Pitch Perfect: Macalester A Cappella

Pitch Perfect: Macalester A Cappella

Macalester College is home to several a cappella groups that span a variety of genres and styles. However, plenty of students are turned away at auditions each year and are unable to sing with their group of choice.

“I originally had tried out for Scotch Tape and there were 60 people who auditioned,” said Gabriella Gillespie ’17. “Clearly, there was a need for a new group.”

In recognition of this need, Gillespie helped senior Raynise Cange found a fifth a cappella organization at Macalester, Chromactics. While Chromactics has only been around for a few months, it’s quickly becoming an independent and strong member of the Macalester a cappella family.

Chromactics members Peace Madimutsa, Ben Haltmaier and Hannah Field work on their R&B arrangements. The Chromactics are Macalester’s fifth a cappella organization, and formed earlier this year. Photo by Joe Bermas-Dawes ’17.
Chromactics members Peace Madimutsa, Ben Haltmaier and Hannah Field work on their R&B arrangements. The Chromactics are Macalester’s fifth a cappella organization, and formed earlier this year. Photo by Joe Bermas-Dawes ’17.

After holding auditions early in the semester, the group now has roughly 10 members, distributed evenly between the four classes. However, Chromactics doesn’t blend in with the other a cappella organizations. Their genre of choice is R&B. Group members select arrangements of songs by Alicia Keys and Bill Withers, among others.

“R&B was something all of us were interested in and we hadn’t heard it from any of the other groups,” Gillespie said.

Currently, Chromactics doesn’t have any specific performances planned but they hope to prepare songs for a small, independent concert before the end of the semester.

Other a cappella groups on campus have held numerous concerts and performances recently. Off-Kilter, which is currently in its fifth year, performed “The Star Spangled Banner” at a local, off-campus hockey game. They also occasionally perform at alumni events. Off-Kilter is the more choral of the a cappella groups at Mac, with a focus in vocal jazz. However, Off-Kilter member Nathan Leech ’14 said, “We also have some Justin Timberlake in the works and some Janelle Monae.”

Scotch Tape, an a cappella group currently in its tenth year, also performed at a hockey game, as well as at a blacklight concert in Dupre. Unlike Off-Kilter, this a cappella group doesn’t focus on any specific genre. Scotch Tape’s songs are chosen by the group’s fifteen members, so any student favorite can become part of a performance.

“It ends up being more pop-y, but we also do some jazz and R & B songs,” said Hana Sarfan ’17.

The Sirens, Macalaster’s all-girl group, recently performed at Founders Day and offered Singing Valentines in February. This group, too, is not limited to any specific genre or style.

“If you want to arrange a song and a couple other people are interested, you can just go for it,” said member Kira Liu ’17. Some of The Siren’s current songs include “Eres Para Mi” and “Viva La Vida”.

The Sirens arrange all of their own music, which Liu mentioned was something that initially drew her to them.

“It’s fun because we collaborate and work together on different songs,” she explained. “You feel really proud because you’ve worked so hard to put it together.”

The Sirens will be giving an end of the year concert and will perform the songs they’ve personally arranged.

The final a cappella group is The Trads. While members like to claim that they were founded in 1776 by Brian Rosenberg, no one actually knows how long this all-male a cappella group has been around. Gender, however, isn’t the only thing that sets the Trads apart.

“We don’t take ourselves seriously. It’s thirteen people on a stage going ‘doo doo doo’ so we play up that silliness when performing,” said Rob Gelberg ’14.

However, the Trads are known for more than their on-stage antics. Every year, they name a first-year “The Bitch”, who is then responsible for carrying the sheet music and acting as a representative of the first-year class. This chosen first year also gets the privilege of performing the Trads’ version of Green Day’s “Dominated Love Slave” at various concerts to any audience member of their choosing. While this song didn’t make an appearance at Founders Day, the Trads expect to perform it at their end of the year concert on May 6th.

Macalester’s various a cappella groups all perform in extremely different ways, but are integral parts of the Mac musical community. This year, the members of Chromactics worked hard to create yet another way to celebrate a cappella. Gillespie encouraged students to follow suit or at least support the existing groups.

“A cappella is really fun because you get to give music a personal touch,” Gillespie said. “If you want to do a cappella, you should go for it!”

March 14, 2014

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