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The MIT Muses

A Classy Act

By Fred Choi

Staff Writer

The MIT Muses’ fall concert, held in 6-120 this past Friday, November 17, 2000, certainly inspired the respect and admiration of all who attended. Eye-catching in red and black, the members of MIT’s all-female a cappella group were poised and confident throughout the evening. They performed their highly enjoyable ten-song set with skill, ease, and grace, along with occasional humour and sly, conspiring winks.

The fall concert opened with five songs from the Crosbys, an all-male a cappella guest group from Binghamton University in New York. The Crosbys were full of rambunctious energy and good-humoured fun. Their opening song, Electric Light Orchestra’s “Don’t Bring Me Down,” was a hilariously choreographed showpiece that featured amusing shifts between sections and strong vocals by Jeremy Honig. Their final song, “I’m a Man” was in a similiar light-hearted vein and included crowd-pleasing references to such classics as Spider Man and The Addams Family. One of the definite highlights of their set was “All for Leyna” (originally recorded by Billy Joel), made memorable by the hyper-emotive antics of its rock-out soloist Gabe Lander. Rounding out the set was a fantastic version of Shai’s “If I Ever Fall in Love,” with Chris Sheppard providing impressive vocals on the solo, and the surprisingly moving performance of Mariah Carey’s “Against All Odds” with solo by Scott Eckers.

After a brief pause after the Crosbys’ performance, the Muses took the stage. The group easily surmounted the difficulties of following an all-male group, which is naturally louder and more resonant, by opening with “I’ve Committed Murder” by Macy Gray. The song was energetic and full of character with featured soloist Toni Ferreira ’04 and backup singers Anastasia Rodriguez ’04 and Priscilla del Castillo ’04. The trio avoided singing the somewhat morbid song with an aggressive attitude, instead conveying charming “Who me?” mock-innocence to accompany their well-executed harmonies. The song was one of the few of the evening that featured choreography, which was minimal yet effective.

Unsurprisingly, many of the highlights of the concert were songs which had been selected by the group to be performed at GBIS, the showcase of MIT’s a cappella groups which occurred last month in Kresge. Among these was “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt), an expressive performance coupled with a strong arrangement by the backing ensemble. Nina Heinrich ’02 gave an emotionally evocative and vocally powerful solo performance. In addition, the more upbeat “Dreams” (Fleetwood Mac) was similarly memorable in its energy and arrangement as well as its excellent solo by Vanessa Speed ’03. In general the group, directed by Nina Heinrich ’02, kept tight control of the rhythm and ensemble of each song, although there were occasional lapses in intonation.

Showing off an edgier side of the Muses was “There You Go” (Pink) with Concetta Maratta ’03 providing a skillful solo with a beguiling amount of attitude. The song, like previous songs of the evening, suffered from a lack of proper balance in volume between solo and ensemble due to difficulties in the sound equipment. In general, though, the issues with balance were not problematic.

The Muses provided a change of pace in “Kiss Him Goodbye” (Steam) as well as in “How High the Moon” (the Muses’ alumni song) which featured the entire group rather than singling out a soloist. As is customary, “How High the Moon” was performed with the Muses’ alumni in attendance joining the group at the front of the room. This gesture of solidarity and tradition was well-appreciated by the audience.

Ending the concert was their now-classic rendition of “The Thong Song (Muses Style)” (Sisqo) with a rockin’ arrangement and fantastic booty-shaking solos by Gloria Choi ’03 and Toni Ferreira. It was great to see the group drop their almost stand-offish elegance and really loosen up, even more so than they did in “There You Go.” In “The Thong Song (Muses Style)” the group displayed more of the raucous fun of groups like the Binghamton Crosbys, which consequently received an enthusiastic response from the audience. The song was also refreshing in that it contributed to the amount of variety among their songs, as the group tends to focus on songs by introspective female singer/songwriters.

The evening showed audiences that the Muses are definitely a strong a cappella group on campus. With creative arrangements, effective percussionists (such as Eileen Kelly ’01), and skilled solos (such as senior Cathy Gutierrez’s kick-ass performance on “Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant), the group has succeeded in capturing all the great elements of a cappella singing. In addition, the concert demonstrated that the group, while perhaps most comfortable in performing songs by female singer/songwriters, can still spice things up with some attitude and humour through songs from different genres.

The Muses seem to have grown much since last year and with so many new members this year it will be fascinating to watch them improve even more in future semesters. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait long for their forthcoming CD, due out next semester, which will no doubt prove to be one of their best recordings to date.