A Field Guild to Hannah Burr: The Ann Arbor artist creates abstract works that conjure contemplation

VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Left image: Unfolding artwork by Hannah Burr. Right image: Hannah Burr in her studio.

Left image: Unfolding artwork by Hannah Burr. Right image: Hannah Burr in her studio; photo by Abby Rose.

Hannah Burr's art seeks to foster connections, not only between the viewer and the work but also between the viewer and the universe. The Ann Arbor artist works in everything from painting and drawing to sculpture and books, but no matter the medium, Burr's art acts as a prompt for observers to consider how they relate to the world around them and beyond.

Burr's dedication to contemplative matters is perhaps best shown in her series of books, such as Contemporary Prayers to * [whatever works] and Elements: a love letter to all things everywhere, which marry aphorisms or scientific facts with abstract paintings and ask readers to observer how they feel when taking in the words, colors, and shapes on the page. Her forthcoming book, Field Guide to Ambiguity, is currently in its Kickstarter phase, and like Elements, is coming out via Fifth Avenue Press, the Ann Arbor District Library's publishing imprint. This follows a 2021 expanded and completely reworked version of Contemporary Prayers, which was published by Simon & Schuster.

Burr is one of more than 80 artists who will display her works at the West Side Art Hop, held annually in Ann Arbor's historic Old West Side. This year's Art Hop runs June 10 and 11; a map of the home/garage/yard venues can be found here, but Burr will be at 701 5th Street.

I caught up with Burr ahead of the West Side Art Hop as she preps Field Guide to Ambiguity and other projects, many of which she documents in her well-maintained blog, Good Bonfire.

Fruitful Experiment: Chris Bathgate explores thematic writing on his new album, “The Significance of Peaches” 

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Chris Bathgate photo by Misty Lynn Bergeron

Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Chris Bathgate uses the pump organ as the sonic centerpiece on The Significance of Peaches. Photo by Misty Lyn Bergeron.

This story originally ran on June 2, 2022. We're featuring it again because Chris Bathgate plays AADL's Downtown Library on May 26.

Chris Bathgate sees his first album in five years, The Significance of Peaches as "an experiment in thematic writing and recording with limitations … the significance of peaches is not necessarily the thread or some keystone idea. It is like a loose fishing net that I can cast into my life and see what I harvest."

Throughout The Significance of Peaches, released on Ann Arbor's Quite Scientific Records, Bathgate searches for a holistic sense of self while fostering a spiritual connection to the outside world using pithy lyrics and nature-rich imagery set atop a pump-organ-drenched landscape.

“The peach thing is from my total adoration for the stone fruit itself as the corporeal experience of physically eating a peach," said the Ann Arbor indie-folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. "But I’m also interested in the peach as a metaphor throughout history. The thing I became most obsessed with was its use as a way to describe the ephemeral nature of life, time and joy, moments, and carpe diem.

Nurturing Nature: Out Loud Chorus's latest concert is a family-friendly collection of songs about the Earth and elements

MUSIC PREVIEW

Out Loud board member Tim Hamann (left); graphic for the Let's Talk About Nature concert (bottom right); and director Saleel Menon (top right).

Out Loud board member Tim Hamann (left); graphic for the Let's Talk About Nature concert (bottom right); and director Saleel Menon (top right). Images courtesy of Out Loud Chorus.

"Inclusion" is a key word for the Out Loud Chorus.

“We’re definitely geared toward being a non-audition chorus where anyone, regardless of ability, can sing,” says Out Loud board member Tim Hamann. “I’ve watched people who joined the choir really struggle, and then two years later sing a solo. That flowering is really wonderful, and we are a safe space where it is OK for them to be who they are.”

But Hamann uses another word to describe the two concerts the Out Loud Chorus will perform on May 19 and 20 at the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre.

“The first word that comes to mind is that it will be ‘fun,’” Hamann says. 

The family-friendly program is titled "Let’s Talk About Nature" and will mix music and storytelling. Saleel Menon directs the show, and the choir will be joined by instrumentalists Casey Baker (piano), CJ Jacobsen (bass), and Tamara Perkuhn (drums).

“It’s going to be like a children’s educational show about nature,” Hamann says, “so ‘the teacher' will walk the audience through the performance, and we have different segments: ‘The Circle Of Life,’ ‘The Water Cycle,’ and ‘The Spheres.’” 

