This semester’s talented Kokosingers, or “Kokes,” Kenyon’s oldest all-male a capella group, took to the Rosse Hall stage on Friday to perform their highly anticipated fall concert.
The event, which opened with a group rendition of “Touch Me” by The Doors, also included three songs performed by Kokes’ new members, as well as solos performed by each of the group’s veteran seniors — Aidan Biglow ’23, Brian Coburn ’23, Ben Pimstone ’22 and Caleb Stern ’23 — and arrangements performed by all of the singers together. The setlist included a number of well-known songs, such as “How to Disappear” by Lana Del Ray, “Real Love Baby” by Father John Misty and “Fun Fun Fun” by the Beach Boys.
The Kokes began preparing for their concert in early September with what the group calls Listening Day, during which every member suggests potential setlist songs before the group votes on which ones to perform. “You could theoretically bring down anything, which truly is one of my favorite parts,” said Coburn, the Kokes president. “I think it makes our concerts pretty diverse.”
Once the songs are selected, the music directors, who this year are Biglow and Stern, begin arranging each one to assign different parts to the tenor 1, tenor 2, baritone and bass singers — a process that requires careful consideration of rhythm, voice range and the designation of each singer to the parts of the song that will best fit their personal vocal strengths.
The solos of the show allowed the seniors the opportunity to showcase not only their individual talents but also their taste in music. For this concert, many of the seniors decided to try something new in their solo performances. Biglow performed Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” He noted that this particular song was significantly lower than many of the solos he had done in the past, but explained that he was drawn to the melancholy it shared with many of his past arrangements. “It’s simple, but it’s a beautiful message,” he said. “That’s typically what my solace has been in the past.”
Coburn chose to sing an arrangement that was slightly more upbeat than those he had performed previously, ultimately selecting “Never Forget You” by the Noisettes. “I was listening to ‘Back to Black’ radio, like the Amy Winehouse song, and it came on, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is such a fun song. It’s upbeat, it sounds kind of like an oldie, and it just has a groove, I love it,’” he said.
Coburn’s solo was particularly endearing to the audience, as he started to laugh in the middle of his performance when he forgot the lyrics. “I’m not sure I’ve had a solo where I’ve remembered all the words,” he said. “I get up and I try not to stress too much about it, and I usually do pretty okay at that. At this point, I’ve performed for a lot of years, but it does mean that sometimes I get a little too loose, and then I forget words, but that’s okay, I feel like that’s part of the experience.”
The Kokes’ concerts typically include a number of goofy elements to make the audience laugh, such as wacky sets and odd traditions. This year, for example, the Kokes performed renditions of Raffi’s “Bananaphone” and “Baby Beluga,” which included a fair amount of playful snapping and humming. About halfway through the concert, the Kokes’ new members — dubbed “the newbies” — also performed their own silly arrangement of the Kokosingers’ original “Cowboy,” much of which poked fun at the veteran Kokes who were listening from the audience. Prior to this rendition, the newbies had performed all the musical sets with random objects around their necks, such as face masks and Nintendo controllers.
According to Will Breinholt ’25, it was not until almost immediately before the concert began that the seniors ordered the newbies to remove their ties in order to sport these new accessories instead. “I didn’t know they were going to do that,” Breinholt said. “Apparently we can’t wear ties until we’ve earned them.” Sure enough, upon finishing their performance of “Cowboy,” the older Kokes returned to the stage to ceremoniously return the newbies’ confiscated ties and continue on with the more carefully rehearsed sets.
Despite the Kokosingers’ raw vocal talent, Coburn emphasized the importance of fostering lighthearted moments such as these throughout the concert. “Obviously I want to sing as well as possible and have good sound as a group and blend and all that, but we’re also putting on a show,” he said. “I think that’s what people like about our concerts, too, is that we’re just fun, and we’re goofy. And I hope that they don’t think we take ourselves too, too seriously, because, you know, we’re just a bunch of people singing a capella, and at the end of the day, that can only be so serious in my mind.”
Upon finishing their first concert of the year, the Kokes are looking forward to their highly anticipated tour over winter break, for which they will travel to a number of venues in Pennsylvania and New York. Until then, the Kokes will continue their rehearsing grind and hope to hold a few more low-key events around campus, such as possibly performing for AVI workers in Peirce Dining Hall and at the Shawn Kelly charity event this December.