By Kristen Huffman
It’s not easy being an a cappella newbie.
First, the grueling audition process. Then, to learn every arrangement, every coordinated dance move, every traditional closer.
This weekend, that knowledge will be tested for the first time, when all nine a cappella groups perform in this year’s Family Weekend Cabaret.
Their journey to the Rosse Hall stage started in September at auditions. Would-be newbies warmed up with the group they were trying out for and had their vocal range tested. Then, these singers performed their prepared song in front of upperclassmen judges.
Positioning yourself in front of a group of upperclassmen who are judging your voice can be quite daunting, according to new members of the groups. Kendal Theroux ’17, a member of the newly co-ed a cappella group the Ransom Notes, described the audition as “really nerve-wracking because you could tell that they were really cool ﾅ they are all upperclassmen, and some of them are good looking, too.”
For some a cappella newbies, the audition process proved to be a little less intimidating.
“I just really enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes from [singing], whether that be during the audition process or during an actual performance,” said Deborah Malamud ’17, a new member of the Chasers.
First-year student Evan Rasch is a member of the all-male a cappella group the Kokosingers. He expressed some anxieties about their first concert this week. “I am quite nervous for performing in front of however many people ﾅ I feel that singing is such a personal thing. You have to perform from your heart,” he said.
Gracie Potter ’17, a member of Take 5, said, “I’m also afraid of having my passion shut down, but it always ends up well.”
Many students come to Kenyon hoping to join a specific a cappella group. Maggie Griffin ’17 said the Cornerstones, Kenyon’s Christian a cappella group, “was actually one of the reasons [she] wanted to come to Kenyon.”
Whether they get nervous in front of a crowd of judges or not, all newbies “just try to do the song justice” and strive “to make the song sound as good as possible,” Malamud said.
Leland Holcomb ’14, a veteran a cappella singer and member of the Ransom Notes, finds it helpful to move around and dance while singing. “For me, it is scarier if you sing and don’t move ﾅ when you add choreography, it makes it a lot easier. It makes you focused on something else too.”
Likewise, some singers try to use their nerves for the benefit of their performance.
“You have to let whatever nervous energy you have come and [channel your energy] into the music positively rather than having a panic attack,” Rasch said. “When you panic, you become really tense and tight; you need to become relaxed to sing.”
Having practiced a cappella in high school, most of the first years who join know exactly what they are getting themselves into. A cappella is a major time commitment, and all the different groups have similar schedules that are equally intense and time-consuming.
“[The Chasers] practice Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:15 p.m. – 11:15 p.m. and then again on Sundays for two hours,” Malamud said. “I am kind of a night-owl, so it works with my schedule and I feel like I am very productive at that time of day.”
Likewise, Rasch describes the Kokosingers’ rehearsals as intense. “When [we] get in the room during rehearsal, [we] take it really seriously, which I think is a good thing,” he said. “We have a one-hour window to learn a lot of music ﾅ it is really about being efficient and staying on top of things.”
The Ransom Notes uses choreography during their performances. They also have full rehearsals twice a week and sectionals on other nights of the week. It is during this time that the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses practice individually. While the Ransom Notes would not disclose their exact song choices before the concert, they do “promise to entertain.”
In addition to the Cabaret, the Kokosingers are scheduled to perform a separate concert this Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in Rosse Hall.
“[The Kokes will] be singing 13 brand new arrangements that [we] wrote, learned and memorized over the past five weeks,” member Taylor Hartwell ’14 said.
The Cabaret will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. in Rosse Hall.
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