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UMS Announcing In-Person And Digital 2021-22 Season

Jessica Griffin

After a year of no in-person performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Michigan Musical Society, known as UMS, is announcing its next season, which will include some live events.

WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with UMS president Matthew VanBesien about what is being offered for the 2021-22 UMS season.

Matthew VanBesien
Credit Peter Smith
UMS President Matthew VanBesien

The 2021-22 UMS season will include a variety of in-person performances, as well as digital content, according to its president, Matthew VanBesien. The season will include a number of new “commissioned” performances, and the UMS president says the live performances will begin later than they usually do in a typical season.

The first in-person event will be the Big Band Holidays with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestraon Sunday, November 28 in Hill Auditorium. VanBesien says they are taking many precautions to make sure people attending in person events are protected and comfortable.

The upcoming UMS season will include the rescheduling of several events that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

Tickets will go on sale Monday, May 17th.


Acclaimed Arts Presenter’s 143rd Lineup Includes:

Season-Long Focus on Artists from the Arab World and Its Diaspora

Live and Virtual Programs by Tarek Yamani, National Arab Orchestra,

Kabareh Cheikhats, Ali Chahrour, and more

Five Programs Featuring New Commissions

Including new works by Clarice Assad, Bryce Dessner, Kyle Abraham,

Tarek Yamani, Jessie Montgomery, and Joyce DiDonato

New Creative Partnership with the Philadelphia Orchestra

Includes Two Concerts in Hill Auditorium and Educational Residency,

Plus Musical Theatre in Concert

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower in a New Opera by Toshi Reagon

Return of Many Events Canceled Due to Pandemic

A MoodSwing Reunion, HOME, Benjamin Grosvenor, Imani Winds & Catalyst Quartet,

Ballet Folklórico de México, Caleb Teicher, and more

Plus Free Digital Programming

Ongoing Virtual Performances & Other Programming Offered Throughout the Year

ANN ARBOR, MI (May 13, 2021) – With more than a year since its last live, in-person concert, the University Musical Society (UMS) announces its 143rd season, which will run from November 2021 through April 2022. Due to the pandemic, the season will be somewhat smaller than usual, with the programming concentrated in a five-month period. UMS will also continue its commitment to digital programming — including concerts and educational events — throughout the year, all of which will again be offered at no charge (due to a shorter planning horizon, digital events will be announced throughout the season). The season will be presented with health and safety for audiences and artists as the top priority, with audiences asked to be active participants in the measures that will help make live performance a reality once again. Additionally, UMS will continue to offer flexible ticket refund and exchange policies. A full list of performances is included at the end of this release.

In addition to presenting world-class performances, UMS will offer unique and engaging ways for audiences to connect with the artists on stage through a robust offering of education and community engagement activities, which will be announced in the fall.

“Of the many things we’ve learned and come to understand in this past year, one is that in times of crisis, the arts remain vital to our existence as human beings, ” says UMS president Matthew VanBesien. “They are a constant in our lives and create joy and hope, even in times of despair, injustice, and loss. And while none of us ever imagined that we’d be looking forward to our 143rd season in the same way that we might celebrate a milestone anniversary, we are all looking forward to returning, to restarting, to reconnecting, and to rejoicing with our audiences and artists once again.”

Programming from the Arab World and Its Diaspora

The 2021-22 season will feature some events that were scheduled and then canceled during the pandemic (some dating back to March 2020), including 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), the National Arab Orchestra with singer Abeer Nehme, and a celebratory evening of performances, Sahra, by violinist/composer Mike Khoury, choreographer Leyya Tawil, vocalist/producer/DJ Tammy Lakkis, and the Moroccan performance group Kabareh Cheikhats.

Additionally, Tarek Yamani will conclude his 2020-21 Digital Artist Residency with UMS on Wednesday, October 27 with the digital world premiere of a new work for string quartet, written for and performed by the Spektral Quartet, and co-commissioned by UMS and the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation. The concert will explore the junctures between Western Classical, jazz, and traditional Arab music and will also include three pieces Yamani composed for string quartet and keyboards. Tarek Yamani’s UMS debut on March 13, 2020 was the first UMS performance canceled due to COVID.

