A cappella & awe: A musical tradition on the Hill
Colby College has always prided itself on an experience that goes beyond academics to the other opportunities offered on Mayflower Hill. One of the longstanding extra-curricular traditions at Colby is its a cappella singing. Currently, Colby has six a cappella groups, which vary in both style and make-up, but share the same love of music.This shared music making fosters friendships between members and the distinct personality of each group.
The Sirens are an all-female a cappella group that emphasizes the “group dynamic” rather than soloists with background singers. Since its founding in the spring of 1998, the Sirens have sought to use a democratic model of organization within the group in order to emphasize challenging, harmonic ensemble singing and to appreciate varying styles of music.
Also present since its incarnation, is an aspect of mischief and obvious fun. As Nadege Roux ’09, a former Sirens member said, “Going to rehearsal was never a chore – more of a respite from a crazy schedule and any drama in my life. It was almost like a group therapy/gossip/sorority meeting with some singing in the background!
“These were the girls in whom I confided my deepest and darkest secrets, acted my nuttiest, and leaned on the most.”
Two years ago the Sirens celebrated their tenth anniversary with a lavish reunion, but the group tries to plan a reunion every year.
The Colby Eight
The Colby Eight is the longest standing a cappella group at Colby. The all-male group was founded in 1947, with the original membership of eight male Colby students. To this day, their repertoire includes songs ranging from “barbershop favorites” to modern rock. While the group has remained true to its musical style, the Colby Eight has rarely remained true to its name. The group’s membership has fluctuated over the years, exceeding eight members most times.
The Colby Eight, like other a cappella groups, brings together students from different social groups through a common interest. Former Colby Eight Todd Olmstead ’06 said, “Making music together, especially in a kind of self-directed, totally independent group of people, will really make you bond together.
“Some of the best friends I had in college came from that group, and I probably wouldn't have known them otherwise. Some of them continue to be great friends, which is priceless.”
In November 2007, the Colby Eight had their 60th Reunion Concert in Lorimer Chapel. A group of men, organized by each decade since the creation of the Colby Eight performed, with each group singing the Colby Eight’s signature song, “Mood Indigo.”
The Colbyettes, founded just shortly after the Colby Eight in 1951, is the oldest all-female a cappella group on campus. The Colbyettes sing a variety of music, ranging from oldies to pop and from jazz to rap, striving to choose songs their audience will recognize and enjoy. Although musical fashions have changed over the years, the group remains dedicated to tight harmonies, blend and musicianship.
Geri Morris ’11 described her experience as a Colbyette saying, “Even in the 15 minute audition, I got a sense of the relaxed and comical attitude of the Ettes who simultaneously work extremely hard making music – and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.”
According to Morris, “[the Colbyettes] are a group of singers with high standards of musicianship, they are a group of silly, slightly crazy girls who make me laugh, they are a group of psychiatrists when I need to get things off my chest and they are a group of caring listeners when I need to cry about something.”
The “emotional bond” created within the Colbyettes spans generations since the group does many performances with alums. This Spring, 2011, the Colbyettes will perform their 60th Anniversary Concert in which the group hopes to welcome back as many Colbyettes as possible to perform alongside the current members.
The Megalomaniacs were formed in response to the break up of the Colby a cappella group Tuxedo Junction. Two of Tuxedo Junction’s former members facilitated the creation of the Megalomaniacs, resulting in Colby’s first co-ed a cappella group.
Prior to their first concert during JanPlan 1996, Kris Hamel, a member at the time, while scanning a dictionary, came across the word “megalomania: the mental disorder marked by delusions of grandeur.” Hamel ’98 decided that the members were characterized by this kind of behavior and thus named the group the Megalomaniacs. The group members have since reflected the goal of fun, goofy, megalomaniac, enjoyable a cappella.
Since 1998, their dress code has continuously become more eccentric. Many times members lack articles of clothing and their music choices are bold enough to include the sometimes risqué songs popular now.
According to Lauren McCrary ’12, the variety of music performed by the Megalomaniacs make the group appealing to many audiences. The Megalomaniacs have a reunion concert every five years, with one scheduled for this February.
The Blue Lights
The Blue Lights, named for the blue light atop Miller Library, a recognizable Colby landmark, were the second all-male a cappella group formed at Colby in 1994. From their onset, the Blue Lights were a little more lighthearted than the other all-male group a cappella group at Colby.
David Goldman ’98, one of the founding members of the group said of their initial goals, “I think our primary goal at the outset, and really at all times thereafter, was to just have as much fun as we could. We wanted to sound good, and it was certainly more fun to sound good than bad, but we were mostly interested in hanging out, having fun. Oh, and getting girlfriends. We were hoping that by singing in public we could possibly increase our chances of getting girlfriends.”
The informal, prank-prone guys who started the Blue Lights set the tone for all future members. That attitude has survived nearly a decade. Current member Toreyan Clarke ’11 described the group as “known for the crazy outfits and classic choreography in our concerts. It’s part of the Blue Light musical experience and I know it’s not going anywhere…”
The group always welcomes back alums and invites them to sing with the current members, although the Blue Lights haven’t had a formal reunion concert.
Ethnic Vocal Ensemble (EVE), Colby’s youngest a cappella group, was created in 2001 with eight members. The founding members of EVE sought to create a female a cappella group distinct from the other a cappella groups: they distinguished EVE by including a devotion to the aspect of “ethnic” music.
EVE has not done concerts with alums yet, but with its upcoming 10th anniversary, it is a possibility.
Beyond the musical aspect of EVE, the members claim a sort of kinship. Katherine Fecteau ‘13 elaborated on this topic, “The EVE girls have become my second family. We watch crazy youtube videos, we give each other advice, we look for tacky red and black clothing, we have a ton of fun.”
While each of Colby’s six a cappella groups have their own styles and personalities, close knit friendships and talent are common to all.
Benjamin Coerper ’04, who sang in the Colby Eight elaborated on the bond fostered by a cappella, “For whatever reason, [a cappella] is hugely popular [at Colby]. Obviously it provides entertainment for the rest of the student body, but I think the real value is within the groups. Since Colby has no Greek system, clubs like the a cappella groups foster the kind of brotherhood/sisterhood that can be supplied by fraternities and sororities.”
However, a cappella could not be successful without an enthusiastic audience. Past Colby Eight member, Todd Olmstead ‘06 said, “I don't think I ever gave enough credit to the people, who weren't in a cappella groups who went to all those concerts…They make the scene happen. Having those people allowed us to do what we enjoyed doing.”
You can catch all the groups in action this weekend for the Parents’ Weekend A Cappella Sampler. If you can’t make it, all the groups give performances at the end of the semester.