A Tale of Two Concerts: Toons & Resonance Sing
MIT/Wellesley Toons Live Up to Expectations, Leave Newcomers Resonance With Big Shoes to FillPey-Hua Hwang
It was a night of a cappella as the MIT/ Wellesley Toons and MIT’s Resonance had back-to-back concerts. The Toons concert began at 7 p.m. with their guest group the Boston College Acoustics, and the Resonance started shortly thereafter at 8:30 p.m.
The Acoustics, a co-ed group, opened with “It’s My Life,” by Bon Jovi. Though lacking the choreography characteristic of the Chorallaries, it was full of energy and had in its favor a soloist with particularly good projection. The rest of their set was less impressive, but the group seemed to be enjoying themselves and even had a bit of minor choreography in their last song, “Everywhere” by Michelle Branch.
The Toons’ second guest group, the Boston University. Dear Abbeys, an all male a cappella group , then took the stage. The Dear Abbeys were dressed in matching Dear Abbey baseball style three quarter sleeve t-shirts and started their set with “Hungry Like A Wolf,” by Duran Duran. This song featured an interesting key change as well as some impressive voice percussion. Two other notable songs were the mellow, “Lady in Red” by Chris Deberg, where soloist Victor Sandman had some impressive falsetto notes, and “Take on Me” by A-ha, sung by Sean Landers, who topped Sandman’s high A with a high B-flat and had the whole group dancing in entertaining antics.
Their whole set effused energy and made them a hard act to follow. However, the Toons were certainly up to the task. Neil Basu ’01 sang “Sell Out” by Reel Big Fish to kick off the concert with plenty of stage presence and charisma. Ryan Manuel then sang “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, which mellowed the mood and set the mood for a ballad by Hole called “Dying,” sung by Brooke Bryant ‘03. This piece showcased Bryant’s voice and allowed the Toons to display their lyrical abilities.
Then, as in any a cappella show, there was an obligatory skit. A parody of American Pie, it was but a segue into the next song called “Not an Addict” by K’s Choice, aptly performed with the proper gravity by Nikhila Deo ’04.
What followed was the masterpiece of choreography for the evening. The Toons performed Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” complete with a moonwalk. The soloist, David Ngo ’02, even wore Jackson’s signature white glove. The dance moves compensated for his occasional lack in volume in comparison to the rest of the group.
Gautam Jayaraman ’02 launched into “If You Could Only See” by Tonic. With some duet help from Ngo, he managed to project over the heavy background, which also did a relatively good imitation of a guitar riff. Then the Toons took us back to the good old days with a tv medley of sitcom themes from Cheers to Who’s the Boss.
They ended their set with “Ready to Go,” by Republica with soloist Niyati Gandhi ‘02. Unfortunately, it was often hard to hear Gandhi because it seemed as if the evening’s excitement had the rest of the Toons singing too loudly. However, it didn’t stop the audience from applauding wildly and staying around to hear the encore song of Vertical Horizon’s “You’re A God,” sung by Charles Floyd ‘03.
It was a tight time squeeze to hurry to the Resonance concert that followed. Brandeis’ Voice Male opened for the relatively new group. Voice Male’s repertoire consisted of classic a cappella tunes and oldies. For a very small group with only seven members, Voice Male had wonderful balance and although one member, Seth Herring, rendered solos for four out of their five songs, the rest of the group seemed well suited to their parts. Most of the songs were ballads, but “Don’t Cry” by Seal ended their set and had some very well-executed voice percussion. Their newest member Sean Cotton sang “Dream,” which was also well received by the audience and pulled the oldest a cappella tradition in the book of serenading an audience member.
Then Resonance took the stage as Corey M. Gerritsen ’01 sang “Road Trippin’” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. It made for an interesting choice for an opening number, as most a cappella concerts tend to begin with a very fast-paced, high energy piece rather than such a mellow and reflective one as this. Gerritsen had a clear voice, however it seemed rather strained on some of the higher notes he had to sing.
In fact, throughout the concert, high notes seemed to be problematic, particularly in the female background vocals, where intonation seemed to be a constant issue. Chords often seemed to be stretched between the solid bass and not-so-solid soprano and lacked the balancing effects of tenor and alto.
Sara Jo Elice G then sang “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” by Leanne Rimes. She started off rather solidly, but lacked projection and again her high notes often failed to reach the correct pitch. Dan Lowrey’s ’02 bass introduction of “Space Odyssey” by David Bowie would serve to compensate because he had a confident and rich tone, however, when the piece demanded his tenor range, his projection decreased considerably.
Of course, then there was a skit which drew inspiration from “Office Space” and had the audience laughing and cheering when the next song “I Love My Boss,” by Moxy Fruvous was performed by Usman Akeju ’02. His comic timing and animated matter combined with relatively solid intonation for an all around crowd pleasing piece. This was one of the highlights of the night.
Matthew Leal ’04 sang “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. This song seemed lackluster, though the lack of enthusiasm seemed to be more a fault of the arrangement which had the group in perfect octaves for quite a bit of the song, creating the semblance of missing singers because there seemed to be a need for absent harmonic lines. However this momentary lull was soon obliterated by a rather original skit. This skit which involved earwax, a water break, and “your mom” produced considerable laughter and merriment in the audience.
The break also seemed to help the singers a lot, as the caliber of their performance improved measurably after the skit finished. “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, sung by Rego A. Sen ’03 showed a lot of potential for what the group could achieve after more practice. The background vocals were more solid and Rego himself had good stage presence.
Another strong performance was given by Carrie A Niziolek ’05, who sang “You look so Fine” by Garbage. She didn’t get as much backup as Rego, but her voice had a fullness lacking in some of the other solos.
Then Resonance invited down its three existing alumni to perform the first song that they had ever performed together, “Suzy Q Sail Away” by Self. This song had by far the strongest background vocals even to the point of covering the soloist, Leal. However, there were also more people singing backup. The energy was very good and they exited the class room amidst cries of encore, applause and raucous cheering.
After working the crowd for about a minute, they returned to sing “The Animal Song” by Savage Garden with soloist David M. Zych. His solid voice and clear falsetto begged the question of why he hadn’t soloed in more pieces. Resonance then made their final exit in a conga line.
All in all, this relatively new group displays plenty of energy and has the potential to become an established MIT a cappella group. However, it is also clear that it may take a while for them to truly become fixture at the Institute.