Piano Panorama: André Mehmari returns to Kerrytown


André Mehmari

André Mehmari piano playing blurs genres and styles. Photo by Flávio Charchar.

André Mehmari plays piano like it's an extension of his body. It's easy to imagine his fingers taking the place of the piano's hammers and directly pounding the strings that stretch from inside the keyboard and connect directly to his brain. His hands move like dancers, gliding over the keys with such grace and flow that it's hard not to stare at them as he fills the room with gorgeous melodies and blissful harmonic combinations.

Born in 1977 in Niterói, Brazil, a town across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro, Mehmari began studying piano with his mom at age 5, learned how to improvise soon after, and by 10 had written his first compositions. His wide-ranging, highly personal playing incorporates jazz, classical, and all forms of Brazilian music, and those styles spill out on the piano with stunning fluidity.

Mehmari returns to Ann Arbor to play Kerrytown Concert House on Sunday, July 16, two weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of his last concert there. He’s also playing the Toledo Museum of Art on Saturday, July 15, where he will get to perform in the Glass Pavilion on a super-cool Wendell Castle-designed Steinway piano as well as playing a percussive improvisation on original glass art that was crafted for the museum’s Hot Shop.

We talked to Mehmari about his technique, sui genris Beatles covers, and glass marimbas

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Have Instruments, Will Travel: Rob Crozier's music is as multifaceted as his career


Rob Crozier

Rob Crozier's bass -- and uke and guitar -- travels through many different genres, from jazz to Celtic.

Rob Crozier had to end our interview because he arrived at his job.

“I’m an entertainer. I do a lot of senior home gigs,” he said. “I go play ukulele and guitar, and I sing Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, old country, singalongs. That’s my day gig.”

In fact, Crozier's senior concerts are only one part of this Ann Arbor musician's many gigs. Multi-instrumentalist Crozier is also a jazz bassist, co-leader of the Irish-fusion group Nessa with his vocalist-flutist wife Kelly McDermott, a music educator, and the proprietor of Eventjazz, which provides live music for weddings, corporate events, and more.

And when you’re a full-time musician, sometimes you play gigs that wouldn’t make anybody green with envy, such as trying to entertain St. Patrick's Day revelers who are already three sheets to the wind at 8 am.

“I can play (the senior home) for an hour and have a really appreciative crowd that isn't vomiting, necessarily, or falling on themselves,” Crozier said, recalling a particularly harrowing St. Patrick’s Day show. “Green eggs and blllluuuuuurrrrgggh!”

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"Terror in Ypsilanti" recounts the true story of The Michigan Murderer


Gregory Fournier, Terror in Ypsilanti

In Terror in Ypsilanti, Gregory Fournier says the Charles Manson murders overshadowed the trial of serial killer John Norman Collins.

"Notice of a psychotic killer in their midst did not resonate with the Ypsilanti, Michigan community in the summer of 1967."

So begins Terror in Ypsilanti, the award-winning book by Gregory Fournier. Not only did this idea not resonate with inhabitants of our area, but the term “serial killer” hadn’t even been devised yet; nonetheless, that is exactly who was stalking young women in Ypsilanti.

John Norman Collins ultimately was suspected of the deaths of seven women over a three-year period. Fournier, who was teaching in Ypsilanti at the time, lived a block away from Collins and “had several negative encounters with him.” But it wasn’t until he “saw (Collins’) face plastered across newspapers that I recognized him.”

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Serious sentiments in "Spring Awakening" flip the script for A2 in Concert


Ann Arbor in Concert, Spring Awakening

In the musical Spring Awakening, a group of teenagers collectively face suicide, rape, homelessness, parental incest, and depression, all while they struggle to understand their burgeoning sexuality over the course of a school year. Adapted from a German play written in the 1890s, the musical hasn’t made many changes to the storyline, it just added some rock music.

This will be Ann Arbor in Concert’s fifth production since the organization began in 2012, and this is a very different show than anything else they’ve produced. Over the past few years, Ann Arbor in Concert’s credits have included Ragtime, 42nd Street, West Side Story, and, most recently, Hairspray.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #644



Michigan author Karen Dionne's hardcover debut The Marsh King's Daughter * transports her readers to the wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula where a woman must risk everything she has and use every skill she learned to hunt down the dangerous criminal who taught her everything she knew - her father.

