Solid A Cappella Sampler for Junior Parents

March 29, 2011

The Junior Parents’ Weekend a cappella jam had a lot working against it, from its Friday afternoon time to its brevity to its awkward insertion after Drew Faust’s welcome address and a panel of speakers addressing junior parents. It would be unfair and impossible to compare it to Harvard’s more typical a cappella jams—packed, endless nighttime shows for Harvard student audiences—and the groups’ energy seemed affected by the nature of the concert. But the groups all overcame those constraints to put in solid performances that served their purpose. The parents in the audience could enjoy the a cappella classics, slightly-cheesier-than-usual choreography, and shout-outs to the juniors among those on stage. But many others came to the jam too, and they didn’t lack for a good time.

The Veritones opened the jam singing “Viva la Vida,” with soloist Dan Masterson ’12. Though Masterson’s high range could have been better supported, the block’s support was strong and their tone was clear. After acknowledging the juniors in their group—a nice touch—they sang “Stay or Leave” by the Dave Matthews Band. The arrangement was good and the Veritones were having fun with each other—a theme through their whole set—but the soloist sacrificed clarity of diction and strength of support in his overflow of sentiment, and during the vocal percussion the block lost some cohesion. Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” was a strong and entertaining finish, though the lively and complex choreography sometimes detracted from the tuning and vocal clarity.

The Callbacks—who are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year—had very high energy throughout their set. While that made them a crowd-pleaser, it was sometimes too much: it hurt their blend on some songs, and the soloists were overwhelmed by the volume of the block. During their finale, Joe Cocker’s “The Letter,” the choreography was distractingly silly and the blend and intensity weren’t sustained at the soft parts. But both the block and soloist Chris Heller ’12 shone in the exuberant climax, and they achieved a togetherness and blend that earlier eluded them.

The Opportunes also had some loudness issues in the block, but those were made up for by excellent block support, tuning and unity throughout. Some soloists had trouble using the microphone effectively, but the soloists in “Up the Ladder to the Roof” and “Change in My Life” were, deservedly, crowd favorites nonetheless. Those song choices seemed to resonate with this particular audience—the Opportunes couldn’t go wrong with these classic choices for pleasing older and younger listeners alike. These songs also showed off the voices in the block—without exposing individuals—and the full harmonies, slow, relished melodies and minimal choreography of these songs played to the group’s strengths.

Rounding out the concert, the Lowkeys performed Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie.” The soloists were pushing a little bit and their sound was sometimes too heavy, but they worked well together in their duets and with the block. The block sound was rich and full, with an unusually strong bass that gave the soloists a solid foundation to build on.

Though you’d have to go to one of their normal jams to get the full experience of each group, this abridged jam was a great glimpse of Harvard a cappella with solid performances from all involved.

The Harvard Art Review Music Board

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