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A Cappella Review: GBIS Impresses Parents Annually

Singing Groups Cover Flaws With Enthusiasm

By Bill Andrews

Greater Boston Invitational Songfest

Muses, Resonance, Cross Products, Chorallaries, Logarhythms, MIT/Wellesley Toons

Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m.

Kresge Auditorium

At 8:08 p.m. on Oct. 15, the lights went down on the Kresge main stage, and the audience, standing room only, began to quiet down. I’d never seen Kresge so full of people, but it was Family Weekend, and the famous GBIS concert, so I wasn’t surprised. GBIS (pronounced “gibbous” in my head) stands for Greater Boston Invitational Songfest, although it was really only MIT a capella groups that performed. They were all there: Resonance, the Cross Products, the Muses, the Chorallaries, the MIT/Wellesley Toons, and the Logarhythms. I had heard of this annual event for years, but this year was finally able to attend and was surprised on many levels. To be brief: the show was great, and the audience lapped it up.

Resonance, “the newest and freshest” group, started the night off well, with the traditional a capella choreography of head moving and arm pointing. Their vocal performances were, for the most part, impressive and just like the versions I’ve heard before. Each group performed three songs, and I recognized each of Resonance’s from the radio. I happen to like that, and so I cheered with everyone else when they were done.

The Cross Products, “MIT’s co-ed Christian” group, were quite a contrast from Resonance, seeming less exuberant and chipper. They made up for it with sheer joy — you could tell everyone on that stage really loved what he or she was doing. Their balance seemed off, drowning out the featured singer every time, and one particular singer had the unfortunate trait of singing prolonged notes flat. This isn’t to say they were terrible, as they were still fun to listen to, in particular the last song. They obviously have a lot of talent.

The Muses, “MIT’s premiere all-female” group, continued the trend toward more formal, even classical performances. Wearing all-black evening gowns and doing hardly any traditional head moving, the ladies began with an impressive and soulful song. The harmonies were tight and the tempo was right, and I was transfixed. The next two songs, unfortunately, weren’t nearly as well performed, leaving me shocked and surprised. It was still a good performance, but (like so many of us probably heard in high school) I was disappointed because I knew they could do better.

As soon as the Chorallaries, “the Institute’s oldest co-ed” group, came on stage, I knew things were different. This was a group worthy of its boastful bio (almost 166 words) in the program, and they didn’t disappoint. They had no problems with blending, tempo, or boring songs, as some of the previous groups had. I was most impressed with their second song, “Somewhere Only We Know,” for both its technical perfection and soulfulness.

Up next were the MIT/Wellesley Toons, “MIT’s and Wellesley’s only co-ed” group, and they kept the ball rolling. Their first song showcased their musical ability, and the second their more fun side as they acted out a skit where an MIT nerd falls in love with a girl (not necessarily a Wellesley girl) and gives her a teddy bear and a big cartoon heart. It was cute, and the ladies seated near me each went “Awww.” Their last song was the tear-jerker “Hallelujah,” making you cry in such hits as “Shrek” and “The West Wing.” Even though the showcased singer had the scary habit of almost becoming sharp, it was an amazing performance; after all, they were able to keep a song that doesn’t change its form or structure at all exciting for four or five verses.

Closing the night were the Logarhythms, “one of the nation’s oldest and strongest” groups, if they do say so themselves; but they have a right to, as they were clearly the audience favorite. Running on stage in a variety of goofy costumes (baseball player, Robin Hood, and even a horseback policeman), they made it clear they took music seriously. Their first song, “I Melt With You,” not only featured actual choreography, but flawless vocals and blending. Their other songs were similarly impressive, mixing humor and style with near-perfect singing. In fact, I wish I could say something bad about the Logarhythms since my girlfriend has been in love with them for years, but I can’t.

It all seemed to go by quickly, and before we knew it the show was over. Everyone clearly had a good time, and even though some of the performances were better than others, it was clear that MIT has a formidable talent pool. That is, of course, nothing the parents and students in the audience didn’t already know.