A cappella hits the road over holidays

by Yasmeen Erritouni | 1/5/14 7:03pm


Many students spent the month of winter break at home studying for next term or, on a more realistic note, checking out new music on Spotify. Yet many members of College a cappella groups packed December with travel and performances, taking their voices out of the wilderness, and for some, out of the country.

Although at times exhausting, singing tours allow groups to perform for varied audiences, something not usually possible during an academic term. Tours also generate revenue to invest in recording new albums and can help boost new members’ confidence.

The Subtleties, one of the College’s all-female a cappella groups, spent five days in Ottawa, Ontario, acting as ambassadors for the College. Thanks to funding from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, the Subtleties performed at various embassies, including the British High Commission.

Recording chair Ellen Pittman ’14 described the opportunity as an exciting chance to spread word about the group and perform in front of different audiences. Other performances included shows at a local private school, a shopping mall and The Ottawa Hospital. The hospital visit was a particularly meaningful performance, Pittman said.

The Aires, Dartmouth’s oldest all-male a cappella group, spent 10 days traveling on the East Coast. The group visited Boston and New York City, finishing their tour in Baltimore. While in New York City, the Aires performed at a night club, a “strange, but fun” experience, musical director Nate Davis ‘14 said. Other stops included a local television station and Brown University.

In total, the group performed a whopping 20 shows, most at high schools and Dartmouth alumni clubs.

“The relatively performance-heavy and logistically-challenging nature of our winter tours makes for a lot of terrific moments,” Davis said.

The Cords, the all-male a cappella group with an affinity for corduroy, toured the Midwest for two weeks — the group’s first foray into the region. The men set off from Michigan before performing in Cleveland, Northfield, Minn., and Chicago. There, the Cords mingled and performed with other a cappella groups, including Grand Valley State University’s Groove, University of Michigan’s Harmonettes, College of Wooster’s Cowbelles and University of Chicago’s Ransom Notes.

At Jenison High School in Michigan, the Cords performed in a newly-built performance space with a superior sound system, and Dartmouth Clubs of Northeast Ohio and Northern Michigan, which were well attended by alumni and students seeking refuge from the cold.

Sing Dynasty, one of Dartmouth’s coeducational groups, avoided cold weather entirely by touring for two weeks in California. The group began in San Francisco, stopped in Los Angeles and finished in San Diego.

Members also performed on the streets of major cities, tour manager Graham Churchill ’16 said.

“Tour gave us an opportunity to improve our musicality and technical ability,” Churchill said. “[It] helped forge a powerful interpersonal group dynamic that enhanced our performances.”

When they were not performing, Dartmouth groups spent time bonding with fellow members. With no classes to stress over, members said they could better enjoy each other’s company.

The Subtleties visited Ottawa’s museums and outdoor markets. The group also visited the Parliament building, where members were able to sit in on a session. In San Francisco, Sing Dynasty visited the Haight-Ashbury district and Golden Gate Park.