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November 1, 2006

A cappella passion sweeps Swarthmore

The Phoenix:

The college light bulb joke often goes: How many Amherst students does it take to screw in a light bulb? Thirteen: one to screw it in, and 12 to form an a cappella group to immortalize it in song. A love for a cappella is just one of the many things small liberal arts colleges have in common. Swarthmore has seven a cappella groups on campus: Chaverim (serving the tri-college consortium), Essence of Soul, Grapevine, Mixed Company, Oscar and Emily, Sixteen Feet and Sticks and Stones, and all are gearing up for a semester of song.

This semester, Swatties can expect great things from these a cappella groups.

In fact, many of these groups have already dazzled Swarthmore audiences. Grapevine performed for a packed Alice Paul lounge on Friday, Oct. 27. The show was their first with four new members and was in promotion of their recently recorded CD. Laura Wolk ’09, a Vine member, said that “Our new grapes are amazing and really fast learners, so you should expect to hear not only the stuff we’ve all fallen in love with, but some old favorites as well.” Wolk was right. Grapevine is as talented as ever, and the concert was of the caliber one comes to expect from Swarthmore’s only musical ensemble that, through fermentation, can produce wine.

Grapevine’s concert began with a stirring rendition of “Mad World,” made popular by the wildly successful independent film “Donnie Darko.” Immediately before a brief intermission, Grapevine really shook things up with a medley of classic songs, including “No Scrubs,” “Hollaback Girl” and “Milkshake,” just to name a few. Just when it couldn’t get any better, when all of the boys were brought to the yard, Grapevine pumped up the crowd with a dance breakdown before launching back into song. Then Grapevine took a different turn.

At Swarthmore, it seems that in every possible context, there is an understanding that “Hallelujah,” the song made popular by Jeff Buckley, must be performed. Usually, renditions are tired and overplayed, by virtue of the fact that we’ve all heard it before. Grapevine, however, just raised the bar. With Cara Arcuni ’09 and Sasha Shahidi ’09 soloing, the performance was spine-chilling. Alice Paul lounge was stunned silent. Grapevine continued the show with some favorites that loyal a cappella fans will remember from performances past, culminating in their version of “Cell Block Tango” from the musical “Chicago.”

Other Swarthmore a cappella groups will also be strutting their stuff in the weeks to come, as Jamboree, Swarthmore’s end-of-semester a cappella showcase, comes near. Rachel Rynick ’07 of Sticks and Stones says that the group is a little short-handed for this semester, “but we’re excited about the rep we’re working on for Jamboree, which will include some favorite oldies alongside some stuff you wouldn’t expect from us.”

Sixteen Feet, a group of eight guys singing mostly contemporary pop, is gearing up for concerts at the end of the semester. Wren Elhai ’08 explained: “We’ve got four new guys and new songs, which may be debuted sometime the weekend of Nov. 17-19. Beyond that, little is clear.”

Essence of Soul, Swarthmore’s a cappella group specializing in the music of the African diaspora, is kicking off its semester in style. “Essence of Soul has some great new members and we have an awesome lineup of songs for Jamboree,” Rachel Turner ’08 said. “We have a nice new flavor this semester that’s smooth, silky and soulful. Definitely something you won’t want to miss.”

In addition to students’ talents, the professional a cappella group Blue Jupiter will be visiting Swarthmore on Nov. 4. During their stay, they’ll be leading a series of workshops before their concert at 8 p.m. For any fans of a cappella, this is not to be missed.

Posted by acapnews at November 1, 2006 10:25 PM