Virginia Gentlemen shine spotlight on a cappella tradition

Alumni perform at anniversary concert, demonstrate group's long-standing legacy

The Virginia Gentlemen celebrated their 60th anniversary on Saturday, inviting fans, family and friends to share in a concert celebrating the groups long history as a part of the University’s a cappella scene, which is currently as vibrant as ever.

The event marks just one in a series of a cappella groups also celebrating landmark birthdays recently, with the Hullabahoos celebrating their 25th anniversary last weekend and the Academical Village People celebrating their 20th anniversary earlier this month. The Virginia Belles marked 35 years this past fall, while the Sil’hooettes are looking forward to celebrating their 25th birthday next spring with a similar anniversary concert.

Virginia Gentlemen alumni played a particularly large role in the anniversary performance. The number of Gentlemen on stage grew throughout the night, as increasingly older groups of alumni joined the performers, ultimately building to a chorus of members spanning from 1953 to present.

“It was fantastic,” first-year College student Heather Storeide said. “To see the founders and all the different years [perform] at the same time, together — that was pretty awesome.”

Event preparations for that show have been underway for more than a year. A committee was formed to supervise, organize the event and coordinate with alumni, and rehearsals continued up through performance day.

“We haven’t done an anniversary concert like this before,” said fourth-year Engineering student Joe Fackler, a current member of the Virginia Gentlemen. “It [definitely] engaged the alumni, as hectic as it is to coordinate 80 people moving around in Charlottesville.”

Each of these types of celebrations marks a significant event for the entire a cappella community, which fourth-year College student Mary McCoy, former publicity chair of Hoos in Treble, noted is “[incredibly] tight knit at U.Va.”

Often, the groups serve not as competitors, but as collaborators. The Sil’hooettes, for example, were featured with the Hullabahoos this past weekend and also held a joint concert with the Virginia Gentlemen earlier this year.

Second-year College student Tal Benatar, the AVP music director, described a number of inter-a-cappella mixers that are held to welcome new members, and noted the groups often share plots at Foxfield and attend an annual a capella ball.

“Most of my best friends are [actually] in other groups because of that process,” Benatar said.

More formal interactions between a cappella groups also exist. The A Cappella President’s Council, which is consists of the presidents of the nine a cappella groups which are official CIOs, establishes rules for the groups and plans University-wide events such as the Rotunda Sing.

“There are group differences, but we put group affiliation aside and recognize that music is something we love,” said third-year College student Zoe Bellars, the Sil’hooettes former president and current publicity director. “It’s a supportive community.”

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