The Manic Optimists will compete this year on “Sing that Thing”, a singing competition hosted by WGBH featuring choral groups from Southern New. After being eliminated in the final round in Season 2, they are approaching this competition with their titular optimism.
Last year the ManOps were invited to perform by WGBH, and did well in their first round. However, in the second and final round they were made to write a mashup of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees and Handle’s “Hallelujah” chorus: “It didn’t go well, because we’re humans, not magicians,” said Gabriel Nott ’17, the group’s Music Director.
The judges also believe their mashup had too much focusing on dancing instead of singing. “That was weird because in the first round they really liked our dancing and told us to do more of it,” said Nott, noting that many members felt the criticism was not enough to eliminate them from the competition. Instead, The Doo Wop Shop from University of Massachusetts, Amherst won the college category.
Despite last year’s somewhat contested loss, they do not seem to have too much angst about their chances this year. “I think we’ve got what it takes,” said Kevin Melvin ’17. Part of the confidence is the change in format. Instead of being forced to write a new song, competitors will be able to choose what they want to perform.
This year they plan on starting out with the staple “Colder Weather,” and then pulling out the crowd-pleasing “Raining Men” if they move to the next round. The first round beings on February 10, and practice is heating up, not least because of their eleven new members.
“We’re just getting through teaching ‘Colder Weather,’ and now we’re going to be going through that process again but intensified, because only three people in the group have already sung ‘Raining Men,’” said Nott. Melvin, one of these new members, is not letting the workload get him down. “I know I’m super excited for it. I already love practicing with these guys and singing with them around campus — but to take it on to television, that’s something to write home to Mom about.”
As a slightly younger group this year, teaching new members is an important goal for the ManOps, and not just about singing. “As a personal goal, I want to try to show the people that are just entering the group what ManOps is really about,” said Nott.
And what is ManOps really about? “There’s definitely fun somewhere in that answer,” according to Melvin. “To me, when I was trying out that’s what attracted me to it. Knowing that the ManOps are approachable people you can talk to and fool around with and have a serious conversation with. There’s a lot of love there, and I feel like we always try to show that when we perform.”
“I think that we like to give off the sense that we’re performing that we don’t need to take it very seriously, but behind that we have a hard work ethic,” offered Nott. “Something that people have been saying to me since freshman and sophomore year is that we need to work hard in practice so we sound like we didn’t work hard. It’s balancing sounding tight and having arrangements that show off our fun style.” “Raining Men” would show off the ManOps distinct personality, though it might be new to the judges.
“I guess it’s the cocky competitor in me but I’m not worried. We’re working hard right now and I think we’re going to win,” says Nott. They will find out once the competition starts on February 10, but the results will be kept secret until the episodes air starting April 7 on WGBH2.