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Chamber Choir and Percussion Ensemble perform world premiere of "Mass Observation"


The University of Michigan Chamber Choir, the premier choral ensemble of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), will perform the world premiere of a new work for choir and percussion by internationally acclaimed composer Tarik O'Regan. The concert, which also features the U-M Percussion Ensemble, takes place at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, February 15 at 8 pm, with free admission (no tickets required).


The concert will be led by Professor Jerry Blackstone, chair of the Department of Conducting, and director of choral activities at SMTD. and Professor Jonathan Ovalle (percussion) is director of the Percussion Ensemble that performs with the choir.

Titled Mass Observation, the 45-minute work was commissioned with support from the William K. and Delores S. Brehm Choral Commissioning Fund and the Barbara Abramoff Levy Fund.

The work takes its title from the British social research organization, Mass-Observation, founded in 1937 to record everyday life in the United Kingdom. In the era before cellular phones made it possible to record and document every moment of life, Mass-Observation controversially paid investigators to anonymously record people's conversation and behavior at work, on the street and at various public occasions including public meetings, sporting, and religious events. 

O'Regan said he was also inspired to write the work after learning that there are more aerial surveillance drone technicians being trained today than there are airplane pilots. He describes Mass Observation as "a meditation on the histories of our varied ambivalent relationships with surveillance in its myriad guises."

"The use of technologies that sate our desires to be watched and heard (safety, tracking, empowerment, and pride) has, in some sense, always been able to be weighed against our anxieties around invasions of privacy (physical and psychological harm, hacking, subjugation, and embarrassment)," wrote Tarik in the program note for Mass Observation.

The 45-minute composition is scored for chorus and percussion sextet and features 13 short movements. "There is a ritualistic nature to the overall pacing of the work, reminiscent of a liturgical mass setting," according to Tarik.

Born in England but now residing in New York City, Tarik O'Regan has written music for a wide variety of ensembles and organizations including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Royal Opera House, London. He is currently working on a full-scale opera about the life of Lorenzo Da Ponte commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for 2019. His work has been recognized with two GRAMMY® nominations and two British Composer Awards.

past news

September 2017
March 2014

U-M UpstART Festival Begins 03/31/2014

Students Present "Wall-to-Wall Theatre Festival" 03/27/2014

First-Ever SMTD Chamber Music Competition Launches April 5 03/27/2014

Doctoral Fellow Named MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year 03/26/2014

Theatre Student Lands Major TV Role 03/25/2014

Elizabeth Batiuk (ethnomusicology) has been chosen as a fellow at the Sweetland/Rackham Dissertation Writing Institute for spring 2014 and James McNally (ethnomusicology) received a summer and academic year FLAS for the study of Portuguese.    03/17/2014

Musicology graduate student Elizabeth McLain has been awarded a prestigious Lurcy Fellowship for research in France during the 2014-2015 academic year.   03/14/2014

December 2013

SMTD students Zoe Kumagai, Stephanie Aboukasm, and Adam DesJardins are among students profiled in an LSA article about the "Michigan in Washington" program, in which students intern at various Washington, DC organizations and businesses, including the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center, and the Washington Performing Arts Society.    12/10/2013

October 2013
August 2013

Evan Zegiel, a sophomore who studies with Fritz Kaenzig, was the First Place winner in the Tuba Student division of the 2013 Leonard Falcone International Euphonium & Tuba Festival.     08/21/2013

July 2013

Professor Ashley Lucas and three Theatre & Drama students are engaged in an intensive exchange program with UniRio in Rio de Janiero, Brazil this summer, where they are blogging about their experiences in UniRio's prison arts program and more.   07/12/2013

November 2011
August 2011
June 2011
Tarik O'Regan (photo by Peter Greig)
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2018 SMTD Concerto Competition Winners Announcedmore

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower