A cappella groups on campus prepare for winter

Dakota Thomas| News Editor| dthomas@mail.smcvt.edu

Mackenzie Rowbotham ’24 sings at the dress rehearsal for Sleepless Knights on Sunday. Photos by Dakota Thomas

After two years of zoom sessions, masked concerts, socially distanced practices, and concerts on the front lawn of Durick Library, the a cappella groups are finally back in full swing as they prepare for their winter showcase to close the fall semester.
The Acabellas, Sleepless Knights, and Mike Check are the three clubs on campus that make up the St. Michael’s a cappella community. “That’s always a fun dynamic on campus, because from the outside it might be like why are there three a cappella groups,” said Scott Czerwinski ’23, a member of Sleepless Knights. “But all of the groups kind of approach music in a different way.”
Acabellas began as an all female a cappella group. “It’s really morphed into the Acabellas being more for altos and sopranos, which are just the higher ends of the voice,” said Fiona Lenahan ‘23, president of the group. “We try not to say that we’re only for females anymore, because we aren’t really.” The group is more focused on songs on the higher end of the scale while Mike Check focuses on music on the lower end of the scale.
Andrew Dezjot ’23 has been a member of Mike Check for a year. “Because we’re a male identified group, we’re in a lower voice register. So we have tenor 1, tenor 2, baritone, and bass. And so what that lets us do is really have more complexity with the lower voice parts.” Dezjot said.
Sleepless Knights is the coed a cappella group of the three. “Sleepless Knights kind of ride that middle line of, we’re not going to say you have to be an alto/soprano or have a low voice to join the club,” Czerwinski said. “It really is, if you want to sing and if you can sing your part confidently. We’ll take you”
The music the groups perform also differ in style because of the different voices and tones the groups all have. For this holiday showcase the setlist will generally consist of 8-12 songs for each group. All three groups will be performing some holiday classics that the crowd should be familiar with. The Acabella’s will focus on higher, more vocally complex songs such as their staple “The Chain” by Ingrid Michaelson, which the group performs every concert.

Mike check at rehearsal on Nov. 30.
Acabellas practicing for their concert on Sunday.

Mike Check usually focuses on music for lower octaves that better compliments their range. For this concert they will be performing eight songs including “Sea Shanties,” or other folk songs such as “Oh Shenandoah.”
As for the Sleepless Knights the audience can expect an array of crowd favorites like “Carol of the Bells” and hit songs from the 80s and 90s.
Covid-19 changed things for all of these clubs, for the Acabella’s this will be their first maskless fall show since 2019, and for Mike Check this will be their first winter showcase since 2019.

Many students who auditioned had a musical experience in the past, but it is not necessary to audition. “If you are interested in music at all, even if you love singing in the shower, even if you don’t think it sounds like anything, I mean, there’s literally no shame in trying out because either way, if you’re not perfect, which of course nobody is, then we help you out the best we can,” said Edwin (Eddie) Genece President of Sleepless Knight.
A cappella singing can be a different experience with unique challenges because musicians are making the music themselves without any instruments. “On a piano, when you press a key, it’s always going to play that note at that frequency. But when you’re singing those, it’s a bit more of a range. And it can be hard to manage,” said Aidan Westfall, president of Mike Check. Czerwinski reiterated this point. “One thing about this campus is that there’s not very many opportunities to do actual, singing of music outside of joining chorale as a class and doing liturgical where if you aren’t religious… The a cappella groups are what you go to,” Czerwinski said. “Sleepless Nights is the group that tries to be open to as many people as possible.”
Because of Covid-19, existing members of the clubs have had to carry the clubs in more ways than previous years. Members echoed the sentiment of responsibility the club created for them. “It’s really actually skills that I’ve developed as a leader for, learning how to run the group, as opposed to be a part of the group, now, like being the one who’s setting the tempo and conducting and keeping everybody in line and, you know, the constructive criticism,” Westfall said. “So that really is, and that’s not saying that I haven’t grown as a singer, and at the same time, but I would say that that’s really where I’ve noticed a lot of my own personal growth.”
This fall semester is the first in two years where the COVID-19 guidelines were not conflicting with the a cappella groups activities. “Things are going very well compared to last year. I mean, just less restrictions makes things a lot easier, like not having to wear masks While rehearsing even because even that was difficult. It was just obnoxious,” Genece said. Though group members show up because of their love for music, they stay for the friendships. Especially during the early days of the pandemic when the groups weren’t allowed to meet at all in person the relationships already fostered carried the club out of the pandemic. “I think it’s a better opportunity to connect with the people that you’re singing with. Because you actually like you really have to listen to each other because you are the music, “Lenahan said. The groups become close because there’s a sense of brotherhood that comes with being in Mike Check. And, and, you know, we’re not just a singing group, but you know, we’re all friends.”
All three of these groups will be hosting Winter concerts, Mike Check is performing on Wednesday. The Acabellas perform tonight at 8:00 p.m., and Sleepless Knights on Friday at 8:00 p.m., all held in McCarthy Recital Hall.