Some of the songs include The Muppet Movie classic "Rainbow Connection," the Ashford-and-Simpson-penned "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"—a hit for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell as well as Diana Ross—and The Weather Girls' smash "It's Raining Men," among other many other nature-themed tunes.

But this isn't a standard chorus concert; there are costumes, stagings, and visual presentations that accompany the singing.

Sounds Around Town: Third Place [MusicFest] spreads experimental music in venues across Ann Arbor

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

2023 Third Place [MusicFest] logo

Third Place [MusicFest] is named after a behavioral science term, but you don't need a Ph.D. in sociology to understand where the organizers are coming from.

"Each show on the festival is hosted in what is called a ‘third place,’ which is a sociological term. A ‘first place’ is your home, a ‘second place’ is your work, and a ‘third place’ is a neutral, community-centered environment," says saxophonist and improviser Kaleigh Wilder, one of Third Place’s directors. “The festival is open and welcome to anyone. It's a really unique slice of our creative community here; no other festival programs this eclectic mix of local artists.”

The festival’s programming features a range of jazz, contemporary classical, free improvisation, ambient, indie folk, and singer-songwriters, all presented in nontraditional spaces. This year's Third Place [MusicFest] will bring live performances to nine Ann Arbor locations from Wednesday, May 17 to Saturday, May 20. 

The 2023 festival features performances at TeaHaus, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Ann Arbor Farmers Market, Cahoots Cafe, Bløm MeadworksLiberty Plaza, Argus Farm Stop, and Canterbury House. Kerrytown Concert House is the only full-time music venue in the festival because, Wilder says, “They have a really great room and a really beautiful piano.”

The lineup includes:

Chasing Lights: Ann Arbor's Melissa Kaelin knows the secrets to seeing the aurora borealis right here in Michigan

PULP LIFE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

On the left is the book cover of Below the 45th Parallel featuring a shot of the aurora borealis; on the right is author Melissa Kaelin

You don't need to go to Tromsø, Norway to see the aurora borealis—even though the town, more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is considered one of the best spots to view the natural phenomenon.

You don't even need to drive your car to the upper parts of Canada to see the northern lights, which occur when energized sun particles smash into the Earth's outer atmosphere and are redirected by the magnetic field toward the planet's poles. (Southern lights exist, too.)

Melissa Kaelin—founder of the Facebook group Michigan Aurora Chasers, co-founder of the International Aurora Summit, and author of Below the 45th Parallel: The Beginner's Guide to Chasing the Aurora in the Great Lakes Region—will tell you how to witness this beautiful sight here in Michigan when she appears at the Ann Arbor District Library's Westgate Branch on Thursday, May 11, 6:30-7:30 pm, for a chat.

Sites and Sound: The Regenerate! Orchestra aims to fill the Ypsilanti Freighthouse with community-made music

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A black and white photo of J. Clay Gonzalez standing on top of a mountain with a river down below.

J. Clay Gonzalez's The Regenerate! Orchestra encourages music-making, no matter your skill level. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The Ypsilanti Freighthouse was built in 1878 to host train-bound goods.

On April 26, it will host 85 musicians in The Regenerate! Orchestra for a performance that's part of UMS’s new concert and event series at the venue.

The ensemble will perform four or five works created by J. Clay Gonzalez, a composer who leads the orchestra. All of the music is improvisational to a degree and arranged specifically for the unique ensemble of 85 musicians, nonmusicians, and children that Regenerate! assembled for this event.

To accommodate the personnel's varied skill sets, and to achieve the freely structured sound that typifies Regenerate! Orchestra's aesthetic goals, Gonzalez prepares intricate sets of guidelines and instructions for each performer. These range from traditional music notation to text and images demonstrating how someone may make noise with a piece of paper, egg shaker, or found object. Flutists Michael Avitabile and Justine Sedkey, both University of Michigan alumni, will also appear as soloists for a new concerto-like composition.

All of the pieces in this concert were created specifically with the Freighthouse in mind.

“We will present a large number of musicians spread out in the 360-degree field and they will create these wild soundscapes that a lot of people will find immersive," Gonzalez says. “During the big piece, the audience will be invited to move throughout the space."

Take a Leap: Fifth Wall's new abstract chamber-rock opera "The Precipice" debuts at Riverside Arts in Ypsilanti

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Grey Rose Grant and Karl Ronneburg rehearse their original abstract rock-opera The Precipice.

Grey Rose Grant and Karl Ronneburg rehearse their original abstract rock-opera The Precipice. Photo courtesy of Fifth Wall Performing Arts.

Our lives are not static.

