If you’re a fan of fancy suits and wonderful singing, then you should have been at the Kokosingers’ (Kokes) spring concert this Friday in Rosse Hall. The Kokes stand out among the a cappella groups on campus because they’re one of only two tenor-bass singing groups at Kenyon. They were also the first student-run a cappella group on the Hill. Whereas in the fall semester, they traditionally perform songs that have been performed in previous Kokes concerts, in the spring their setlist is full of new arrangements.
There was a big crowd turnout for the group’s final concert of the school year. The Kokes started off with a group song, one of several throughout their setlist. Two of the standout group numbers were “Lavender” by the Beach Boys and “Twilight” by Elo, both arranged by Aidan Biglow ’23. “Twilight” had to be one of the highlights of the night, as it showcased the group’s ability to play with tone and dynamics. They were able to render the more dramatic parts of the song and also convey the more intimate moments. Their rendition of what was already a beautiful song was masterful and put their polished blend of voices on full display.
The senior solos also stood out on this setlist, and it was obvious that the singers’ years at Kenyon have shaped their vocal capacity and stage presence. Will Engel ’23 was the soloist for “Slip Slidin’ Away” by Paul Simon, arranged by Andy Zhang ’26 and Ollie Peterson ’26. The song played out in a slow burn. The song that brought the house down was a solo by Brian Coburn ’23. He delivered a dramatic and electrifying rendition of “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood. The solo was heralded by Coburn lifting the mic off the stand, preparing the audience for something special. His high notes were crisp, and Underwood herself would have been proud of the confidence with which he sang them.
Perhaps the most impressive showing of the Kokes’ group of current seniors was the senior song. Biglow, Engel, Coburn and Caleb Stern ’23 delivered an impassioned rendering of Boyz II Men’s version of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” The connection between all four was palpable as they sang, and their gorgeous harmony elicited strong responses from the crowd at several points. At the end of the song, the senior members all hugged each other before they were bombarded by the other members of the group.
Despite the fact that the Kokes are going to lose a strong senior group, their future looks great. “I know I’m leaving this group in very capable and talented hands,” Stern said in an interview with the Collegian.
The first years proved they were up to the challenge with “Bonafied Lovin’,” originally done by Chromeo. It is a challenging song that the duo of Zhang and Peterson were a match for. They kept up with the fast pace of the song verses but were able to still sing well for the more vocal choruses.
The Kokes are named after the Kokosing River that runs near Kenyon, and they pay tribute to this by singing the “Kokosing Farewell” toward the end of all their concerts. It’s always special because group alumni are called onto the stage. It’s also slightly comedic because of the group’s imitation of drunken staggers at the end. Following this, the final senior solo closed the night. Stern’s performance of “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes was emotionally moving and a wonderful closer. The pensive lyrics about the growth from boyhood into manhood were extremely apt for a senior transitioning into the next phase of his life. Hopefully, for all music lovers at Kenyon, this historic music group will continue to make a beautiful transition from the past to the future.
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