Contemporary Celtic: The Moxie Strings at The Ark


Individually, all three members of The Moxie Strings have played at The Ark many times before, backing other musicians, but on Sunday, August 13, they will be making their headliner debut there as a trio.

Diana Ladio, Alison Lynn, and Fritz McGirr have long been sought after as accompanists and sidemen by bands and musicians who play in a variety of styles, but for the last six years have put most of their energy into teaching, touring, and recording with the unique brand of contemporary Celtic-influenced, rock-inflected music that is their trio’s trademark. Think Riverdance, and then think again.

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Cut Out for It: The Matisse Jazz Project explores the art of improvisation


The Matisse Jazz Project, Christopher Bakriges, Gwen Laster

Christopher Bakriges and Gwen Laster return to their native Michigan for three concerts by their Matisse Jazz Project.

In 2009, pianist Christopher Bakriges, a former student of Oscar Peterson, had the idea to compose music that corresponded to individual pieces in Henri Matisse’s Jazz series, which was published in 1947 and consists of 20 striking paper collages inspired by improvisation. It was 2012 when Bakriges finished all 20 compositions, and The Matisse Jazz Project was born soon after.

Prior to 2017, Bakriges had performed his Matisse-inspired compositions with violinist Stanley Chepaitis, but now the project features Gwen Laster on violin. The duo will play three shows in Michigan this weekend, including two concerts in Ann Arbor and one at the Detroit Institute of Art.

“It’s expansive. It stimulates the senses differently," Laster said about the Project. “Each piece has a distinct personality and flavor in your mind."

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New leader in place, UMS raises the baton for a new season


Ragmala Dance Company, Matthew VanBesien

Ragmala Dance Company's Written in Water sways into town Oct. 20. But new UMS president Matthew VanBesien is already in A2.

When the curtain rises on the new University Musical Society (UMS) season next month, for the first time in 30 years the venerable performing-arts presenting organization will do so with a new president. Matthew VanBesien comes to Ann Arbor from the presidency of the New York Philharmonic, but that’s not as big a leap as it might appear.

“I was born in the Midwest,” he explains during a recent interview. “I was definitely a product of good midwestern public school music education. I went to school at (Indiana University) for music. ... The times that I’ve been back in this part of the country, it always feels like home.

“Ann Arbor, of course, is a very special place. It’s hard to think of very many small cities in America that have the complete package the way this place does,” he adds. “I really value what’s here -- the environment, the spirit, the intellectual curiosity -- it’s terrific.”

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Our Lady Georgie: Rhys Bowen's "On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service"


Rhys Bowen, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service

For everybody's eyes only: Rhys Bowen visits AADL to celebrate the 11th release in her Royal Spyness series.

A lot happened in 1930s Great Britain: Neville Chamberlain became prime minister of England, the economy fluctuated as it tried to recover from the world war, and Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter of the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch, found herself broke and jobless forcing her to leave Scotland for London.

OK, the last part only happens in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series -- but what an amazing ride it has been for the titled but insolvent Lady Georgie.

To celebrate the release of the 11th book in the series, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service, Bowen will appear at the downtown branch of the library on August 3 at 7 pm. The event, co-sponsored by Aunt Agatha’s, will present this New York Times bestselling author as she talks about the latest installment of her successful series.

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Brass Tacks' take on "Merchant of Venice" lets you decide who's a hero or villain


Brass Tacks Ensemble, The Merchant of Venice

The 2017 Brass Tacks ensemble is taking on three Shakespeare plays this season and stripping them down to their essence.

The Brass Tacks Ensemble has been performing shows in Ann Arbor since 1999. The company is known for stripping down its productions to the most basic elements of theater -- the text of a script and actors acting -- and eliminating as many distractions as possible so the audience's attention is focused on universal themes.

According to artistic director James Ingagiola, “The more you add to a production in terms of costumes, props, sets, etc., the more you lock it into a specific story about very specific people in a very specific time.” Put another way, Brass Tacks prides itself on being the antithesis of spectacle theater.

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Michigan Chamber Folk: Chris DuPont is “Live in A2" (and Ypsilanti)


Chris Dupont

Chris Dupont's new CD is a love letter to his loyal fans.

While building a reputation as a talented performer and songwriter, Ypsilanti’s Chris DuPont has kept up a schedule of releasing an album every couple of years. After three well-received studio outings, this year’s release is called Live in A2 -- and it developed as something of an accident.

“I honestly don’t really like live albums very much,” DuPont says with a smile. “There are a couple I love, but it’s not something I really imagined doing.”

But a soundboard recording was made of his show last year at The Ark. Listening to the results, he was struck by how good it sounded. So he decided to do a low-key release, with the first half of the album drawn from The Ark show and the second half featuring some concert favorites recorded “live in studio” at Ann Arbor’s Solid Sound Recording Co.

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Partners in Rhyme: Katie Geddes and David Vaughn at The Ark


Katie Geddes and David Vaughn at The Ark

Katie Geddes and David Vaughn's musical partnership extends from the Green Wood Coffee House to The Ark.

Katie Geddes' warm voice and inviting onstage personality make you feel like you are getting a virtual hug at her concerts. And maybe that feeling will make you want to hug someone, too.

Her voice is a cross between Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, and her music selections hark back to gospel and country stars of old, but there is a contemporary edge to her presence and vocal stylings. The result is a sound that makes her sound simultaneously modern and timeless.

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Mystery Women: Sisters in Crime's Michigan chapter debuts in Ann Arbor


Sisters in Crime

At the 1986 "Women in the Mystery" conference, Sara Paretsky, author of the wildly successful V.I. Warshawski series, spoke out about the rising tide of misogyny in mystery books. Almost immediately, she began receiving messages from women all over the country, sharing their stories of ill-treatment. A year later at the Edgar Awards, female mystery writers formed Sisters in Crime.

The organization's mission states that it is committed to helping women who “write, review, buy, or sell crime fiction" and the "ultimate goal is to … address issues of concern to everyone involved in the mystery field.” In the 30 years since its inception, Sisters in Crime (SinC) has encouraged and supported women in the genre, but it has not had a chapter in Michigan -- until now.

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Talent Show: "Shakespeare Unplugg’d" at The Ark

Ann Arbor theatergoers usually have to travel to Jackson to see performances by the critically acclaimed Michigan Shakespeare Festival (MSF). But on Monday, July 31, MSF company members will come to The Ark in Ann Arbor to perform. Granted, it's not a play; it's MSF's seventh annual Shakespeare Unplugg’d, a no-holds-barred variety show.

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Offshore Scores: Maureen Dunphy's "Great Lakes Island Escapes"


Maureen Dunphy, Great Lakes Island Escapes

Maureen Dunphy’s Great Lakes Island Escapes explores Michigan's many slivers of land in the lakes.

In grade school, we learn the mnemonic HOMES to remember their names. We know they are the largest freshwater system on the planet. And those of us lucky to live near them get to enjoy recreation opportunities year-round.

But did you know that over 30,000 islands can be found in the five beautiful Great Lakes?

Maureen Dunphy’s new book, Great Lakes Island Escapes: Ferries and Bridges to Adventure takes us on an amazing journey to more than 100 of these slivers of land.

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