New Commissions

In addition to the Tarek Yamani world premiere, the 21-22 season features four events with UMS


  • On Friday, December 3 in Rackham Auditorium, the Takács Quartet and accordion player Julien Labro will perform two new works written specifically for them, one by Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad and one by The National founder Bryce Dessner.
  • Choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham teams up with pioneering producer, composer, and EDM artist Jlin for a new dance piece that reimagines Mozart’s Requiem. Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth will be presented January 7-8 in the Power Center.
  • Jessie Montgomery’s new piece, Sergeant McCauley, will be performed by the Imani Winds and the Catalyst Quartet on Saturday, January 29 in Rackham Auditorium.
  • Another UMS Digital Residency Artist from the 2020-21 season, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato brings her new work, EDEN, to Hill Auditorium on Thursday, April 14. EDEN explores the majesty, might, and mystery of Nature through both arresting and evocative music and theatrical effects.
  • In addition to these UMS Co-Commissions, the Sphinx Symphony will present a new work by Carlos Simon that was commissioned by Sphinx when it launches its 25th Anniversary with its first national tour, beginning in Hill Auditorium on Sunday, January 30.

Philadelphia Orchestra Creative Partnership

UMS has also announced a new, multi-facted creative partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra,

reigniting and capitalizing on its long history with the ensemble, which served as the residency orchestra

for UMS’s storied May Festival for 49 years, from 1936-84. As part of the 21-22 season, UMS will present

The Philadelphia Orchestra in an orchestral residency next March, which will feature two live concerts in

Hill Auditorium, a digital concert, and a series of master classes and student engagement events with the

University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

On Friday, March 12, music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts a program featuring U-M alumna and principal tuba Carol Jantsch in Wynton Marsalis’s new Tuba Concerto, which will have its world premiere in December, and Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 1. On Saturday, March 13 principal guest conductor Nathalie Stutzmann leads the orchestra in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (with concertmaster David Kim as soloist), Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres), and Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9.

In addition to the live performances, bass-baritone Davóne Tines will perform a suite of arias by John Adams (“Shake the Heavens” from El Niño) and Anthony Davis (Malcolm’s Aria from X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X), as well as a work that he co-wrote with Igee Dieudonné in memory of Breonna Taylor, in a digital program released during the winter. Members of the orchestra will participate in a series of master classes and educational opportunities on Saturday during the day.

One month before the orchestral residency, the two organizations are collaborating on a new semi-staged theatrical concert performance of Fiddler on the Roof, featuring the world premiere live performances of John Williams’s Academy Award-winning 1971 adaptation of the beloved musical score by composer Jerry Bock. The production, which will feature both Broadway stars and students from the University of Michigan’s celebrated Department of Musical Theatre, will begin in Ann Arbor with the Grand Rapids Symphony (February 19-20, Hill Auditorium) and then transfer to The Philadelphia Orchestra’s subscription series at the Kimmel Center. A suite of contextual educational programs will be presented in conjunction with the performances.

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower

UMS is pleased to present Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon’s new work, Parable of the Sower,

a triumphant, mesmerizing work of rare power and beauty that illuminates deep insights on gender,

race, and the future of human civilization. The opera brings together over 30 original anthems drawn

from 300 years of Black music to recreate Butler’s Afrofuturist masterpiece live on stage, with an

ensemble of 20 singers and musicians (Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26 in the Power Center).

The “Return” of Performances Canceled Due to the Pandemic

Several of the events that were originally scheduled and canceled for the end of the 19-20 season and the entirety of the 20-21 season will be presented in 21-22, and more will follow in the coming seasons as tours are rescheduled. Next season’s program includes:

  • Big Band Holidays with Wynton Maralis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on Sunday, November 28 in Hill Auditorium — the first live event of the 21-22 season (rescheduled from December 2020)
  • Handel’s Messiah with the UMS Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 5 in Hill Auditorium
  • Imani Winds and Catalyst Quartet on Saturday, January 29 in Rackham Auditorium (rescheduled from January 2021)
  • Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández on Sunday, February 6 in Hill Auditorium (rescheduled from February 2021)
  • Night/Layl by Ali Chahrour on Saturday, February 12 in the Power Center (rescheduled from November 2020)
  • National Arab Orchestra with Abeer Nehme on Saturday, March 19 in Hill Auditorium (rescheduled from March 2021)
  • Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor on Sunday, March 27 (rescheduled from April 2020)
  • Caleb Teicher’s Swing Out!, a program of swing dance on Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2 (rescheduled from February 2021)
  • Sahra, featuring Tawil and Khoury’s Zombie Frequencies of the Palestinian Diaspora, Tammy Lakkis, and Kabareh Cheikhats on Saturday, April 9 at Spot Lite in Detroit (rescheduled from April 2021)
  • A MoodSwing Reunion with Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade on Thursday, April 21 in Hill Auditorium (rescheduled from October 2020)
  • HOME, a theater piece by master illusionist Geoff Sobelle that explores the many forces that make a house a home on Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 in the Power Center (rescheduled from April 2020)
  • Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason in recital with his sister Isata Kanneh-Mason on Tuesday, April 26 in Rackham Auditorium (Sheku Kanneh-Mason had two performances canceled during the pandemic: an appearance with the Chineke! Orchestra in April 2020 and a second appearance with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in October 2020.)

