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September 05, 1991 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-09-05

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Page 12-The Michigan Daily-Thursday, September 5, 1991
Classical, folk, jazz or rock, it's all right here

by Liz Patton
Ann Arbor is an astonishingly rich
cultural center for a city its size.
Lovers of classical music never lack
for entertainment. The presence of
the University of Michigan is a
large factor in this diversity, but the
town has its own unique diversions,
ranging from Shakey Jake's street-
corner monochordal improv, to hot
jazz at the Bird of Paradise, to the
delights of orchestral favorites
with the Ann Arbor Symphony.
Aficionados of folk music
frequent the Ark, while the Blind
Pig presents rock bands. The
Michigan Theater provides uncon-
ventional concert programs like
Peter Schickele's P.D.Q. Bach.
During the school year, you will
find that there is scarcely a day
which lacks performances of one
kind or another. At noon, you might
hear a carillon concert from Burton
Tower, then perhaps at 4 p.m. a
recital at the School of Music,
followed by a symphony orchestra
with a world-famous guest soloist
at Hill auditorium. For still more,
stop by the Earle for coffee
accompanied by soothing jazz.
The University Musical Society
is responsible for many of the major
events on campus. The UMS is the
oldest university-affiliated concert
presenter in the country, and is now
preparing to celebrate its 113th sea-
son. The society has traditionally
presented music and dance, with
orchestras, soloists, chamber
groups, and artists from world cul-
tures. In addition, explains director
Ken Fischer, the UMS itself pro-
duces the May Festival and other
special attractions each year. It is
also involved in a variety of joint
productions, such as "Desert Island
Discs" on Michigan Radio, or with
visiting scholar/ performers at the
Institute for the Humanities such as
Charles Rosen. Such joint produc-
tions work out very well. The
result is a marriage of interests,
resources, and talent.
The goal of the UMS, says
Fischer, is "to bring to Ann Arbor
the finest artists in the world."
Performances are made available to
as many people as possible. If con-
certs are not sold out, rush tickets
are sold to students the day of the
performance at half off the lowest

regular price.
The UMS is not subsidized by
student activities fees, so it just
takes the loss. Unfortunately, this
is becoming harder to do within
tight budget constraints. Govern-
ment support is drying up, and large
corporations, traditionally support-
ers of the arts, are also less
forthcoming. Says Fischer, "Arts
organizations must learn to work
more creatively with corporate
sponsors." Last year, for example,
Ford arranged to support the UMS
benefit concert with a grant so that
students purchasing the cheapest
$25 tickets could sit on the main
floor instead of the balcony. In
return, Ford's financing plan for
first-time car buyers was handed out
with each student ticket. Thus Ford
was able to reach a potentially lu-
crative market at a lower cost, and
the UMS got the financial support
they needed.
Sometimes too, the private sec-
tor can come to the rescue. The UMS
is in the middle of a major renova-
tion of its offices in Burton Tower
as a result of the generosity of Joe
O'Neal of O'Neal Construction. A
graduate of the Michigan engineer-
ing school, O'Neal arranged for
nearly $100,000 worth of donated
materials and labor (some of the
workers are students who will earn
credit on the job, others are un-
deremployed construction work-
ers). The UMS must raise the same
amount the match the gift. Given
the current fiscal climate and
Governor Engler's lack of support
for the arts, there is a clear need for
more private support of this kind.
With help from all corners, big-
name visitors grace the stage of Hill
every year. Last season closed with
Jessye Norman appearing with
James Levine and the Metropolitan
Opera Orchestra in the opening con-
cert of their first-ever concert tour
outside New York. The UMS also
offers such diverse programs as
American Indian dance, the Japanese
drum group Kodo, and ballet. To
clarify the choices, and perhaps in
order to attract a large number of
subscribers, the UMS divides its of-
ferings into various series. The
Choral Union series offers the tra-
ditional major orchestras and
soloists, the Chamber Arts series
takes care of the smaller ensembles,

and so on.
Something new this year is the
Sampler Series, which allows pa-
trons to choose a smaller number of
concerts and still get a discount.
These series are designed to cater to
special interests, as pragmatic as
matinees for those who do not like
to go out at night, or concerts
scheduled earlier in the evening so
children can still get to bed at a rea-
sonable hour. Fischer emphasizes,

