On Thursday, Sept. 8, all nine of Vassar’s exceptionally talented a cappella groups congregated in UpC to kick off the musical year with the much-awaited A Cappella Preview Concert. During this event, each of the on-campus groups performed two songs and briefly introduced themselves to the audience– which consisted largely of eager freshmen–so that they could gauge the general vibe, style and genre of each group before signing up for auditions. Joseph Szymanski ’17, President of the Vassar Devils, commented, “It’s my favorite event of the year.” Music Director of the Vassar Devils Matt Goldstein ’17 shared a similar view. “It’s the most fun concert of the year because it’s one of the few times when all the a cappella groups are actually together, and we all get to see each other perform, which is so exciting.”
Their words were not an exaggeration. At 8 p.m., when the concert was scheduled to start, UpC was filled to the brim, buzzing with the anticipation of new opportunities and good music. The first group to take the stage was The Axies, the one and only all-male a cappella group on campus, and also the group that took the liberty of organizing the show. They got the concert off to an energetic start with their performance of “Love, Potion, No. 9,” leaving everyone craving more.
After them, Vassar’s Broadway a cappella group, Broadway and More, or BAM, came up to the stage. All the members sang a slow and soulful ensemble rendition of “Run to You” by Pentatonix, building it to a moving climax. In contrast, their next song, “My Strongest Suit” from the musical “Aida” was delightfully uplifting.
A unique member of Vassar’s a cappella scene took the stage next: the decidedly original AirCappella, the College’s only all-whistling group. Their first performance, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” from “The Lion King,” brought back some wistful childhood memories, while their next piece, the theme song from the HBO series “Game of Thrones” made all of us GoT fans very happy inside.
Clad in denim and black, the next group introduced themselves as the Vastards. Specializing in songs from the early 2000’s, or nostalgia pop, this group started off with a heartfelt rendition of “Alone” by Heart, with one member singing solo and the rest providing the beat and singing back-up. The solo singer managed to hit notes that gave the entire audience chills. Their next song, a mashup of Britney Spears’ classics was a lively affair that truly made me appreciate the term “nostalgia pop.”
Also invoking a nod to the audience’s younger days was Beauty and the Beats, Vassar’s all-Disney a cappella group. A member, Becca Slotkin ’18, gave some insight into how their music ranges from classics including songs from “The Lion King,” to more modern Disney songs, for example, from “Toy Story.” Interestingly, they also often do mashups of Disney songs with contemporary pop. We witnessed one such mashup as they combined “Stay” by Rihanna with a song from “Hercules,” performed by two members as a duet, with the rest singing back up. They also sang “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” (a most relatable song) from the “Aristocats.”
The Night Owls, an all-female jazz group, looked very suave as they entered the stage all in black (appropriate, given their name). Their first song was an uproarious, sassy and playful performance about men, with members taking turns singing solo, while their next song was a haunting and incredibly powerful rendition of “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore that took the entire audience’s breath away. The Night Owls’ theme in their performances, of embracing one’s womanhood, was truly inspiring.
On the other hand, the Vassar Devils is unlike other groups in that they don’t have a particular theme they follow, but rather perform any and all genres of music. They began with an invigorating, upbeat performance that had everyone practically dancing in their seats, followed by a poignant recital of “My Heart with You” by The Rescues. An air of true companionship could be seen between the Devils during this song, as some of them spontaneously decided to hold hands while performing it.
The following group, Home Brewed, originally called Matthew’s Minstrels, is Vassar’s oldest co-educational a cappella group. They have a wide variety of styles, ranging from soul to jazz to show tunes. They started with a sprightly routine of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” then moved on to an even livelier piece, “You Go Down Smooth.”
Last but not least, we got to see Measure 4 Measure, a non-binary a cappella group, all sporting black blazers. They first sang “Island” by Sara Bareilles, followed by a melodious performance of “Deeper” by Ella Eyre. The concert ended on buoyant blues note, with The Axies making a reappearance on stage and performing their second song, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).”
After the concert, I’m sure a great deal of freshmen were intimidated by how talented their upperclassmen were. But I would advise you not to worry too much about that. “All the freshmen think they have to impress us but we actually want to impress them so they join our group,” said Goldstein in an interview. It’s a great space for freshmen to try their luck on whichever group struck their fancy the most. The end of show saw a massive throng of people surrounding the sign-up sheets, eager to be up there soon with the groups that completely charmed us for their duration on stage that day.