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Voices Over Venue

A cappella groups sing to packed La Sala, Lobdell

By Sandra M. Chung

Saturday night’s a cappella concert, always a popular Family Weekend event, was nearly derailed by logistical problems this year. The student-organized event, which exceeded Kresge auditorium’s seating capacity last year, filled La Sala del Puerto Rico twice over. More than 45 minutes before the 8 p.m. show, the line outside La Sala extended across the second floor of the student center and looped back around the central staircase. Twenty minutes after the show was supposed to begin, audience members were spilling out into the aisles and on the floor or perching on radiators around the perimeter of the room. Due to the fire hazard that this presented, Campus Police arrived and ordered everyone without a chair to leave.

The student performers rescued the evening for their fans by throwing together a second show in Lobdell. The audience, which included family members who had flown thousands of miles to see their children perform, waited patiently for the extra show to be arranged, until the concert started nearly forty minutes after it was originally scheduled to begin.

Bad planning aside, the show itself was a treat. The MIT/Wellesley Toons kicked off the show with Vertical Horizon’s “You’re A God,” with soloist Charles R. Floyd ’03, and Dido’s “All You Want,” featuring Neelima Teerdhala ’04. Wellesley student Cecilia Lam ’03 lent her soulful alto voice to the solo on “You Gotta Be.” The one hit of one-hit wonder Des’ree was the highlight of the Toons set. In addition to their vocal talents, the Toons exhibited their wacky senses of humor in a hilarious, Halloween-themed sketch based on the Scooby Doo cartoon series.

The all-female Muses extended the one-hit wonder vein with a solid solo by Toni J. Ferreira ’04 on Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.” Because of the similarity between the group members’ vocal ranges, harmonies on the Dixie Chicks’ wistful “Cowboy Take Me Away” lacked energy and clarity, a common problem for all-female singing ensembles. The Muses strutted their stuff on a kitschy, feminized version of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” then pulled themselves together for “Change in My Life” by John Pagano. Soloist Nina Heinrich’s voice started weakly, but quickly gained confidence and edge to top the Muses set.

Bo S. Kim ’04 of the Chorollaries took a break from singing soprano to solo on Tori Amos’ “1000 Oceans.” Mira E. Wilczek ’03 brought the house down on Aerosmith’s “What It Takes,” throwing a little scat singing into her gritty, all-out solo. The Chorollaries’ last number blended “Flood” by Jars of Clay and Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” into a mixture of acoustic Christian and eighties pop/rock that works surprisingly well. Ross I. Runnion ’04 held up the Bon Jovi portion while Geoff A. Becker ’05 and Amy L. Schonsheck ’03 sang the “Flood” duet.

The Crossproducts, a Christian a cappella group, gave enthusiastic performances of The Kry’s “He Won’t Let You Go,” Church of Rhythm’s “Not Perfect,” and dc Talk’s “Since I Met You.” Their entry in the skit category was an MIT version of Saturday Night Live’s “Celebrity Jeopardy” skit, featuring Mary Poppins, Yoda, and Keanu Reeves, as well as the appropriate references to the Star Wars movies and The Matrix.

Resonance, MIT’s newest a cappella group, started with Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack.” Soloists Daniel D. Lowrey ’02 and Sara Jo Elice G acted out the song’s lyrics, to great audience response. The group ran into some problems with “Dust in the Wind,” which pushed the tempo too high for the sopranos to keep up. Soloist David M.R. Zych ’04 overstepped the bounds of the male singing range with his falsetto on Savage Garden’s “The Animal Song.”

Techiya, the Institute’s only Jewish a cappella group, introduced themselves by introducing the audience to the shofar, a traditional instrument consisting of a ram’s horn that is blown like, well, a horn. A decidedly ethnic version of “Blue Moon” elicited chuckling from the audience, especially parents. Cambridge-MIT Institute student Daniel J. Abramson’s baritone pipes stood out on the elegant “Erev Shel Shoshanim” (“Evening of Roses”) and in his solo on the upbeat “Bashana Haba’a” (“Next Year”).

The Logarhythms’ high-energy performance and irreverent brand of humor capped off the night. The all-male group hammed it up with costumes and quirky poses on “Superlogs.” Cowboy Karl A. Erdmann ’02 wooed lassoed hearts with his solo on the Coldplay hit “Yellow.” The Logs’ skit was an outrageous montage of send-ups of television shows, including the Jerry Springer show and various Discovery Channel nature programs. The finale was an effectively choreographed R&B hit, “U Remind Me.” Chris D. Vu ’04 sang a smashing solo on the Usher song, backed up in a lead trio by Collins P. Ward ’03 and David S. Kong G.

Overcrowding was not the only detractor from the experience. La Sala is a small, rectangular room, and the stage was centered alongside one of the longer walls, treating the privileged center section to a great view but robbing two-thirds of the audience of visual and acoustic clarity. The performers on the tiny stage were shoved up against a half-dozen microphones, which were so close as to over-amplify the backup and drown out the soloists.

The performers took all these issues in stride, some groups attempting to compensate by pushing their background singers as far as they could go. They even poked fun at the overcrowding situation with an impromptu skit halfway through the show. The variety of attitudes, humor, and music attested to the diversity of religious, comedic, and musical tastes on campus. The nearly disastrous overcrowding and cancellation threats gave way to fun-filled, enthusiastic performances for family and friends.