Digital Programming

During the 2020-21 season, UMS’s free digital programs included performances by the Paul Taylor Dance Group, the Takács Quartet, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Trevor Noah, Cloud Gate Dance, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Messiah Mixtape, Some Old Black Man starring Wendell Pierce and Charlie Robinson, the Sphinx Virtuosi, violinist James Ehnes, the National Arab Orchestra, and Sir András Schiff. These programs reached over 75,000 people in 65 countries across six continents.

UMS has made a commitment to continue these digital programs, bringing the arts to those who may

not be ready or able to return to live performances or whose geographic boundaries may prohibit

in-person attendance. Additional programs and details will be announced but will include:

  • JAM3A, a virtual music and arts festival celebrating Arab talent, community, and identity, presented by the Arab American National Museum (September 23-26)
  • Tarek Yamani and the Spektral Quartet (world premiere Wednesday, October 27)
  • Cleo Parker Robinson’s UMS Digital Artist Residency project, a documentary film about the creative process behind The Four Journeys, created by Amalia Viviana Basanta Hernández for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (dates TBA).
  • Unmasking the Arts: Looking to the Future, a series of conversations between multidisciplinary artist Helga Davis and prominent artistic voices, including Anthony McGill, Wu Han, Yuval Sharon, and Rhiannon Giddens, about the intersection between the arts and contemporary issues in the post-pandemic world, including the role of the arts in the context of social justice, how politics play into evolving cultural values, and more (dates TBA).
  • Davóne Tines and The Philadelphia Orchestra in a suite of arias and poetry on themes of social justice (dates TBA).
  • Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (dates TBA)

Ticketing Information & Health/Safety Protocols for 21-22

Season Tickets will go on sale on Monday, May 17. Season Ticket packages include Series:You, which offers a 10% discount and access to the best seats in the house, along with all other subscriber benefits when purchasing 4 or more events. The Marathon Series includes every event in the season, with a 25% discount.

Tickets to individual events will go on sale to the general public online, in person, and by phone on Tuesday, September 7. To be added to the mailing list, please contact the UMS Ticket Office at 734.764.2538 or visit ums.org. UMS also has an e-mail list that provides up-to-date information about all UMS events; sign-up information is available on the website.

Health and safety protocols will be developed in consultation with public health officials at the University of Michigan, with additional guidance from the State of Michigan. While protocols may change as we get closer to live events, all audience members will be expected to do their part to create a safe environment for everyone. Policies will match public health guidelines at the time of each event and may include wearing a face mask at all times in all venues, including during performances; respecting social distancing protocols in place; and following all health and safety protocols of the venues, regardless of vaccination status. UMS will offer Flexible exchange and refund policies (to encourage those who are not feeling well to stay home) and will ensure Enhanced air filtration systems in all venues, as well as cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, as well as enforcement of current health and safety protocols. The latest information will be posted at ums.org/safety and will be updated regularly as conditions change.

About UMS

A recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Arts, UMS (also known as the University Musical Society) contributes to a vibrant cultural community by connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. One of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, UMS is an independent non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Michigan, presenting over 70 music, theater, and dance performances by professional touring artists each season, along with over 100 free educational activities. UMS is committed to bold artistic leadership, engaged learning through the arts, and access and inclusiveness. Since 1990, the organization has co-commissioned and supported the production of nearly 80 new or reimagined works. Matthew VanBesien became the organization’s seventh president in July 2017.

