Credit: WSPN Staff
Backstage: The a capella experience
As the audience’s applause dies down, the WHS Muses assemble in a semicircle, a microphone in the center. As the lights dim, the sound of their red heels click as they prepare to sing their first note.
Senior director Emily Campos, along with her fellow directors, Riley Leichliter, Jane Gargano and Katie Schouten, have been planning the Muses’ performances since the beginning of the year by creating arrangements and organizing practices.
The a capella program at WHS consists of three groups: the Muses, T-Tones, and the Madrigals. Each group is completely student-run, and is responsible for the selection of songs, arrangements and scheduling of rehearsals. Arranging each piece requires prior knowledge of music theory, especially for every voice part.
“The arrangements are usually done by anyone who is willing to do them, directors or non directors,” Campos said. “So far, this year’s arrangements have been done by Katie Schouten and Riley Leichliter, two of our directors who really know how to bring songs to life. It’s definitely a lot of work to get the arrangements to sound good, but the effort that goes into it is worth it.”
In preparation for their performance in school on Feb. 10, the Muses organized rehearsals at their own houses, usually on Thursdays and Sundays. Each rehearsal is time for the group to audition for, practice and perfect new music.
“For the most part, we like to focus on one or two songs for every rehearsal, but we make sure to sing through all of them at every rehearsal, so we can make sure that everything’s still nice and balanced,” Campos said.
Song selection is essential to the process of a performance. For the Winter Week concert, the Muses arranged and performed “Greedy” by Ariana Grande, “Made You Look” by Meghan Trainor, “Good Girl” by Carrie Underwood and “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele.
“We mostly chose them before a capella started just so we could have an idea of what we wanted for this year, something upbeat and fun,” Campos said. “We’re always up for suggestions though, so if anyone knows of a song, we can try to incorporate it into our set.”
A cappella also represents a tight-knit community for its members.
“I’ve always heard amazing things about the Muses,” sophomore Isa Fuentes said. ” A bunch of my friends are in the Muses, and I knew it would be fun to bond with them even more. I love a capella because I get to bond with a bunch of people from other grades doing something that we all love to do. It’s become a great way to be closer to people.”
The audition process for a capella is also a learning experience. When Fuentes didn’t make it her freshman year, she adjusted and improved to be a better fit to the group.
“When I auditioned this past year and got in, I’ve learned so much from the other directors and people in a capella vocally that will benefit me for my future as well,” Fuentes said. “It’s taught me a completely different style of singing that I’m not used to and how to blend with other voices in a much closer space.”
Sometimes, adjustments have to be made as well to accommodate for missing components of the group.
“When I joined acapella, I auditioned as a singer not a beatboxer,” sophomore Finley Knapp said. “However, the Muses didn’t have a designated beatboxer, so I have learned how to beatbox for a few songs. It’s not a skill I thought I would ever need, but I’m glad I am starting to learn.”
For some, a capella has been a part of their lives and has continued to influence who they are today.
“I had grown up going to some of the concerts, especially the CAPA concerts when the colleges come and sing with us,” Campos said. “It was always my dream to be a part of a group. It has turned out to be an escape whenever life is really stressful and a time to just hang out with some really cool people to make beautiful music. It’s become a safe place and a place I look forward to every week.”
The process of creating arrangements for the final performance is a tedious undertaking, but for the a cappella singers, it is worth it in the end.
“I love hearing the ways we come together to make something so beautiful,” Campos said. “A capella is a gratifying experience: you see the passage from the rough beginnings all the way to the final performance, and it’s always amazing to see how far we’ve come with our songs in so little time. A capella has been where I’ve met some of the coolest people and had the chance to really form strong friendships.”