Section: Arts

Review: Ransom Notes struggle with an ambitious setlist

On Saturday, the Ransom Notes, one of Kenyon’s many a cappella groups, performed their spring concert in Rosse Hall.  For the concert, the group coordinated with jewel-toned outfits; they were a cheerful troupe of emerald- and gold-clad performers. While the Ransom Notes had an exuberant stage presence, at times their setlist outpaced their vocal performance. 

What is immediately apparent about the Ransom Notes is how tremendously happy they were. Whether singing as an ensemble or supporting a soloist, there was a palpable kinetic energy between them as they flashed bright smiles at one another and jived to their music. It turns out the Ransom Notes’ cheerful spirit is present both during concerts and during practices. According to Molly Smith ’24, the Ransom Notes are a playful bunch and have a tight community. “Being in Ransom Notes is one of my favorite things in the world,” she wrote in an email interview to the Collegian. “When you spend five hours a week singing, joking and teasing each other, you just can’t help but bond with each other.” 

Playfulness may be just the right word to describe the Ransom Notes. Throughout the concert, there were moments where things got truly silly, whether it was Sylvan Maney ’24 dressed in a stellar Edwardian outfit ducking and darting under the sound shells to escape the stage, or the intermission skit involving Drew Sutherland ’25 and speed dating. Jackelyn Samandas ’25 described the group-defining liveliness for the Ransom Notes in an email interview with the Collegian. “We are all so chaotic, but each of us is chaotic in our own way, you know? Some of us are particularly energetic and are cracking jokes at every instance, some of us sneak in a witty line when the main laughter dies down, others quietly giggle and meld into the scene; everyone has found a way to make this group their home, and we all work together in a kind of symbiosis,” she said. 

While the Ransom Notes shined in regards to energy and stage presence, there were some aspects that could use improvement. It was clear that each individual singer had a pleasant singing voice, but their setlist was ambitious, to say the least. Many of the songs proved to be difficult to arrange, resulting in a discordant blend of voices that was at many times shrill and off-key. Additionally, while the hiccups and fumbling about created a casual concert mood, there were moments when more professionalism could be warranted. At times the concert felt more like a hodgepodge of disparate solos and antics than a cohesive performance — which was unfortunate considering how united the Ransom Notes are as a community. 

But there were still moments where the Ransom Notes did shine. One notable number was Rebecca Mucheru ’23 solo of “The Living Proof” by Mary J. Blige. Mucheru has a gorgeous, warm voice and clearly has a great deal of control over her vocals. Another lovely part of the concert  was when Bella Downey ’25 soloed Emmylou Harris’s “Timberline.” Downey’s sweet voice captured the folky essence of the original song, and her gentle stage presence was not over the top, fitting the arrangement perfectly. 

One other highlight of the Ransom Notes’ spring concert was the inclusion of choreography, an element that separated them from other Kenyon a cappella groups. During the middle of their concert, the Ransom Notes moved the sound shell to the back and took varying positions on the stage to perform their final numbers, including a Lady Gaga mashup melody. Smith and Maney sang a duet during the Gaga mashup, prowling the stage as the rest of the Ransom Notes danced around them. 

Despite some hiccups and shrill notes, overall it was genuinely nice to watch a group enjoy themselves as much as the Ransom Notes do, and it was refreshing to hear that the members are supportive of each other during and outside of performances. The Ransom Notes are clearly there not because of the audience, but because they love singing together. 


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