by Jess Segal -ofrSAFE:HIGHS's fourth annual Sex and A Capella, a fun-filled evening of discourse on intercourse and oral stimulation to the ears. Together the six campus a capella groups and SAFE:HIGHS (Sexuality Awareness for Everyone: Helping individuals Grow HIV Safe) educated students without boring them. Entertaining without losing focus on the serious subjects of AIDS and AIDS prevention.
The show began with Binghamton University's newest addition to the a capella world, Kaskeset. The only word to describe this group's performance is WOW. Their intonation was amazing, and their energy was contagious. When Alan Zeitlin sang "Abram," the words and the accompaniment provided by the group sent chills down my spine. As group director, David Ross, so eloquently put it, "It's beautiful music and that's what a capella is all about."
Kaskeset also performed a skit co-written by Ross and Zeitlin, which promoted safe sex. With humor and seriousness they conveyed that abstinence is the safest method of all, but that protected sex is the next best thing. Both the skit and musical presentations by Kaskeset were fantastic.
When the next group, The Vibrations, was announced, a groan came from the packed audience in Casadesus. The group lived up to the audience's low expectations; there's still only one member (Elishe Rothenberg, also of Kaskeset) that can carry a tune. She managed to wake up the audience with her performance of "This Thing Called Love." When Rothenberg wasn't a soloist, the audience actually talked over The Vibrations, probably in hopes of tuning them out but off-key singing and boring song choices were still audible. The which was something that the next group, The Binghamtonics, appeared to have mastered both sex and a capella.
"I don't like to sleep with just one man," sang soloist Rennica Johnson of the Tonics during, "Threesome," their version of George Michael's "Freedom." This followed a late entrance with group members half dressed. They pardoned themselves with the excuse that they were working on the sex part of "sex and a capella." Soloist Joy Sarsale sang from the heart in both "Galileo" and "Light," and delivered a performance so passionate that everyone in the audience was fully captivated. The rest of the group performed equally well.
They were followed by the always impressive Rhythm Method.
The Rhythm Method, sang Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Lead by soloist Dan Donahue, a quartet leapt in front of the rest of the group to substitute new lines about sex to the amusement of the audience. And of course the group added that the Rhythm Method does not endorse the use of the rhythm method as a primary form of birth control.
Finally, it was time for the all-female and all-male a capella groups, the Harpur Harpeggios and The Crosbys, to close the night. The Pegs were delightful and each woman wore a wrapped condom in her hair and on her clothing to promote safe sex. Although they skipped crowd pleasers such as the Indigo Girls' "Least Complicated," they did perform favorites like the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing."
The Crosbys came out ready for bed, in flannel pajamas, skirts and nightgowns. The group is always amusing to watch and it was nice to see some of their lesser performed songs like "Heavenly" and "I Need You." Their choreography was great, and it really looked like the Crosbys were having fun performing for a good cause. The Crosbys finished the night with a lively performance of "I'm a Man."
In between all of the music, SAFE:HIGHS managed to incorporate important messages to the audience. Members asked for audience participation and talked about the relationship between alcohol and AIDS, and mentioned places in Binghamton where HIV tests are given. They gave away a jar filled with 152 condoms to the person who guessed the number.
SAFE:HIGHS's Sex and A Capella (with the exception of the Vibrations) fell nothing short of an orgasmic experience.
by Jess Segal of PipeDream
Ah, spring ... the birds, the bees, the defrosting of the nature preserve ... and, of course, the beginning of yet another a cappella fest. Every semester the signs are posted and the tickets go up for sale. Nearly everyone on campus goes to see one of the groups perform. They go home happy at having well spent their admission fare, and they don't even stop to realize that each and every member of the group they just watched spends more time practicing for that performance than most people spend working full time jobs. These groups don't just disappear after performing seasonal concerts; they throw themselves into an intense schedule of touring, competing, arranging and studying new music, and even producing and mixing compact discs.
One of the hardest working a cappella groups on campus is the co-ed, oldies-singing Vibrations, formerly known as the Generation Gap. They have to be to combat all of the bad publicity they've gotten in the past year.