We go through changes, we ask questions.

What does leaving home involve? What's it like to move on from relationships? What does any life change entail?

Fifth Wall Performing Arts, a multidisciplinary troupe that does experimental musical theater, tackles questions like these in Karl Ronneburg‘s The Precipice.

Karl, who uses only his first name professionally, created a collage, woven from journal entries, poems, letters to friends, music, and voice memos—his own and those of Grey Rose Grant—to create the abstract chamber-rock opera.

Audiences at Riverside Arts in Ypsilanti on April 29 and 30 will witness the world premiere of The Precipice before the company brings the piece to New York City. 

No Restrictions: Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti returns with a full slate

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW INTERVIEW

iFFY logo

When Martin Thoburn and Donald Harrison launched the Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti (iFFY) in 2020, they offered cinema fans socially distanced, drive-in-style screenings and a momentary reprieve from the pandemic, which had shuttered movie theaters across the country.

Three years later—and one year after finding a new home at the Riverside Arts Center—iFFY is solidifying its spot on the local film scene with an ambitious scope and schedule, running April 19-23. 

"There's also double the amount of programming. An extra day-and-a-half," said Micah Vanderhoof, iFFY operations manager and a University of Michigan alum with a bachelor's degree in screen arts and cultures who previously worked as a programmer for the Portland International Film Festival.

"Michigan-ish," a competitive program of a dozen short films produced in and around the region, kicks off the fest on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 pm, followed by an after-party at Ziggy's featuring DJ sets and decorations by House of Jealous Lovers.   

Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 comic opera "Patience" skewers a popular art movement of the day—and the satire still stings

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Detail from the program cover for the Savoy Theatre's 1881 production of Patience

Detail from the program cover for the Savoy Theatre's 1881 production of Patience.

When Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta Patience opened on April 23, 1881, London’s Savoy Theatre had another hit from the popular duo. Patience had another witty and stinging libretto from W.S. Gilbert and a witty and lush score from Arthur Sullivan.

Gilbert and Sullivan once again tapped into the latest fad by lampooning the aesthetic movement of the 1880s and '90s. The art-for-arts-sake approach to the arts, including theater, was itself a critique of art with a message or political manifestos. Though the movement preceded Oscar Wilde, he is often cited as an example of the aesthetic approach.

Over time, Patience has not been performed as frequently as Gilbert and Sullivan’s other comic operas, HMS PinaforeThe Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado

Cameron Graham is directing the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society production of Patience, which runs April 13-16 at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater, and believes it has a lot to say about our own self-involved times as it did when it first wowed the London audiences.

Office Space: EMU’s “9 to 5: The Musical” Pays Homage to the Comedy Film and Celebrates Female Empowerment

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

Eastern Michigan University Theatre's show poster for 9 to 5: The Musical

EMU's production of 9 to 5: The Musical pays homage to the 1980 comedy film. Artwork courtesy of EMU's Department of Communication, Media & Theatre Arts.

The era of landline phones, typewriters, and carbon copies returns for Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Communication, Media & Theatre Arts production of 9 to 5: The Musical at the Legacy Theatre, March 31 to April 16.

The 9 to 5: The Musical made its Broadway debut in 2009. It’s based on the 1980 comedy film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman, where the three women, fed up with their terrible boss, plot to take him down.

“A lot of those iconic moments that are in the movie,” such as the women’s revenge fantasies and taking their boss hostage, “we’re making sure that we represent them in the show, sort of how people of a certain age might remember them,” said Ryan Lewis, the production’s musical director and an EMU Department of Communication, Media & Theatre Arts lecturer and musical theater accompanist.

“It’s the vibe and feel of the movie, and the script is really great at paying homage to that. A lot of the characters are expanded and developed more, and I feel like the script is fantastic at doing that. We get to understand their frustration a little bit more than you do in the movie.

“Our set designer Jeromy Hopgood is great with those period pieces and so much of it is in an office in the ‘70s. What does that look like? What does that feel like?

“But then the office has to have a change when the ladies start taking over and start making those big changes. They’re subtle, but they’re significant changes. What are those and how do we make it a brighter place? And a more friendly workplace?”

In 9 to 5: The Musical, Violet Newstand (Leah Saunders), Doralee Rhodes (Brookelyn Hannah), and Judy Bernly (Abby Siegel) struggle with being women in a male-dominated workplace at Consolidated Industries. Newstand can’t get promoted, Rhodes has been objectified, and Bernly has been jilted.