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Making music for Mott: U-M Life Sciences Orchestra plays a dance-inspired concert for all ages Jan. 22

Salute to the new home of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital features 19-year-old violinist Jourdan Urbach

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - What do hippos in tutus, Chairman Mao, Superman, Gypsies, Russian royalty, elderly Mexicans and zombies have in common?

All of them will be dancing at a Jan. 22, 2012 concert by the University of Michigan Life Sciences Orchestra -- perhaps not literally, but certainly in the imaginations of the musicians and audience members.

The concert, which is free and open to all ages, will begin at 4 p.m. at U-M’s Hill Auditorium. It salutes the recent opening of a new home for U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and will feature 19-year-old violinist Jourdan Urbach, who has raised money for Mott and other children’s causes. Pat Warner, executive director of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, will give the opening remarks.

LSO music director Oriol Sans has chosen seven dance-inspired pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries, designed to conjure up images of dancing characters in the minds of young and old.

“Dances are a great way to discover and learn about music, the orchestra, and individual instruments,” says Sans, who will introduce each piece from the stage.

The program includes:

  • “The Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda by Amilcare Ponchielli, better known to Americans as the soundtrack for the dancing hippos in Disney’s classic animated movie Fantasia
  • The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra, from Nixon in China, a 1985 opera by John Adams about China’s Chairman Mao
  • Red Cape Tango by composer and U-M faculty member Michael Daugherty, the final movement of the Metropolis Symphony inspired by the story of Superman
  • Zigeunerweisen by Pablo de Sarasate, a piece for violin and orchestra based on tunes of the Romanian Gypsy people
  • The Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, a dance for a grand ball scene in an opera by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, based on the novel by Pushkin
  • Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez, an homage to the dance halls of Mexico
  • Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens, a spooky and rollicking depiction of skeletons dancing in a graveyard by moonlight

Sans will be assisted by LSO assistant conductor Chris Whittaker. Sans is a recent graduate of, and Whittaker is a student in, the noted orchestral conducting program at the U-M School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

Before the concert, and at intermission, children will be able to try making music of their own at a “petting zoo” of string and percussion instruments, some loaned by Shar Music of Ann Arbor. The fun will begin at 3:15 p.m.; signs in the lobby area will direct young concertgoers to the right place.

The LSO is made up of medical and science faculty, staff, students and alumni from throughout U-M, and is in its 12th year of blending science and music. Urbach, who is originally from New York and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for children’s causes through benefit concerts throughout his teen years, last played with the LSO in 2007 when the fundraising effort to build the new hospital was still under way.

For more information on the concert or the LSO, visit www.umich.edu/~lsorch or www.facebook.com/umlso, send e-mail to orchestra@umich.edu, or call (734) 936-ARTS.

The LSO is part of the Gifts of Art program, which brings the world of art and music to the U-M Health System. The orchestra is made up of members of U-M’s medical, health and life science community, and gives members an outlet for their musical talents and a chance to interact with one another across academic disciplines and professions. Founded by students and staff from the U-M Health System, the orchestra made its concert debut in January 2001.

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