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Playing it by Ear: a Year-End A-Cappella Roundup

Teagan Hughes, Staff Writer


A great deal of student organizations have made a comeback this fall after lying dormant last year, welcoming new members and resuming their activities in full force. Among those returning groups are Oberlin’s a cappella groups, which have come back in a big way with a roster of both collaborative and individual concerts this semester. This semester saw concerts from the Acapelicans, the Obertones, Round Midnight, Nothing But Treble, and Pitch Please. With end-of-the-semester concerts having already passed for most groups, a reflection on the past few months is in order: how did the fall semester go for Oberlin’s a cappella scene, and what’s on the table for 2022?

Multiple groups expressed excitement about having returned to in-person rehearsals and performances this fall; while there was one large-scale outdoor concert over the summer semester, all five groups have hit the ground running this fall with more intensive rehearsal and performance schedules since October. “It's certainly been interesting adjusting back to in-person singing after rehearsing over Zoom for an entire school year, but that transition has ultimately been positive and it's great to be able to hear each other again,” said Nihal Kodavarti of the Obertones.

Oberlin’s a cappella scene has welcomed a number of new members this semester; four groups brought new members aboard. “We’ve brought some amazing new people onto the team and they’ve been fantastic additions to the group! We’re very lucky to have them,” said Kathryn Beeman of the Acapelicans. Other groups that welcomed new members echoed this sentiment.

The altered fall semester schedule presented a number of challenges for all groups in terms of scheduling and learning new pieces. Nothing But Treble had the earliest concert this semester, on Saturday, December 11th. “We had to have it pretty early because of other shows going up, people going abroad in January, and other logistical constraints, which meant we had a full month less time than we usually do to prepare for our show,” said Emily Fiorentino of Nothing But Treble. “But we worked really hard, and I'm so proud of everyone for making it so that we had almost a full length set!” Pitch Please also overcame scheduling challenges; “I’m really proud of how we’ve adapted and grown collectively despite folks being on campus at different times and the obstacles that are present when you’re juggling so many schedules at once,” said Sadie Owens of Pitch Please. Burnout also posed difficulties these past few months. “Some of our challenges have included rehearsal attendance and morale, as we've all been feeling pretty burnt out this semester,” Riley Davis of Round Midnight noted.

New musical directions may be in the works for some members of Oberlin’s a cappella community. The Acapelicans and the Obertones both noted that this semester has brought with it a slew of new arrangements, prompting them to broaden their horizons in terms of style and song selection. “This semester has been good in terms of branching out in our styles of music--typically we end up with a lot of slow songs that are gorgeous, but aren’t super exciting,” said Beeman. “We’ve tried really hard to balance it out a lot more this semester and do a little bit of everything!” Kodavarti echoed this sentiment: “We're working with almost an entirely brand new slate of arrangements, which is really exciting, especially given that a lot of it is a bit different from what we usually lean towards.” These new arrangements and new styles, of course, exist alongside old staples and arrangements from 2019 or 2020 that fell by the wayside over the past three semesters.

Several a cappella groups were active remotely over the past three semesters, but this remote activity was strictly on an individual basis. This semester has marked a return to the considerable level of collaboration between Oberlin’s a cappella groups in planning and hosting events. The groups collaborated to plan both Study Break, the traditional mid-midterms a cappella concert, and the Parents’ Weekend Concert, another cooperative annual event.

No group can be quite certain of what the spring semester holds for them--other than more concerts, of course, and another collaborative Study Break. There are, however, some exciting things on the horizon. “We're currently in the process of releasing an album featuring 11 tracks that we recorded and got professionally mixed last year!” Kodavarti said of the Obertones. “At this point, the album is mostly being finalized logistically, and we're hoping to release it within the next month or two. We're really excited to put our music out there on more streaming platforms and hopefully use it as an opportunity to connect with other acapella groups as well.” The ‘Tones are also planning a return to their annual tradition of going on a Spring Break Tour; the East Coast is in the cards for 2022.

There is another annual tradition making a comeback next semester for all five groups: commencement concerts. “We haven't done all of the graduation concert rituals since our freshman year (!) and I'm excited to do them again, even if it does mean that I'm graduating!” said Fiorentino. Nothing But Treble is also looking forward to easier scheduling next semester: “It's just been so hard to get everyone in the same place and on the same page, and I can't wait to (hopefully!) have a basically normal schedule of events.”

Round Midnight did not hold auditions in October, and they’re looking forward to inducting some new members next February, as well as learning some new pieces. “If our budget is approved, we might also be able to do some recordings or go on a music-learning retreat!” said Davis.

Owens communicated Pitch Please’s excitement over building their identity and looking towards the future in 2022. “We are building a great core group of underclassmen who are already proving to be such incredible leaders and musicians,” said Owens, “and we’re looking forward to continue to take on more difficult arrangements and grow as musicians and as friends!”

The Acapelicans are looking forward to learning some new arrangements next semester, as well as more regularly-scheduled performances, both individual and collaborative. Oh, and one more thing: “We’re still on the lookout for a beatboxer!” noted Beeman.

Nothing But Treble held their fall semester concert on December 11th. Pitch Please held their fall concert on December 17th, Round Midnight on December 18th, and the Acapelicans on December 19th, all at Fairchild Chapel. The Obertones will hold their fall semester concert on January 15th, 2022, at 7 p.m., also at Fairchild Chapel.

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