Instrumental to a College Education

One of the benefits of living in a college town, or in a college city for that matter, is the available of  inexpensive concerts, particularly those by the college choral ensemble – even better when it’s sans instrumental accompaniment.  I am mesmerized by the vocal unison, the lack of instruments, the range of notes and sounds.  During the DC a cappella fest, each group had its own style, from the t-shirts and jeans of the Capital Gs to the tuxedos of the guest group the Yale Whiffenpoofs, who joked that they had been making audiences feel underdressed since 1909.  Having seen the later group perform on The Sing Off a year ago and my favorite show Gilmore Girls, I had to see them in person.  Georgetown’s Gaston Hall was the perfect venue.  The hosting Grace Notes started the show in neon sneakers and glittered in gold by the end.  Between their sets, the Saxatones, Phantoms, and University of Delaware Deltones (also from the Sing Off) performed.

Before the show and during intermission, we learned about the history of the hall and the school from the alumni family that sat next to use in the balcony.  With each song, I would see how many notes it took to recognize it, wait to see who stepped into the soloist spot, and end up focusing on a member of the group that stood separated from the group in some way.  In one of the groups, a boy harmonizes with the lead so perfectly, that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been singing it the whole time.  His hands met at his chest, almost in prayer, and that’s how intently he pushes out the words, leaning them upward towards heaven and the balcony where we sat.

Their color-coordinated ensembles allow room for personalization, from the vests and ties the guys where to the short black skirts and shiny heels of the girls. One tall blonde, pairs her black skirt with scuffed biker boots, belaying her height even more by slouching when she sings. Her long hair reaches her waist like this, though it would have several inches to go if she stood up straight.  She angles her arms in at her waist, like a Catholic choir singer would do to link her hands in a proper formation, but they remain disconnected and unhinged. And that’s the beauty of the a cappella renditions of the songs, how they resemble the originals but have a personality of their own, a superhuman personality, like the combined powers that make up Captain Planet, and make the sum of the sound greater than its individual parts.

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