Student A Capella Groups Grow in Popularity

A cappella groups are blossoming throughout campus: the three existing ones are thriving, and two new groups, including one out of Rockwell House composed entirely of freshman boys, have already formed this fall. Sure, Fidelio’s great. But since when did a cappella become such a big part of campus life? The Fidelio Society, PA’s oldest a cappella group, is going on its 117th year of existence on Andover Hill. The most well known of PA’s a cappella groups, Fidelio is most notable for singing at the Baccalaureate ceremony every year at Commencement, among other concerts throughout the year. The group’s classical repertoire consists mostly of madrigal arrangements in a variety of languages. But perhaps lesser-known are the other four a cappella groups that have sprung up on campus in the last decade or so. InSkip, Andover’s only co-ed a cappella group, was founded in the early 1990’s, and has since become a staple performance group in Grasshopper Night, Rabbot Cabaret, and other shows throughout the year. This year, the 17-member group, led by Steve Travierso ’04 and Devon Dickerson ’04, has big plans. “The last few years in InSkip have been a disappointment to members of the group because we’ve lacked performance opportunities. Devon and I are working with the heads of the other a cappella groups to create more of these opportunities.” Azure is PA’s other well-established contemporary a cappella group, consisting of 14 beautiful female voices. In the same vein as InSkip, the all-female Azure performs at various campus events over the course of the year, providing a softer side to the a cappella scene at Andover. Under the direction of Emma Sussex ’04, the group will surely garner the respect of everyone who hears them, and certainly all those familiar with a cappella. With seven new members, Sussex is confident in saying, “I think that we have a really talented group this year.” More recently, two a cappella groups have suddenly sprung up on campus this fall. What’s more, they are both all-male groups. Both the Yorkies and the Rockwell Rockapellas will be contending with Azure and InSkip this year for a coveted position on the Grasshopper Night program as the number of a cappella groups comes to an impressive five. The Yorkies are a brand new a cappella group started by Chris Lynch ’04 and Sam DuPont ’04, whose shared love of a cappella combined with the lack of an all-male group here at Andover prompted them to start the first all-male group in many years. “Upon listening to the single-sex sound of Azure and the large selection of music that utilizes the men’s ranges, I realized that the all-male void in a cappella at Andover needed to be filled.” Voila, the Yorkies were born. The Rockwell Rockapellas are unique in their own right in that all their members live in freshman boys’ dorm Rockwell House. Over the course of the first few weeks of school, they have devoted themselves to this group, spending their spare time practicing from 10 to 11 every night—the crucial hour between study hours and lights out. While practicing the Fidelio audition piece one night in Rockwell, Chris Li ’07 was surprised to hear others along his hall singing it as well. Soon after that, he organized the five-member group, which will greatly contribute to PA’s a cappella scene. A cappella has exploded not only here at Andover, but across the country as well. Go to any college campus, and you will find at least half a dozen a cappella groups. And although Andover’s five a cappella groups are probably an exception among high schools, groups of all skill levels are popping up all over the place. These groups span the spectrum of choral music, from classical to contemporary. So what is the cause of this sudden surge of a cappella interest in the last decade or so? “I think that a cappella music is very popular because people enjoy hearing the purity of the voices and individual lines on their own without the distraction of instrumental accompaniment,” said Instructor in Music and director of Fidelio Carolyn Skelton. Derrick Kuan ’04 added, “It just sounds good.”