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Rhythm & soul: Great student acapella

By Kathleen McWilliams
On January 29, 2014

There are very few things I enjoy more than an inventive and unique cover of a favorite song. I know a lot of music fans are opposed to covers and, for a while, I fell on the spectrum of thinking that the original "Mad World" was way better than the cover by Gary Jules that Michael Andrews used in "Donnie Darko." In an unpredictable twist of fate, I had a change of heart a few years ago after I went to an a cappella concert my freshman year.
It's a little bit embarrassing to admit, but I am a complete a cappella groupie here at UConn. My wonderful friend John is in Conn-Men and I have not missed a single opportunity to watch him, alongside all the other groups, completely tear up well-known songs and create amazing masterpieces of vocal talent. When the eight UConn a cappella groups competed to open for Pentatonix I was sitting in the front row cheering for all eight groups- and how could I pick favorites when they are all amazingly talented?
If you're unconvinced about the beauty of a cappella let me point out that these men and women use their voices to create all the sounds that many musicians rely on machines to do for them. If you just need proof I recommend finding a recording of the Rolling Tones' cover of Bruno Mars' "The Other Side." The background vocalists of the Rolling Tones completely match the smooth hums of the original song and the soloists. Don't get me started on how they nail every single note with more intensity than Mars will muster during his Super Bowl performance alongside The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Most members of UConn's a cappella groups aren't music majors, but students who performed in high school, but lack musical training. They don't have coaches or teachers overseeing their practices, just dedication and enthusiasm to motivate them. Even more remarkable is how each group single handedly created their diverse aesthetic. No two groups sound the same. Conn-Men, an all-male group, obviously dominate the lower range of the vocal spectrum but they perform such a variety of music with such panache that you really can't categorize its style, other than awesome.
Then you have a Completely Different Note, which whether they like it or not, has gotten a reputation for being the smooth guys of a cappella. Let's be real, you can't sing "Used to Love You" by John Legend to a random girl in the audience without a certain confidence.
Other all-female groups such as Rubyfruit and The Chordials showcase the best female talent at UConn, and despite the fact that female voices tend to be higher than male, the groups have an amazing range of voices. I think by far my favorite performance by an all-female group is a tie between Rubyfruit's mash up of "Lights" by Ellie Goulding and "All of the Lights" by Kanye West, and The Chordials sassy version of "Hit 'Em Up Styles."
All this said, if you read my column you'll be eager to catch some live a cappella soon. Well you are in luck. The Spring Rush Concert, where all eight groups perform to attract new members, is Friday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 P.M in the Student Union Theater. Pro tip? Get there half an hour early because this event is popular and last semester they filled the theater within minutes and has to open the Student Union Ballroom for overflow seating. Even with the additionally seating it was standing room only. Don't be intimidated by the crowd- go and appreciate some of UConn's finest talent!

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