(Not) singin' in the rain
The Lawn will come alive Wednesday as students congregate to take part in one of the University’s most treasured traditions: Rotunda Sing. For a solid two hours, the nine groups of the A Cappella Presidents Council will ascend the southern steps of the beloved structure to sing their hearts out and to vie for the love and affection of the student body.
The event is typically used by the groups to draw in new students to audition – but this year’s rain delay means the groups have already accepted new members for the semester. To make up for the lost publicity, the groups did host a massive Dorm Sing event last Thursday – performing simultaneously in three locations across Grounds.
Rather than engage in a set hierarchy in which each group simply strives to be “most talented,” the musical crews have forged quirky and distinctive identities that last much longer than the University career of any single member.
On the all-male side, the Virginia Gentlemen give off the most traditional vibe, sporting navy blazers, khaki slacks and orange-and-blue striped bow ties that would make our founder proud. Known for their reserved stage presence and classy presentation, the VGs have cultivated a more conservative group identity than most of their counterparts, but their sound is anything but outdated and their mix of golden oldies, Top-40 headliners and under-the-radar indie anthems makes for stellar setlists.
For folks who favor a less staid and stable presentation style, the Hullabahoos eschew bow ties and blazers in favor of deliberately tacky robes, and the Academical Village People tend to remove their shirts altogether by the end of each concert. All three all-male groups play host to exceptional singers and vocal arrangers, but beyond that constant, very little links the various group cultures. Whereas AVP shows feature outlandish skits and manic dancing, VGs concerts tend to emphasize group tradition and legacy, and the Hullabahoos’ performances fall somewhere in between.
On the all-female side, group identities tend to converge more readily, as the Virginia Belles, the Sil’hooettes and Hoos In Treble boast incredibly talented women who deliver a winning variety of contemporary pop tunes, throwbacks and undisputed classics. But each group makes its own identity in outfit choices, vocal styles and the occasional groan-worthy pun.
Although the student body tends to direct most of its aca-attention toward the single-gender ensembles, the New Dominions have made their mark as an up-and-coming coed group.
Christian ‘Hoos Exalt, a group that sings Christian anthems, and ReMiX, a hip-hop and R&B group, round out the mix by effectively blended male and female voices, albeit with sometimes uneven results.
Digital music production on shows like “Glee” and “Smash” have made mixing vocals and creating a pure sound within relatively small groups seem misleadingly easy, but the reality is often shakier. Still, many of these coed crews have found success and have amassed dedicated fan bases.