Ann Arbor's Pioneer reviving rare 19th, 20th century works on April 17

Performance will feature music of Indian composer Rabindranath Tagore

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Courtesy: Pioneer High School Orchestra

ANN ARBOR - Pioneer High School Orchestra and Choir, along with local nonprofit Tagore Beyond Boundaries, will be presenting a unique concert showcasing the music and poetry of Indian composer Rabindranath Tagore on April 17.

Organizers are calling "Tagore on Soul and Strings" a "once-in-a-lifetime" musical opportunity.

The performance will take place at 7 p.m. at Washtenaw Community College's Towsley Auditorium on 4800 East Huron River Drive. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.

The event is handicap accessible and there is free parking on site.

General admission is $10, and a free reception will follow the concert.

About the composer

Rabindranath Tagore lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A visionary cultural icon, he was a poet, educator, musician and painter. 

He was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in literature in 1913.

During his lifetime, Tagore composed more than 2,200 songs, two of which became the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

With vocals by Mousumi Banerjee and Shom Chatterjee, sarod (stringed instrument) by Rajeeb Chakraborty and conducted by Pioneer High School Orchestra Director Jonathan Glawe, "Tagore on Soul and Strings" is a unique display of high school students tackling complex and virtually unknown music in the western world.

Turning a vision into reality

Since 2015, Tagore Beyond Boundaries has been tirelessly working to create classical Western transcriptions of his music, including designing arrangements for Western instruments.

That same year, Pioneer High School's music department was designated as one of the top three in the nation when it was named a GRAMMY® Gold Signature School.

The University of Michigan News got an inside look into a rehearsal (Credit: University of Michigan News)

The concert will feature 110 student musicians.

"The students of the orchestra have embraced their role as being the first ensemble to ever explore these selections on Western instruments," said Glawe, in a press release. "After each new draft we read, the music gets more polished and refined. The students are learning how to orchestrate a musical selection, while at the same time learning technical mastery of a new musical style. I am so incredibly proud of them."

"It is truly the work of an entire village," Banerjee, a University of Michigan public health professor and a Tagore singer, said in a press release. "With folks dialoguing and creating music across two continents, the passion and commitment of the young performers and their families, and the wonderfully diverse Ann Arbor community, we are already on our way to bring Tagore’s music to the world."

“We're all pretty excited," orchestra parent Jessica Webster Sendra told A4 via email. "It's really a huge step out of the box for these kids. One thing I particularly love about this is that the orchestra director at the school gave this opportunity to the middle-level orchestra. Usually, special concerts are reserved for the elite symphony orchestra, but Jonathan decided the concert orchestra deserved a chance to shine. And they've really stepped up. We've been blown away."
The event is co-sponsored by the The Pioneer Orchestra Parents Society (POPS) and the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.

For more information on Tagore Beyond Boundaries, visit its website.

Follow updates on Pioneer's Symphony Orchestras here.

Check out the Pioneer H.S. Bands Facebook page for more updates on student musician projects.

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