"lt's been said that women have to work twice as hard to be one half as good. lt's sort of the same for us. We're still a relatively new group [they're only four years old]. No one really gave us a chance when we began. They didn't want another a cappella group; we didn't even get our own concert until last semester," group member Christine Bexley said. "There are things the group needs to work on, and we practice many hours to do so," co-musical director and president of the Vibes Michelle Katzeff added. This means the addition of new music, primarily from the seventies. Hopefully it will entice people to come see their spring show on Thurs., April 23.
The Vibes aren't the only group adding new music to their repertoire. Most of the other groups' musical directors spent their winter and spring breaks choosing and arranging a variety of music to perform in this semester's concerts. Kaskeset's musical director David Ross even composes some of the music they perform.
Kaskeset, the baby group, formed quietly only a year ago. This year they're getting down to business with a new musical director (Ross), more intense rehearsals, new and more challenging music, and a higher level of dedication from group members. Their big debut at SAFE:HlGHS's Sex and A Cappella spelled sweet success for Kaskeset but the group may still have some barriers to break. All of their songs need to relate to Judaism, which means that many of them are sung in Hebrew, a language not everyone in their audiences may understand. But music is a universal language so there is no reason not to keep an eye out for Kaskeset performances. Although at this point, there is no scheduled spring concert for the group, they are diligently working on arranging and learning new music. You'll definitely have an opportunity to see them perform at a show of their own next semester. They're also scheduled to perform at Cornell this semester as well as opening for other campus groups.
On April 4, The Rhythm Method will show Binghamton University just how crazy they really are when they perform new music at their five year anniversary concert, "Method to Our Madness." Audience members should expect to hear revivals of older songs that the group hasn't performed lately. At the show, they also plan to release a CD of the same name that the group both produced and helped engineers to mix.
Like other groups, The Rhythm Method has been the cause of much discussion this year. They've been called one of the most improved a cappella groups on campus, which can't help but please the group's members.
"Of course we're happy that people have take notice of us. But we still try to take everything with a grain of salt and make even more improvements. We've worked hard to get to this level by using more complex musical arrangements and by having a lot of good soloists," musical director Dan Donahue said.
Fans of the Rhythm Method that just can't get enough of the group during the school year will be happy to know that they'll be on tour this spring after graduation.
The Crosbys are one group of singers that won't be watching the Rhythm Method's concert this semester. No, the ensembles aren't feuding. April 4, the all-male a cappella group is scheduled to compete in a state wide singing competition at Penn State University. If they do well there, they'll go on to compete in the finals at Carnegie Hall. Somehow the group manages to fit 10-12 hours of rehearsal into a week, learn new songs for their April 25th show, and produce their third CD to celebrate their 15th anniversary without getting swelled heads.
"lt isn't about one campus group being better than another. We're really an a cappella community," group member Scott Honig said.
The lovely ladies of the Harpur Harpeggios are another member of the a cappella community celebrating a big anniversary this year. This past Saturday they celebrated with their founding mothers in their 15th anniversary concert: Pegs 83-98.
Up until recently, the Pegs performed the music of male musicians but on Saturday the Pegs performed new lillith-style music such as Joan Osborne's "St. Theresa" and Shawn Colvin's "Sunny Came Home."
"lt wasn't something we discussed. The music for this concert was arranged by a number of different people. That shift in music is a natural one considering the trends in music now and the more female singers heard on the radio," musical director Sally Weinbach explained.
Although the Pegs aren't touring or competing this semester, they are recording tracks for their next album, scheduled for release next year.
May will bring more than flowers for Binghamton this spring...it will also bring the Binghamtonics' 10th anniversary alumni concert. Their performance is scheduled for May 2, the same day their third CD will be released. The co-ed group recently took time out of their busy schedule of practicing and recording and performed in an a cappella competition at Dartmouth.
"We didn't do as well as we wanted to, but we're still happy with our performance. We've been working hard and we hope the upcoming concert will be great with different generations coming together," Tonic Josh Goldstein said.
The next time you spot a random singer on campus, go up and give them a compliment. Hey, get really enthusiastic and give them a hug. No matter what, give them your support... that's what makes all of their hard work and dedication worthwhile.