The palpable excitement in Gomes Chapel mounted just around 7:55pm; the opening night a cappella concert was about to begin! As I took my coveted seat in the first row, hundreds of first-years and upperclassmen piled into the chapel. Warm and occasionally soaked from the temperamental downpour, Batesies’ excitement bubbled up into every corner of the chapel. Though the concert usually takes place in Kegwin Amphitheater, the rain precluded the use of that space. As the emcees called people together for the first act, I took a deep breath and prepared for the hour of wonderful, instrument-less music I was about to experience.
The Gospelaires opened the concert with two melodic pieces celebrating their devotion to and confidence in God. The Gospelaires are not an exclusively Christian group, and as such they accept singers of all faiths; however, most of their pieces relate to Christian traditions and faith. Throughout their set, they interspersed soulful solos with powerful harmonies, and ended with a piece that got the whole chapel clapping to the beat.
Next to take the stage were the Crosstones, one of Bates’ co-ed a capella groups. Kelly McDonald ’19 lead the group into The Jackson 5’s hit song “Want you back.” As Sam Findlen-Golden ’20 snuck in to share McDonald’s spotlight, his warm voice and easy-going presence on the stage complemented the upbeat pop song. The group quickly shifted gears and ended with a personal favorite, “Faithfully” by Journey. Alisa Amador ’18 and her lovely voice truly shook me, and I found myself singing along quietly to the soft ballad.
The Deansmen flooded the stage next, dressed down for the summer performance. Though I was missing the usual tuxedos, I was immediately pleased by the Deansmen classic, “Change.” I have heard this song performed several times, but I am yet to grow tired of it; the energy and goofiness that the Deansmen bring to the stage keeps the old classic always new. Jackson French-Robitaille ’18 led the group into their next song, “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Earth, Wind, and Fire. French-Robitaille has sung this solo with the group a few times before, so he looked at ease in the center of attention. Behind French-Robitaille, the other Deansmen moved around with some silly dance moves that got the audience laughing and clapping along.
Bursting in with an old favorite, the Merimanders started their performance with “How Will I Know?” by Whitney Houston. Sophie Moss-Slavin ’18 led the group with her incredible range and belting; the audience was blown away by her confidence and surprising strength of voice. Though I thought their performance couldn’t be any stronger, Summer Peterson ’18 and Emma Schiller ’18 prove me wrong. Their duet during “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” embodied the happy energy of the song’s message, and the boppy choreography perfected the performance.
TakeNote’s “The River” produced goosebumps on my arms. Joelene Naraguma ’19’s smoky voice augmented the eerie arrangement, lifting their performance to give me shivers in the hot and humid chapel. The group performed the Beatles’ classic, “Come Together” next. Throughout both pieces, I couldn’t help but notice the diversity of vocal sounds that the arrangements coordinated into an effective final product; the pieces sounded like they had full bands accompanying the solo lead.
To close off the a cappella concert, the Manic Optimists (ManOps) performed two discrete songs. First, they opened with “Nantes,” a relatively emotional and calm song. To switch things up, the concert ended with the ManOps’ performance of “Inside of you,” a song famously known for its sexual innuendos and featured in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Suffice it to say that the audience was surprised by the combination, making the ManOps’ performance one of the more memorable of the night.
The concert ended with an announcement for members of the class of 2021 to go get free chai, but alas the wrinkles and white hairs of senior year give me away; no free chai for me. Maybe next time!