Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Sing it, sing it, sing it a cappella!
Everyone whip out your fundork membership cards -- today's post is a paean to a cappella music! And don't lie, you know you secretly love it.
First, a definition. "A cappella" means church-style, hearkening back to the days when instruments weren't used, and music was entirely vocal. It now covers any singing without instrumental accompaniment, from Gregorian chant to barbershop to vocal jazz to African gospel to me singing in the shower.
Now, a personal admission. I hate barbershop with a passion. I listen to Gregorian Chant on Pandora at work. (It keeps me calm.) I'm a fan of GLAD. My parents sing in a 50-person a cappella chorus called A Cappella Pops. (My parents are the cute ones in the picture. You try tuning fifty voices. They do it on a regular basis. It's amazing.) And I am a recovering collegiate a cappella groupie.
I am not alone in this last item. SU a cappella groups were the hottest antidotes to frigid Syracuse nights when I was in college, particularly when they hosted A Cappella After Hours at Crouse College. It was well worth the trek through the snow at 10 pm on Thursday nights to sit with hundreds of other adoring groupies, and watch your classmates make sweet sounds with only their vocal folds.
It only made sense that a free activity requiring no money or equipment on the performers' part either would be so contagious. In fact, my now-roommate Ryan sang in the all-men's group Orange Appeal. (Here's OA singing for Billy Joel. Also, an aside: All our groups had citrus-themed names. Cheesetastic!) And three years out of school, I often find myself wishing he were in one here in DC, so I could worship at the altar once more.
The collegiate a cappella phenomenon is so pervasive, it's the subject of a book: Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Capella Glory, by Mickey Rapkin. (If you're looking for a fast takeaway, check out NPR's interview with Mickey from May.)
It proves what I've known for years: Collegiate a cappella is a fundork magnet, drawing together people who love the sheer energy, challenge, and joy that comes from voices blending.
It's primal, really. Voice is the instrument we always have on hand, and one of our earliest forms of entertainment. So to synchronize it with other voices in such simple but dynamic ways is almost mystical -- an affirmation of how well humans are made, that we can align with such grace.
That, and guys who sing are HOT. But I digress.
Above all, I want to BE in an a cappella group. You might warn that this long-cherished dream is born of nostalgia now, that I'm grasping for days when life was simpler and sweeter. Perhaps it's true. But even so, is that such a terrible mission to be a part of -- using your voice to lift people's spirits? Not at all.
So pass the water, check the tuning fork, and find the pitch. I'll sing a cappella's praises until I'm hoarse. And even then, I'll always find a way to hum along.