they were students at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles.

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America's librarian, Nancy Pearl, penned her own novel for the stacks


Nancy Pearl

NPR regular Nancy Pearl wrote her debut novel after longing for the "perfect thing to read."

Nancy Pearl -- coming to Nicola’s Books on Wednesday, October 4 at 7 pm to talk about her new novel, George & Lizzie -- may be the only person in America who could be referred to as a “celebrity librarian.”

For she’s regularly featured on NPR, where she recommends and discusses books; and she was the model for a librarian action figure that boasts “amazing shushing action!”

But locals who’ve heard Pearl on the radio may not realize that she has deep local roots. Though she now calls Seattle home, Pearl grew up in Detroit and studied library science at the University of Michigan.

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