UMS Announces 2020-21 Season

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UMS Announces 2020-21 Season

The University Musical Society (UMS) announces its 142nd season, which runs from September 2020 through April 2021. A long-standing, innovative leader in the performing arts presenting world and a 2014 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, UMS unlocks the transformative power of music, theater, and dance with a season designed to entertain, stretch the imagination, and introduce audiences to new ideas. In addition to presenting world-class performances, UMS is also committed to creating unique and engaging ways for audiences to connect with the artists on stage through a robust offering of education and community engagement activities.

"UMS has served as a present and positive force within our community throughout its 142-year history, providing purpose, perspective, and a sense of possibility and aspiration for all of us in trying times," says UMS president Matthew VanBesien. "As we emerge from this particularly challenging time, we're eager to continue our work convening people for the shared purpose of experiencing the beauty of performance and human expression."

Throughout the 2020-21 season, UMS is pleased to continue a focus on artists, institutions, and ensembles from the Arab World and its diaspora. Artistic projects in this realm will explore the depth, complexity, and diversity of perspectives among Arab and Arab-American artists and communities. The events will serve as a platform for community building and cultural exchange. The season's Arab World focus features Lebanese choreographer and theater maker Ali Chahrour's Layl (Night), Farida Mohammad Ali with the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble, the National Arab Orchestra with singer Abeer Nehme, and a celebratory evening of performances by violinist/composer Mike Khoury, choreographer Leyya Tawil, vocalist/producer/DJ Tammy Lakkis, and the Moroccan performance group Kabareh Cheikhats.

In November, UMS proudly welcomes the next chapter of the Berlin Philharmonic's magnificent legacy with the Ann Arbor debut of the orchestra's new chief conductor Kirill Petrenko. As part of the orchestra's only university residency on a limited US tour, Petrenko will lead two performances on Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14 at 8 pm. The Friday evening program features Webern's Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 1; Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 1 in c minor, Op. 11; and Brahms's Symphony No. 4 in e minor, Op. 98. On Saturday, the orchestra performs a program that pairs American works with tone poems of Richard Strauss, including Ives's Central Park in the Dark, Andrew Norman's Unstuck, and Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks and Ein Heldenleben. In addition to the performances, the residency will include opportunities for the public to attend panel discussions, workshops, and master classes.

The season also includes a collaboration with the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance and College of Literature, Science & the Arts in which UMS will produce and present a new theatrical concert production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific. The project will interrogate the beloved masterpiece through a contemporary lens, reconsidering long-held assumptions about race, gender, and American dominance that are at the heart of this shockingly contemporary classic of the American Musical Theater. Mary Birmbaum directs the debut performances on Saturday, February 20 and Sunday February 21, which will feature a cast of Broadway stars (to be announced), U-M Musical Theatre students, and the Grand Rapids Symphony, led by the project's music director Andy Einhorn. After the UMS performances, the production tours to Grand Rapids and will then be presented on The Philadelphia Orchestra's subscription series.

The UMS season kicks off in September with a season-opening weekend of high-profile performances: Paul Taylor Dance Company in two different programs on Friday and Saturday, September 11 and 12 at the Power Center and a recital performance by the beloved violinist Itzhak Perlman on Sunday, September 13 at Hill Auditorium, marking the 50th anniversary since his UMS debut.

Paul Taylor helped shape and define American modern dance from the earliest days of his career as a choreographer in 1954 until his death in 2018. An alumnus of the Martha Graham company, Taylor uniquely bridged the legendary founders of modern dance and the dance makers of the 21st century, creating 147 different works that covered an unprecedented range. These two performances feature Taylor's choreography as part of an international celebration of his legacy and vision for the future of modern dance.

Itzhak Perlman opens the UMS Choral Union Series with his twelfth UMS appearance since his 1970 UMS debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra. He will perform a recital program with pianist and longtime collaborator Rohan De Silva, just weeks after he celebrates his 75th birthday.


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