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CONCERT REVIEW

Theorem: Chorallaries Superb in Fall Concert

Corollary: Brown’s Harmonic Motion Okay, Too

By Keith J. Winstein
NEWS EDITOR

The Chorallaries of MIT

54-100

Nov. 22, 8 p.m.

The Chorallaries treated MIT to their fall concert last Friday, packing 54-100 and pushing the limits of a capella with an impeccable concert. Their guest group, Brown University’s Harmonic Motion, was almost as good and had the crowd giggling throughout.

As my colleague Pey-Hua Hwang ’04 observed in this space the last time the Chorallaries performed with Harmonic Motion, in May 2001, the Motion can suffer from a lack of balance. Their songs all hovered around the same volume, and the background was sometimes not quiet enough to let a soloist be heard over 15 voices singing “doooo,” something the Motion’s arrangements featured too often.

Nonetheless, the Motion put on a good show and had the crowd laughing uproariously with their Celebrity Jeopardy-themed skit and a rendition of the Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” that most prominently featured lots of touching.

Vocal highlights included James L. Ollen-Smith on Jan Wayne’s “Only You.” The Harmonic Motion arrangement was uncharacteristically subtle, and Ollen-Smith is clearly a very talented singer who was backed up by an excellent soprano in the background. The performance would have been even better, though, if Ollen-Smith and the rest of the group had been able to agree on a tempo instead of fighting it out during the choruses.

The Motion finished their set with John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” It was almost paralyzing to hear the lilting voice of the previously unassuming Indrani R. Halady haunt us with the Motion’s plaintive, almost gospel version of the song. By the end, the audience was hanging on her every breath and begging for more.

At this point, it was time for MIT’s only all-MIT co-ed secular a capella group that is not called “Resonance.” The Chorallaries leapt on the stage (stage? lecture area?), cleansing the palate and jumping straight into an ensemble version of G. Brown’s word-jazzy “The Distance.” This also gave the group a chance to show off their choreography -- something not captured in the group’s line of relentlessly-hawked CDs -- as they ran around 54-100 like syncopated race-car drivers.

After giving us something completely different from what came before, the Chorallaries did it again, spitting out a pearl with a 135-second rendition of Stephen Stills’ “Helplessly Hoping.” The trio of Emily C. Vincent ’04, Daniel O. Bates ’05, and Kuangshin Tai G was perfectly locked in harmony, and the understated arrangement was well-performed all around.

Changing gears again, Ross I. Runnion ’04 turned red under his cowboy hat as he ground out an energetic and crowd-pleasing country performance of Aaron Tippin’s “Kiss This.” Runnion wasn’t always quite with his background, but the group did a great job with a challenging arrangement. The high tenor line, in particular, was performed particularly solidly.

The background was not quite so great and had some intonation problems on the next song, Sadu Adu and Ray St. John’s “Smooth Operator.” Soloist Amy L. Schonsheck ’03 had a few intonation issues, too, but her silky voice was the aecon of noir, and -- a few technical issues aside -- the song was generally well-performed and appropriately moody.

The next song was sadly the one blemish on the Chorallaries’ otherwise well-prepared set. Aneal Krishnan ’03 has a great voice, but he just was not able to hit the high notes in Hoobastank’s “Running Away.” Newbie Alexander S. del Nido ’06 did a generally fabulous job, though, with the subdued super-high solo in John Ondrasik’s “Superman.” The audience, so eager to applaud, even interrupted the song in the middle.

The Chorallaries astounded with their finale, Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer’s “It’s Raining Men.” Vincent and Leah K. Premo ’04 displayed an astonishing array of vocal talents on top of a flawless background and bopping choreography to boot. Playing off of each other and the rest of the group and taking all sorts of crazy ornamental risks, Vincent and Premo made it look effortless. The bootleg I made sounds like it could be on one of the Chorallaries’ CDs.

The Chorallaries finished up with a venerated group staple -- the group’s arrangement of the Engineers Drinking Song. And Krishnan redeemed himself on the group’s encore, an energetic version of Blur’s “Song #2.” The crowd would not be placated by just one encore, though, forcing the Chorallaries to come back and sing what they insisted was an unrehearsed version of Shakira’s “Suerte,” with Premo as the soloist.

The Chorallaries have set a high bar -- not just for their rivals this a capella performance season, but also for themselves in the future, with their near-perfect solos, inventive arrangements, and energetic choreography. One hopes they know what they’ve got themselves into.