Singing Bodies, Electric: U-M SMTD's offers a "Grand Night" of virtual choirs

MUSIC

Singing is one of life's greatest joys, whether you're crooning in a choir or car jamming with friends.

But projecting your voice in a group setting is also one of the best ways to spread Covid-19, so singing with other humans was an early loss during the pandemic.

It seemed a certainty that annual vocal events such as the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance's Grand Night for Singing were going to be postponed until a cure was found. But as has happened with so many certain-to-be-canceled things, creative people found ways to continue on within the current reality, and Director of Choirs Eugene Rogers organized a virtual version of this show that mixes newly sung songs with prior performances.

The virtual choir features more than 360 singers recorded in their homes, from Ann Arbor to China, singing four songs:

Friday Five: Fred Thomas, Chris Dupont, The Kelseys, Bruce Lo, G.B. Marian

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 11-20-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week we feature ambient indie-pop from Fred Thomas and friends, orchestral folk-rock from Chris Dupont, radio-ready pop from The Kelseys, drum 'n' bass from Bruce Lo and Bruce Li, and scary soundtracks by G.B. Marian.

 

Friday Five: Dani Darling, AGN7 Audio, The Millwrights, CryptoPolitics, Tyrus Archer

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 11-13-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week we feature neo-soul indie-rock from Dani Darling, a drum 'n' bass comp from the AGN7 label, power-pop from The Millwrights, chiptunes from CryptoPolitics, and hip-hop from Tyrus Archer.

U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery offers two new exhibits by Detroit artists

VISUAL ART

Sydney G. James and Sarah Rose Sharp

Top: Sydney G. James poses next to her new mural in U-M's Modern Languages Building; next to that image is a portrait from her Watch Me Work exhibition.
Bottom: Sarah Rose Sharp, Target, 2020, fabric, handkerchief, t-shirt salvage, beads, sequins, etc. 10” x 7.5” (unframed, hung from 29” arrow).

Two new exhibits organized by U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery don't share much in common other than Sydney G. James and Sarah Rose Sharp are both artists from Detroit. James is a painter and a muralist; Sharp makes fiber-based works.

But when I read James' artist statement, I realized that even though she and Sharp don't share similarities artistically, they both have the need to work through this pandemic, to continue to create in the face of daily challenges that are determined to knock us on our asses. We're all facing this, artist or not. As James writes:

Joni Mitchell's "Live at Canterbury House - 1967" gives us a peek into her post-Detroit, pre-superstardom career

MUSIC REVIEW

Joni Mitchell at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, 1967. Photo by Al Blixt.

Joni Mitchell at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, 1967. Photo by Al Blixt.

Two noteworthy events happened for Joni Mitchell over the past two weeks:

She turned 77 on November 7, and on October 30, the much-anticipated box set Archives - Volume One: The Early Years (1963-1967) came out.

Included in this collection are 24 songs recorded live over three sets on October 27, 1967, the first night of Mitchell's three-night residency at Ann Arbor's Canterbury House. The Ann Arbor portion of Archives is also available as a standalone three-LP set, and the performance features several songs that would later be considered classics after they appeared on Mitchell's studio albums such as her debut, Song to a Seagull (1968), as well as Clouds (1969) and Ladies of the Canyon (1970). 

Mitchell's Canterbury House recordings surfaced in July 2018 along with concert tapes of Tim Buckley, Dave Van Ronk, Odetta, and more, but hers are the first from this batch to find a commercial release. The concert was recorded through Canterbury's soundboard, and the audio is clean and clear, giving us a beautiful glimpse into the almost-24-year-old's musical life pre-superstardom.

WCBN's Radio Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa offers up Sproton Layer and Ramones rarities

MUSIC BOOTLEG WASHTENAW

Sproton Layer

Left: Sproton Layer guitarist-singer Ben Miller cuts vocals for a Sproton Layer song in the basement of his Ann Arbor family's home, 1969. Right: Trumpeter Harold Kirchen, drummer Laurence Miller, and bassist Roger Miller rock the Little Theatre at Pioneer High School in May 1970. Photos courtesy of Sproton Layer.