When Helena Pelletier heard on the news that the notorious murderer/kidnapper known as "The Marsh King" has killed two guards and escaped from Marquette maximum security prison, she knew she could no longer outrun her past.

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Controversy and Comedy: Michigan Shakespeare Festival 2017


Michigan Shakespeare Festival, The Taming of the Shrew

Michigan Shakespeare Festival's The Taming of the Shrew deals with the play's misogny without major script changes.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s board votes on the plays for a specific season -- pitched by MSF’s Producing Artistic Director Janice L. Blixt -- 18 months in advance of the curtain being raised.

So in early 2016, when MSF’s board voted to approve Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, and Chekhov’s The Seagull for 2017 (the season kicks off in Jackson on July 6), the company had no idea that it would be staging Caesar shortly after New York Public Theater’s production of the play (which depicted Caesar as Donald Trump) made national headlines and drew protestors.

“I expected Shrew to be the controversial show, where I’d be fielding questions like, ‘How are you dealing with the misogyny?’” said Blixt.

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Dholing Out the Jams: Red Baraat at Ann Arbor Summer Festival


Red Baraat

Red Baraat had Ann Arbor dancing (and applauding its soundchecks). Photo by Sairah Husain.

Red Baraat set Rackham outdoor stage ablaze on Saturday night. The eight-piece, Brooklyn-based band's melodious mix of Bhangra dhol beats and big-band brass had the approximately 300-person crowd at Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park throwing their hands up and shrugging their shoulders in high-energy Bhangra form.

For those unfamiliar with Bhangra, the dance moves are commonly described as being like a "light bulb twist." Though I cringe a bit at that cliche, Red Baraat leader Sunny Jain used this very description to encourage audience members to dance to his electrifying dhol drumming.

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High Octane: Summer Metal Fest 2017


Summer Metal Fest 2017

All good music begins in the garage. Music festivals, too.

“I did a show in my dad's garage last summer and started talking with one of the bands that played and started October Punk Fest last year,” said Ypsilanti-raised Ryan Wilcox, 37.

Wilcox has upped the mosh and morphed October Punk Fest into the Summer Metal Fest, which happens July 8 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.

“This year the Farm Council Grounds was booked in October so we moved the date to July and changed the name,” Wilcox said. “I'm still deciding if I want to do both shows next year; I know for sure I will be doing Summer Metal Fest again.

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Kickshaw mounts a first-rate production of "Really"


Really, Kickshaw Theatre

Girlfriend (Shaunie Lewis) helps Mother (Pamela Bierly Jusino) try to capture the moment in Kickshaw's staging of Really.

There's a standard announcement before Kickshaw Theatre’s production of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Really: Director Lynn Lammers reminds spectators to turn off phones and that “the taking of photographs is strictly forbidden” by the actor’s union. Before she can finish, a young photographer appears, camera in hand. Click.

But no rules have been broken. The photo won’t be developed. Calvin, the photographer, is dead.

That doesn’t mean he’s out of the picture. Calvin is at the center, the only character who has a name. Mother and Girlfriend may have outlived him, but they are defined by their relationships to him. Mother is visiting Girlfriend, a photographer who has invited her for a photo shoot.

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Things I Learned From Ira Glass


Ira Glass

His American life: Ira Glass talked about some of the things he's learned during 22 years of being on the radio.

A sold out crowd flocked to see National Public Radio star Ira Glass, host of This American Life, at the Power Center Saturday night, where he presented a show titled 7 Things I’ve Learned as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s main stage series.

Using film and audio clips, and armed with nothing more than a tablet, Glass -- wearing a tailored silver suit with a white shirt -- shared what turned out to be 10 things he’s learned since getting involved with public radio at age 19, and launching TAL in Chicago in 1995.

“But they’re not the only seven things I’ve learned,” Glass emphasized during his intro, saying the lessons he’d be focusing on weren’t even the seven most important things he’s learned. (He’d tried, as an exercise, to determine those, too, but he quickly realized that that’s “the most stoner question ever. Like, chewing and swallowing, maybe?”)

Instead, the highlighted “things” were various bits of knowledge related to Glass’ work, and a quietly moving personal epiphany involving musicals. Here’s a taste of what he shared.

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