There have been Collage Concerts in Ann Arbor as long as I can remember, and, as best I can remember, they’ve never had any repertoire in common except by accident. The Collage Concert is a study in reckless juxtaposition. The big and the small, the new and the old, the loud and the quiet, the fast and the slow, the soloists and the ensemble, the classical and the jazz, and, latterly, dance and theater — all are stuck hip to hip in a seamless chain of musical ecstasy. Sure, the Collage Concert has always been about showcasing music school talent, but at its best, it’s always also been about blowing your mind. When it works, the randomness reroutes your neural plumbing until the willy-nilly of the green mixes with the jibble-jabble of the blue, and you become one with the cosmos.

Take, for example, the program planned for April Fools’ Day at Hill Auditorium. Liftoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. with “Invocation and Instruction to the Audience,” Sondheim’s hymn to the theater gods from The Frogs, performed by a quartet of fast-talking musical theater majors. Then the brilliantly named bassoon duo of Izard and Zeisler honks out Michael “Iron Mike” Daugherty’s meaty, beaty “Bounce,” and three brass ensembles from the Symphony Band blast Gabrieli’s antiphonal Canzona Quarti Toni from three different points in the hall. Then pianist John Boonenberg races through Busoni’s virtuoso transcription of Bach’s mellifluously named “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen, g’mein,” after which a hot-cha-cha high Baroque trio rocks out the Ciaccona from Corelli’s steamy Sonata XII. After Symphony Band wind players caper and gambol through the rough-and-tumble of the slap-and-tickle Finale from Mozart’s Serenade in E-flat Major, saxophonist Ross Leavitt circular-breathes his way through Bozza’s jaw-dropping Caprice — don’t ask me how. Then a hot bop quartet takes on Herbie Hancock’s “Finger Painting,” and the Chamber Choir does whatever is required of it by Whitacre’s phantasmagorical “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine.”

The theater department’s first slot is a comic scene from Romeo and Juliet. Then the Symphony Band’s brass and winds blow Ives’s raucous Variations on “America” into the middle of next week. Soprano Adrienne Webster tries to do things with Xavier Montsalvatge’s scrumptious Canto Negro that no sane singer should agree to, and a quartet of cellists saws its way through “Creeping Death” — Metallica’s hymn to the seven plagues of Egypt. And finally, the winds and brass of the Symphony Band, augmented by a percussion section the size of Rhode Island, blast, blow, bang, bash, and bludgeon Daugherty’s bodacious Bells for Stokowski.

That’s the first half hour. Then comes the intermission. Wait till it gets to the end. It’ll blow your mind.

[Review published April 2006]