The more time I spend at college campuses in this region, the more two facts present themselves – two facts that are very exciting to me and should be to the a cappella community as a whole. This past weekend, I spent my Saturday night inside Healy Hall at Georgetown University enjoying some sweet a cappella stylings from groups around the area – four from Georgetown University and one from THEE George Washington University – and one group from not-so-around here – The UConn Conn-Men.
The whole night was just amazing. After coming back from SoJam, it’s been hard to ease back in to my normal way of life – you know… not doing all things a cappella 24 hours a day, having to hang out with people that have no idea what an “acabop” is or how to do it, and having to go to sleep at night knowing that I have to wake up and go to work in the morning *cringe*. It’s like a drug – a really really addictive drug… like chocolate… or Angry Birds. It had only been a week, but I needed my fix! And I got it on Saturday!
Quick Show Rundown
It was a cool show first and foremost because I had never seen any of the Georgetown groups before. The Saxatones, Georgetown’s newest co-ed a cappella group, kicked off the night with some great arrangements and awesome soloists. I captured one clip from “Live Like We’re Dying‘” by Kris Allen. The UConn Conn-Men held up to the same quality as the last time I saw them (which was years ago). They had some great songs, including an “acoustic” (no percussion) arrangement of “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. But my favorite song of their set was a great arrangement by Eclipse called “Hard Times Come Again No More.” Take a listen to this ending and how the crowd reacted – perfect! And Eclipse also liked what they heard! The Georgetown Phantoms took stage after that and rocked the house! Their soloists were REALLY strong. Take a listen to my first taste of the Phantoms live! Oh, and they did “Love On Top” with four key changes… and Molly Roach (the soloist) freaking NAILED them all – and made it look easy! And that was just the first half!
After intermission, The Capitol G’s hit the stage, an all male group from Georgetown. The highlight of their set was definitely their Taylor Swift medley where one of the basses sang “You Belong With Me” a good octave and a half below the normal key! It was awesome. My friends, the GW Vibes were at the show as well. They did one of my favorite numbers from their Acappellapalooza show, “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root. Here’s a taste. And to wrap up the night, the lovely ladies of the Georgetown Gracenotes glided onto the stage. They had a couple of great moments, especially with the AlumNotes (as the call them) and the BabyNotes (as the call the new members)! But one of my favorite songs was their “acoustic” version of “Cowboy Take Me Away” by The Dixie Chicks. It was a beautiful arrangement, great soloist, and just made me feel warm and squishy inside.
Throughout the night, I was impressed by the talent that was on stage. One of the things I’ve learned at college campuses is that there are a lot of amazingly talented singers at the college level these days. Sure we hear stories about how people like Sara Bareilles used to sing with an a cappella group in college (UCLA Awaken). But personally, I haven’t heard many Sara B’s in college a cappella. But they are here now, and with a vengeance!
But in the end, it was talking with the group members and alumni that taught me something even more exciting – college a cappella groups are longing for more; they are longing to be better at their craft, to improve their performances, and grow their community. I was talking with Lindsay Lee, Freshmen with the Georgetown Phantoms. We talked a little about how she came to be a part of the Phantoms, how her big sister first introduced her to The Midnight Ramblers from The University of Rochester. But she spoke of her hopes for the future of a cappella at Georgetown. “I would like to see us work with other a cappella groups – sing with them more, hang out on a more social level, or have more performances with them.” There is apparently a movement with a group at Georgetown called SuperFood that is trying to have a more social scene behind the music. “They’re trying to do more monthly a cappella nights” said Lee.
And this isn’t just at Georgetown – this is wherever I go. I spoke with John Gerrity, the President of the UConn Conn-Men about traveling down to sing at a place so far from home. “This year we were looking to branch out and form networks with other colleges. And when we got an opportunity to make a trip this semester, we jumped on it.” For the Conn-Men, it’s all about getting out there, having a good time, pushing themselves musically and, as John puts it, “get the name of college a cappella out there a little more.”
One thing that helps is having amazing support. Yes, that’s what the Embassy is here for, but having Alumni (or should I said, AlumNotes) like Sara Appleton and Angela Nelson in the audience really helps build a group’s confidence. I spoke with them after the ladies had watched their group – The Gracenotes – for the first time since graduating. “There’s still a big emotional connection when they’re singing up there” said Angela. “[I feel] really proud.” Sara added that the group is “continuing to get better every year,” and that it’s “great to feel a bond with the group and to know you were part of it.”
It excites me so much to see more and more of this as I travel from campus to campus – this unconditional love in the a cappella community. If I may be so bold – I’ve never seen this sort of love, this sort of pure, unadulterated support and encouragement from any other group of people or community I’ve been involved in. This is why I do what I do. And this is why I love hearing from people like Sam Kubek, a senior in the Gracenotes who actually started singing at Connecticut College with the ConnChords before transferring. She emphatically told me (before I could even finish asking the question) “Yes, [a cappella was] absolutely first on the list of things I had to get involved in [when coming to college].” As a senior, she’s graduating and heading on to Law School but still wants to keep up with a cappella. “A lot of the law schools I’m applying to have a cappella groups. I can’t really imagine life without it.” And if any groups in New York are listening, Sam mentioned that “The dream is NYU.”