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Round Midnight: Acapella tries to save us from Finals!

May 12, 2009

Aries Indenbaum ’09

As the year winds down, everything speeds up. Like a weird academic-extracurricular gyre, concerts, recitals and shows pile up as the need to finish papers and ace tests becomes more pressing.

Today was...
- Coffee with Krislov (college president/pop icon solves your many woes)
- Astronomy (Saturn is out!)
- Black River Belles (Bluegrass Study Break!)
- Cinema studies films on the side of Mudd Library (Resourcer's Apprentice, Catatomb, and Reader Madness)

Yesterday, I saw Round Midnight, Oberlin's only co-ed a capella group. They were phenomenal, incredible, ballin, and great. Named after the Thelonious Monk standard, the group is really young, just 3.5 years old. I remember seeing the posters as a freshman: "'Round Midnight, co-ed folk/jazz a capella! Contact Julia + Kehan!"

"Hmm," I said at the time and dutifully wrote down email addresses. When I got back to my dorm, I realized what a terrible idea doing one more thing would be.

In high school, I sang in every choir; I took voice lessons on the weekend, sang at New York All-State Choir, qualified for All-Eastern, and did musicals. My first year here, I did music hardcore: Oberlin College Singers, Voices for Christ, Women's Choir. And slowly, I drifted away. I wanted to do new things, no matter how awesome Oberlin's music was. Still, it tugs at me.

Watching Round Midnight was awesome because I could get just how good they were. Each part blended perfectly, both within their section and across the whole group. Everyone dressed up, all on different points on the snazzy spectrum. Iris and Andrew were really sweet--in his hat and suit, Andrew looked like a bible salesman; Iris looked like a proper lady.

The pieces weren't just a capella standards, but folk and jazz as well, like Sir Duke, Lush Life, and Lullaby in Birdland.

The pieces were arranged by Oberlin students, some Composition/TIMARA majors, some college musicians. The arrangements were amazing. Most a capella groups have tenors/sopranos scoring up the melody, with baritones thumping a bass beat and altos singing some soupy harmony consisting of three notes. If I listen to a lot of a capella, it all generally blends together. It gets boring.

Except that Oberlin musicans aren't boring--they mix things up. There were more trade-offs and interplay between more parts, the melody/harmony/rhythms split across the entire group.

In short: greatness.

Despite all these study breaks, things still get odd around finals. There's more street art, more acts of helpful weirdness.

One person left a series of documents on the library computers, with just the title saved, without any content within the files:
"Help me"
"No seriously help me"
"These aren't just desktop documents "
"I'm calling for your help"
"From another realm"
"Stand up and shout!"

Good luck, kiddo. There's still one more day of Reading Period.

Responses to this Entry

is there an all-male acapella group?

Posted by: Anonymous on May 15, 2009 2:46 PM

Yes! The Obertones are all-male; they're really good and go on tour every year or so.

Posted by: Aries on May 18, 2009 11:32 AM

Is it possible for a soprano who did not get into the conservatory, but plans to attend Oberlin College, to have any performance experiences during the 4 years at college? Do only the Conservatory students get the roles?

Posted by: Anonymous on March 31, 2010 2:08 PM

Hello Anon,

By roles, do you mean opera? Or external singing roles? It is definitely possible for college singers to be in operas, though there might be other venues that might work better. A capella, choirs, ensembles, would all love vocalists. There's a lot of bands and groups on campus that would treasure a lead singer.

So, in short, yes.

Posted by: Aries on March 31, 2010 2:16 PM

Hi! I'm a super-excited incoming first year, and I would LOVE to know more about the a cappella scene, and especially 'Round Midnight. How many people are in the group, what are some of the other groups on campus (specifically, are there any other coed ones?) and any other info you have would be much appreciated. Thanks so much!

Posted by: Talia on July 24, 2011 10:52 PM

Talia: Round Midnight is around a dozen students, almost equally divided between boys and girls, though there are usually a few more girls than boys. It's the only co-ed group on campus, and they sing jazz/folk type things. In terms of a capella, there is also an all male group, the Obertones (there's also a subsect of the Obertones which is called Three Dudes and a Guy, a barbershop quartet made up of a few of the 'tones and they're teaching a barbershop ExCo this fall), and two all female groups, Nothing but Treble and the Acapelicans.

There were a handful of graduates this past year, so there are definitely some open slots for the 2011-12 school year. Keep an eye out for posters during orientation/the first week of classes for audition times!

Posted by: Ma'ayan on July 25, 2011 3:09 PM

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