Brown University A Cappella Group Ends Performance on a High Note

As singers from The Higher Keys, Brown University’s oldest a cappella group, harmonized to the slow, haunting tune of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Adele, Emma Chatson ’18 passionately belted a verse of the song. The a cappella group blended their voices with Chatson, gradually quieting toward the end of the song to allow Chatson to deliver the final note on her own.

“I was really nervous and shy to perform in front of all of [The Higher Keys], but once I started singing with them I felt right at home. They were all so nice and talented, and I hope they can come back to campus again,” said Chatson, who had been pulled from the audience to join the group onstage.

The Higher Keys performed a variety of jazz and R&B pieces during its concert in Graves Music Hall this past Wednesday, as part of its New England tour. Immediately following their concert was a workshop in which the members of the singing group taught Andover students solos from The Higher Keys’ songs, as well as various parts of the pop song “Stay With You” by John Legend.

One of the members, Rebecca Cheng ’14, sang in the Fidelio Society and the Academy Chorus at Andover before going on to Brown and joining the group. “It was really great to have a good-sized, engaged audience who wanted to stay behind and sing with us more. I was really satisfied with today,” said Cheng, who is also the musical director of The Higher Keys.

One of the highlights of the concert was Ella Fitzgerald’s “Too Darn Hot,” featuring a solo by Jacob Binder, a member of The Higher Keys. The jazzy piece began with a rhythmic hiss from Jackson Crook, the beatboxer for The Higher Keys, which then led into the opening of the soulful solo. The singers’ steady vocals added depth to the song, creating a greater intensity to the piece. This rendition contrasted with other more cheerful songs performed, adding energy to the show.

Chatson said, “[‘Too Darn Hot’] was my favorite piece, because I thought it was really dynamic. The song started out smooth and jazzy and, by the end, it was upbeat and really fun! The soloist was really talented and the group looked like it had a lot of fun singing together.”

A Gershwin medley, consisting of four songs, finished the concert. The opening chords were sung in unison, setting a cheerful, yet relaxed tone for the rest of that song. As the group transitioned into the next song of the medley, the sopranos quickly launched into a jazzy melody. By the end of the medley, the last song picked up speed, and the singers returned back to singing in unison before ending the piece with two stomps.

Cheng said, “The Gershwin medley [was my favorite piece from the performance]. It’s one of the classics, one of the first songs you sing when you get in the group. When I was a call-back, and I hadn’t gotten into the group yet, I remember going to [The Higher Keys’] concerts and the arrangement and performance blew me away. I just love that in the [Gershwin medley] you get to hear just the group, showcasing a lot of soloists and a lot of different styles.”