"We've worked harder than ever
before to put together a season that
will be artistically and financially
Fischer is eager for as many stu-
dents as possible to take advantage
of these concerts. "It's really a
unique opportunity. You won't find
another university that can bring so
many artists - orchestras and
soloists - in one year. These are
groups that would otherwise only

be heard in New York, Los Angeles,
or Washington. Where else can you
hear and see the greatest performing
artists in the world for ten bucks or
In addition to hosting famous
guests, the University also operates
several of its own student ensem-
bles, from string quartets to the
University Symphony Orchestra.
The Campus Orchestra, directed by a
top conducting student, provides

performance opportunities for non-
music majors. The University Band
also gives performances when they
are not busy at a football game.
Glee clubs like the Friars
provide a study-break concert at the
end of the semester. For those who
love wacky musicals, the Gilbert
and Sullivan Society gives a
delightful show each fall and
winter term. Ann Arbor has its own
See MUSIC, Page 14

The intimate Ark hosts a variety of music

by Josh Mitnick
it would have been very easy to
attend four years of school in Ann
Arbor and miss the Ark. Ann
Arbor's small club scene quickly
becomes familiar.
It took Wynton Marsalis to
jolt me from this normalcy and
get me down there. Wynton
Marsalis is playing three shows
this Friday in Ann Arbor at the
How do I get tickets? What is
the Ark?!?
The night of the show, I found
myself comfortably seated in a
second-row lounge seat - only a
few feet away from the young
Grammy award-winning jazz
trumpeter as he called on the mu-
sical legends of Thelonius Monk
and Duke Ellington. Within the
Ark's intimate atmosphere, the
capacity crowd of 300 people
were treated to a once-in-a life-
time musical performance.
But for the Ark, Marsalis was
no more than yet another great
acoustic performer who has
graced the coffee house's famous
room - a room with a musical
history that dwarfs any other
club in Ann Arbor.
To be more precise, in it's 25-
year history, the Ark's stage has
hosted over 1,700 folk and acous-
tic performers. Sitting amidst the
hundreds of records, CDs and
tapes lining the walls of the
Ark's basement office located in
his house, director Dave Siglin ca-
sually mentions the Ark's world
renown - that people call from
Europe and Australia wanting to
play the famous room.
The Marsalis septet played the

Ark last March at his agent's urg-
ing. To accommodate the Ark and
Ann Arborites, Marsalis lowered
his performance fees and ticket
prices for the one-night engage-
"It's not us, it's the Ark. It's
the room. Musicians like to play
places where the audience comes
to listen," Siglin says.
Siglin tells stories in which,
after a night's performance at an-
other club, musicians would come

to the Ark to sit in with the acts.
"People would drive hundred
miles to play, because they
wanted to play with people. It
was like an open mike for the
pros," he explains.'
Assistant manager Karen
Hertenstein agrees: "People play
the Ark for love."
Most people steeped in Ark
history chuckle about it today,
but the origins of the country's
oldest continuously running cof-

fee house is found in religion. In
1965, at the height of the folk
music boom, Ann Arbor's First
Presbyterian church decided
against razing an old three-story
Victorian mansion it owned on
1421 Hill. Instead, they turned it
into a church-supervised coffee
house as a vehicle to reach "dis-
affected students." Hence the bib-
lical allusion.
"It wasn't very religious,"
See ARK, Page 14


The Uppity Blues Women play their unique songs at the Ark, the ultimate concert venue in Ann Arbor. The
- stage is little more than a short riser, and the benches and comfortable chairs surround the "stage" on three
sides. You can even sit down in front on the floor right in front of the perfomer, something rare in today's
concert experiences. Note the happy faces on the left.




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