Thursday, March 22, 2012

Behind the scenes of PLU’s a cappella groups

By Alex Domine, A&E Columnist

Three years ago, you would have read my first column in The Mast calling PLUtonic and HERmonic out for their “cheeky confidence.”

The PLUtonic president at the time reacted so adversely, the thought of writing a column three years later as a veteran of the group was unthinkable.

HERmonic is the 13-member all-female a cappella group at Pacific Lutheran University and PLUtonic is their 14-member male counterpart. We performed two concerts Friday in Lagerquist Concert Hall.

I stand by my autonomy that the group is confident and especially cheeky.

As a reviewer, that would be a critique on stage presence.

As an insider, it is a testament to the cohesion that makes the group not so much about performing.

The audience sees PLUtonic and HERmonic on stage goofing off while singing pretty chords.

The side the audience does not see is the people who do the same thing any family with prepubescent siblings would do.

We argue, call each other names and disagree. However, it all creates a sense of community between PLUtonic and HERmonic that is understated even among its members.

Our camaraderie doesn’t come from a perfect performance. Singing pop music is not as fear-inducing as singing opera or musical theater, where everything from technique to timing must be executed meticulously.

A pop singer can get away with making a tragic voice crack sound like a passionate Aretha-esque howl.

It is our relationship with each other that fosters the vibrant stage presence people expect.

Our pre-performance pep talks rarely include intensive warm-ups. We do energizers, talk about why we are in the group and play violent games.

The magic comes from our low-pressure, high-energy dynamic. It gives way for more personal relationships.

Let’s face it, a cappella music doesn’t attract music buffs. Singing the latest Jason Derulo doesn’t deliver a cutting edge musical experience.

I see a different assortment of personalities in the audience at a PLUtonic concert compared to a choir concert or opera. People come to a cappella concerts to see us have fun.

I think both groups could take the stage and improvise a song littered with dissonance and it would still be amusing.

If we look like we know what we’re doing, it’s all in the spirit of having fun. I guess “cheeky confidence” isn’t such a bad thing.