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Boston Weather: 53.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Songfest was crowded, muggy -- and exuberant

Cross Products, Muses,
Chorallaries, Logarhythms.
Room 10-250.
Oct. 16.

By Scott Deskin

tside, the night was cool and mild, but within the walls of 10-250 it was humid. Throngs of MIT parents and students filled the room to capacity; the reviewer of this performance had to secure a seat atop the rear auditorium railing to avoid being choked out completely. The starting time was advertised as 7 p.m., but in fact was closer to eight o'clock.

The performance was worth the wait. The four a cappella groups that performed engaged the audience with their tried-and-true formula of songs, anecdotes, and screwball humor.

First up were the Cross Products, and they gave a spiritually heartfelt offering of songs. "The Reason We Sing" was their opener, and provided an enlightened message for the remainder of their act. A short interlude into Christian history provided the basis of "Daughter of Zion," a piece written in four-part harmony that was a perfect example of a cappella performance.

Next were the Muses, MIT's all-female singing group. They opened in a jubilant chorus of "Gimme the beat boys, free my soul, I want to get lost in your rock and roll," and stirred up the audience a bit. Further excursions into soul and R&B, like "In the Midnight Hour," may not have brought anything new to Wilson Pickett's version, but evoked nostalgic pleasure nonetheless. And if the Muses didn't cover Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" with seamless assurance, their humorous rendition of "Happy Together," using props as visual aids to the lyrics, revived the buoyant approach in their singing.

Then the Chorallaries took over. Their strange choral chants in the opening song showed the cohesiveness of their "wall of sound." Their skits were primarily vehicles for inventiveness, and some even were integrated into the songs (like the laundry-room romance, "Why Don't We Both Share a Load"). Of course, the Chorallaries performed their signature piece, "We Are the Engineers"; but, it was on songs like "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" and the encore, "Africa," that they really came together as an ensemble and showed the audience the key to the synth-pop meshing of their harmonies.

The last group, the Logarhythms, seemed to have a tough act to follow. They incorporated more of the Chorallaries' example of vocal drum beats and staccato notes, but on the second song, "From the First Hello," had a successful take at barbershop-like harmonizing. One of their skits, which detailed a freshman's attempt to open an account and make a deposit at the local bank (sperm bank, that is), brought the house down. They were less impressive in a medley of the Spin Doctors' three greatest hits, which seemed to be an unnecessary nod to contemporary pop and rock. However, for their two encores, "Steamroller" and especially "Closer to Fine," the Logarhythms came back to a more acoustic-based batch of songs, which suited the group perfectly.

The four groups sang for a combined total of over two hours. The stuffiness inside the room, however, did not stifle the exuberance of the singers. The Songfest did not contain very many surprises, but it did provide a satisfying mix of songs which pleased the audience. In short, it did what every good performance should do; that is, entertain.