Frank Uhle's Radio Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa on WCBN 88.3-FM always features a treasure trove of vintage rock 'n' roll and punk, and he's one of the great historians of 1960s and 1970s underground Michigan music. Uhle also re-released the ultra-obscure and totally rippin' lone 7-inch by Ann Arbor 1960s garage rockers The Beau Biens, which we talked about in-depth here.

Because the pandemic has kept DJs from going into the WCBN studio, the station is rebroadcasting a lot of shows, though some hosts are broadcasting live from their homes while others are preparing their programs there and uploading them.

For Radio Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa, which airs 10 pm Mondays, Uhle has been digging into his vast archive of shows, as well as his personal collection of rare recordings (plus photos and other memorabilia), to produce programs that offer a little bit new, a little bit vintage, and a whole lot of fun.

For his October 26 show, Uhle put together a collection of Ramones recordings from December 4, 1979, that includes a WCBN interview as well as a portion of their show that night at Second Change (now known as Necto). Uhle wrote the following on his Facebook page:

Rolling Stone and A2 Jazz & Blues Fest photographer Baron Wolman dies

MUSIC

Baron Wolman

Photographer Baron Wolman (bottom left) captured iconic images from the first Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1969 including Big Mama Thornton (upper left), Muddy Waters (center), and T-Bone Walker. Baron Wolman photo by Anna Webber/WireImage.

Baron Wolman, who became Rolling Stone's first staff photographer in 1967 and captured nearly every major rocker in the Woodstock generation (and at the Woodstock fest), died on November 9 from ALS. He was 83.

But Wolman's connection to our area came from his photographing the inaugural Ann Arbor Jazz and Blues Festival in 1969. Wolman and Getty Images photographers Tom Copi and Dick Waterman are responsible for the most iconic shots from the event.

You can see a few more of Wolman's A2 Jazz and Blues Fest photos here and a collection of interviews with him about his career below.

Open Your Eyes: Jaume Plensa's "Behind the Walls" finds a new home at UMMA

VISUAL ART

Jaume Plensa, Behind the Walls

About a month agoShang, the giant metal sculpture by Mark di Suvero, was removed from the entrance area of the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). It was deinstalled after a 12-year run at UMMA because a private collector bought the on-loan sculpture.

But collectors also giveth, not just taketh away, and J. Ira and Nicki Harris have giventh a sculptureth to UMMAeth to replaceeth Shang.

Behind the Walls, a 25-foot-tall sculpture made of polyester resin and marble dust by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, will now greet visitors at UMMA's entrance. 

University Productions announces 2020 virtual season of theater for December

THEATER & DANCE

During the pandemic, music has found its way: making songs in home studios, livestreams, and even socially distanced concerts have been a regular part of the past eight months.

Visual arts have also slowly come back in the form of virtual gallery shows, outdoor murals, and some staggered, limited-capacity crowds entering museums.

But theater, with its heavy reliance on casts and crew working in close proximity, has really struggled since Covid ravaged the world.

Locally, Ann Arbor's Theatre NOVA and Ypsilanti’s Neighborhood Theatre Group did Zoom theater festivals in October, and Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and Dexter Community Players did two days of outdoor performances of original Halloween-themed plays on October 30 and 31 at Dominos' Petting Farm.

But the move to indoor productions on a slightly larger scale is about to swing back into action thanks to University Productions' virtual season, which will run in December on U-M's School of Music, Theatre, and Dance YouTube site and one premiere on SMTD's Facebook page.

All the performances will be available to view online for free, albeit for a limited time, and the six shows will feature four from Departments of Musical Theatre and Theatre & Drama and two from the University Opera Theatre. The season was filmed throughout this semester with numerous safety protocols in place. 

With most University of Michigan students being asked to stay home for the winter semester, this might be our last chance for a while to take in some quality theater from the SMTD crews.

Here's the lineup with descriptive text provided by University Productions:

Friday Five: Louis Picasso & The Gallery, Sean Curtis Patrick, Doogatron, Cautious Hearts, Junk Magic

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five, November 6, 2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week we feature live hip-hop with a full band from Louis Picasso & The Gallery, ambient guitar excursions from Sean Curtis Patrick, leftfield techno from Doogatron, indie rock from Cautious Hearts, and experimental jazztronica from Junk Magic.