An Uncommon Concert: Stanford A capella Group Surprises Students in Paresky Commons

Surprising students as they sat in Paresky Commons eating lunch on a normal Thursday afternoon, a group of Stanford University students, dressed in red bowties, black tuxedo pants, and vests, burst into the dining hall, running around and yelling before gathering together in the front of the room and singing a repertoire of three original a cappella songs.

This group was the Stanford Fleet Street Singers, an all-male, comedy a cappella group. They gave an impromptu performance for Andover students during fifth lunch this past Thursday as a stop on their Spring tour of the East Coast.

“I think that the running [onto stage] serves as a really great way to energize not only us but also the audience and, especially for this gig, it was improvised, so it adds to that surprise for the audience members. And, in general, I feel it’s a way for the audience to see a side of us, which is that kind of silly, fun, quirky side, just in our entrance. So there it gives them kind of a quick preview of what is to come in the rest of the gig,” said Arjun Sheth, a member of the Fleet Street Singers.

Founded in 1981 by a group of singers who were rejected by the other all-male a cappella group at Stanford, the Fleet Street Singers performs almost all original songs, incorporates comedic elements into their lyrics, and builds in a lot of movement and acting into their performances, according to Fleet Street members László Seress.

“The performance aspect of [the group], just in terms of acting and facial expressions and moving their hands and everything, in addition to their actual singing, was really good… Most of the a cappella groups that I’ve seen, the most movement that they do is just swaying and smiling and stuff like that, like good performance skills that you’re taught. But the [Fleet Street Singers] incorporated a lot of acting aspects and miming which kept me a lot more engaged,” said Zoe Sylvester-Chin ’19, an audience member.

One song the Fleet Street Singers performed was an original piece titled “All Nighter.” The song conveyed the comical story of a student struggling to stay up all night in order to write a sixty five page paper due the next day, which many audience members found relatable to their own lives.

“[The singer] kept on saying how he had to log into Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and it’s basically just really relatable because that’s what happens to me everyday. And at the end of the song, he ended up not doing anything and he had to wake up the next morning at five to finish it, so it was just really funny,” said Itzelt Reyes ’19, an audience member.

The event was coordinated by the Andover Music Department and a member of Fleet Street Singers, James Garth ’13. At Andover, Garth was involved in the Fidelio Society, of which he was the President in his senior year.

“I figured since we had just sung at Dartmouth the night before and we were going to sing at Harvard that night, we might as well see if we could sing at Andover as well. I wanted to show the other guys in the group where I had gone to high school. Often on our tours we sing at other high schools so it’s not the first time we’ve done that, and it ended up being a lot of fun,” said Garth.

Overall, the surprise performance was very much appreciated by the students in the audience, some of which met up with the group afterwards to take photos.

“The fact that they took the time to come to PA and perform in front of us without us needing to pay anything just sort of says a lot about them. Like it may be minimal but I feel like, if anything, they just want to spread their passion. I feel like that was really unique… Honestly, just the fact that they came to PA to share their talent made me appreciate it more,” said Reyes.