Media Contact

Sara Billmann

Vice President, Marketing & Communications

734.262.1996 (cell) / sarabill@umich.edu


Digital Programs to be announced


  • Big Band Holidays Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Sun Nov 28 // 6 pm Hill Auditorium


  • UMS Co-Commission Takács Quartet with Julien Labro, accordions Fri Dec 3 // 8 pm Rackham Auditorium Program to include new works by Bryce Dessner and Claudia Assad, Ravel’s String Quartet, and a soloset with Julien Labro
  • Handel’s Messiah UMS Choral Union Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Scott Hanoian, conductor Sat Dec 4 // 7:30 pm Sun Dec 5 // 2 pm Hill Auditorium


  • UMS Co-Commission A.I.M.: Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth A new work by Kyle Abraham and Jlin Fri Jan 7 // 8 pm Sat Jan 8 // 8 pm Power Center
  • UMS Co-Commission Imani Winds and The Catalyst Quartet Sat Jan 29 // 8 pm Rackham Auditorium--(Program: (im)migration Mongo Santamaria Afro Blue (Imani) Heitor Villa-Lobos String Quartet No. 1 (Catalyst), Jessie Montgomery Sergeant McCauley (Imani + Catalyst) ,Roberto Sierra Concierto de Camára (Imani + Catalyst))
  • Sphinx Symphony Orchestra EXIGENCE (Eugene Rogers, music director) Tito Muñoz, conductor Janai Brugger, soprano Sun, Jan 30 // 4 pm Hill Auditorium (Program: Carlos Simon New Work (Sphinx Commission), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Ballade for Orchestra, Valerie Coleman Seven O'Clock Shout, Michael Abels Delights and Dances, Traditional (arr. by Augustus Hill) Fix Me, Jesus, Carlos Cordero Holding Our Breath, Joel Thompson Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, John Legend / Common “Glory” from Selma (arr. by Eugene Rogers))


  • Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández Amalia Viviana Basanta Hernández, artistic director Sun Feb 6 // 4 pm Hill Auditorium
  • Night • Layl A Performance by Ali Chahrour Sat Feb 12 // 8 pm Power Center
  • Fiddler on the Roof Book by Joseph Stein Music by Jerry Bock Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick With Orchestral Arrangements by John Williams Original NY stage production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins Originally produced on the New York stage by Harold Prince Based on Sholem Aleichem stories by special permission of Arthur Perl Grand Rapids Symphony Andy Einhorn, music director and conductor Matthew Ozawa, director Sat Feb 19 // 8 pm Sun Feb 20 // 4 pm Hill Auditorium


  • The Philadelphia Orchestra Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor and music director Nathalie Stutzmann, principal guest conductor Carol Jantsch, tuba David Kim, violin Davóne Tines, baritone (digital concert only) Fri Mar 11 // 8 pm Sat Mar 12 // 8 pm Hill Auditorium (Program Fri 3/11, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin), Wynton Marsalis Tuba Concerto, Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 1 in c minor, Op. 68) (Program Sat 3/12, conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann) Missy Mazzoli Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) Max Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in g minor, Op. 26 Franz Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 (“The Great”)
  • National Arab Orchestra Michael Ibrahim, conductor and oud Abeer Nehme, vocals UMS Choral Union Sat Mar 19 Hill Auditorium
  • Parable of the Sower Creation, Music, and Lyrics by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon Directed by Eric Ting Based on the novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, by Octavia E. Butler Fri Mar 25 // 8 pm Sat Mar 26 // 8 pm Power Center
  • Benjamin Grosvenorpiano Sun, Mar 27 // 4 pm Hill Auditorium (Program: César Franck Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue Robert Schumann Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17 Isaac Albéniz Iberia (Book 1) Maurice Ravel Jeux d’eau La valse


  • Swing Out Caleb Teicher, choreographer with Lindy Hop champions Evita Arce, LaTasha Barnes, and Nathan Bugh Eyal Vilner’s Big Band Fri Apr 1 // 8 pm Sat Apr 2 // 8 pm Power Center
  • Sahra: An Evening of Performance Tawil & Khoury: Zombie Frequencies of the Palestinian Diaspora Tammy Lakkis Kabareh Cheikhats Sat Apr 9 // 8 pm Spot Lite (2905 Beaufait Street, Detroit)
  • UMS Co-Commission EDEN Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano Il Pomo d’Oro Maxim Emelyanychev, conductor Marie Lambert, director Thu Apr 14 // 7:30 pm Hill Auditorium
  • Redman / Mehldau / McBride / Blade A MoodSwing Reunion Thu Apr 21 // 7:30 pm Hill Auditorium
  • HOME Created by Geoff Sobelle Scenic design by Steven Dufala Directed by Lee Sunday Evans Fri Apr 22 // 8 pm Sat Apr 23 // 8 pm Power Center
  • Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello, Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano Tue Apr 26 // 7:30 pm Rackham Auditorium (Program: Karen Khachaturian Cello Sonata Dmitri Shostakovich Sonata in d minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 40 Frank Bridge Sonata for Cello and Piano in d minor, H. 125 Benjamin Britten Cello Sonata, Op. 65)

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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