Each January brings us cold weather, new classes and fresh faces. Brandeis, the ever-welcoming university it is, received the Class of 2017’s midyear students with open arms. Among the many midyear-oriented activities was the Brandeis VoiceMale and Up the Octave collaborative a cappella show.
Held in the Village TV Lounge, the gig was attended by a good mix of midyears and older Brandeis students. Many of the midyears likely came expecting to see something from the movie “Pitch Perfect,” and luckily for them, they got to see most of the talent that was presented in it.
To the delight of the midyear girls, VoiceMale, which consists of Dan Schreiber ’14, Eli Siegel ’14, Adam Jones ’15, Ben Udo ’15, Elan Wong ’15, Shobhik Chakraborty ’17, Austin Koenigstein ’17, Kaelan Lynch ’17 and Antoine Malfroy ’17, performed first, singing a handful of songs from their 2013 Steamy Winter Concert. They started off the night with their traditional song, “Fallin’ Over You,” which was originally performed by Rockapella. Cheerful and easy to clap to, “Fallin’ Over You” was an obvious crowd pleaser. The smooth, well practiced vocals—kudos to Lynch and Schreiber—and euphonious harmonies was a great way to open the show.
The only minor problem was the less-than-perfect acoustics in the TV Lounge, but because the performance was midyear oriented, the lounge was a logical venue since all midyear students live in the Village.
Following VoiceMale’s first performance was Ferras’ “Hollywood’s Not America.” Sung by Chakraborty, it was noticeably more somber in comparison to the previous song. Blame it on the poor acoustics, but it was a little hard to hear Chakraborty over the background vocals.
Despite the fact that some soloists were overpowered, VoiceMale still had an impressive range of dynamics. However, Chakraborty may be better suited for a more upbeat song.
The third song performed was “In the Still of the Night,” a 1950s doo-wop and soul classic from The Five Satins. Schreiber was again the featured soloist. As in most concerts with a group of guys performing, girls fawned over VoiceMale and were loudly enthusiastic.
It was evident that the VoiceMale members are very close to each other, which was nice to see; watching an ensemble with good group dynamics is always enjoyable. What also helps is that VoiceMale is made up of charismatic performers who know how to work a crowd. In the middle of “In the Still of the Night,” for example, a particular girl in the audience was serenaded, which was admittedly a cute and effective method of boosting the energy in the room.
VoiceMale’s final song was “Talk You Down” by The Script. Sung by Koenigstein, who sounds similar to The Script’s lead singer, “Talk You Down” ended VoiceMale’s half of the show on a strong note.
Although the giggling girls in the crowd thoroughly liked VoiceMale, it would be refreshing to see more variety and relevance in their repertoire. Overall, VoiceMale is a fine a cappella group.
Up the Octave followed VoiceMale. The all-female a capella group is made up of Molly Lortie ’14, Anna Hirst ’15, Bethany Adam ’15, Emily Horowitz ’16, Kavi Dave ’16, Jane Berry ’16, Evelyn Milford ’16, Sarah Steiker ’17 and Margaret Morris ’17.
I genuinely enjoyed the energetic beatboxing, which Adam performed fantastically. She was critical to bringing liveliness to their half of the show. Another excellent aspect of their performance was their usage of alternate solos within one song, which is a fresh way to show off their singers. Up the Octave also employed adorably humorous synchronized dance moves, which upped the level of fun. However, Up the Octave does have room for improvement.
Vocally, Up the Octave sounds more like an ensemble of choir girls than a group of unique artists, thus giving an unmemorable performance. Although musically talented, some of the songs were not suited for the soloists. Their rendition of “Demons” by Imagine Dragons was out of soloist Horowitz’s voice range; it was too low for her, and it was a pity that her warm and pleasant tone could not be heard until the higher notes were sung. Songs with lower ranges are what make having an all-female a capella group risky.
Furthermore, Up the Octave’s performance of “Titanium” was not the most original arrangement out there. Just as in “Pitch Perfect,” the girls sang a mashup of “Titanium” and “Bulletproof.” Although it is perfectly all right to perform a cover that is not your own, giving credit to the original artists is highly recommended.
Up the Octave’s mashup was still fun and it was clear that the members are very supportive of one another. “Lights,” a classic Journey song, is an Up the Octave tradition. It was their best performance of the night—dynamic, heartwarming and pitch perfect, and I finally realized Up the Octave’s merit.
While Brandeis’ VoiceMale needs to revamp their setlist and Up the Octave should reevaluate the types of songs they sing in order to emphasize the talent they have, at the end of the show, the midyears were extremely impressed and enthused by Brandeis’ a cappella. Talented and charming, yes. Fresh, no. On the other hand, this was only a casual gig, and I look forward to seeing what VoiceMale and Up the Octave perform in the future.