A capella hits euphoric note with students

Lucy Madison Column

I found myself in a very awkward situation at approximately 10:45 p.m. Saturday. There I was — sitting in the back row of the balcony at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, a giggly couple to my left, a bewildered companion to my right, and me, wondering how I had ended up in the company of so many earnest, bouncing, ugly-outfitted college students. And they were all singing pop music without instruments.

I was attending, of course, the Best of the Midwest a capella show — the once-a-year a capella extravaganza. Aside from the opportunity to see some a-mazing talent, this ordeal seems also to have been a showcase for the sincerest of the sincere, the purest of the pure, the merriest of the merry. A show that — to someone like me — never fails to be a shocking demonstration of bizarre human behavior.

My only previous experience had been suffering through the Intone-Nations at my high school, a group both incessantly mocked by the student body and and perpetually plagued by bad haircuts. When I saw BOTM, I was struck by one persistent thought: Who are these people?

Some of them are my friends, which is why I go to the concerts in the first place. By day these seemingly typical, attractive, socially adept singers make only normal amounts of eye contact. They walk like normal people, dance like normal people — or rather, normal Northwestern students — and only display their teeth on rare occasions of pure bliss.

But oh, at the concerts …

Faster than you can say Sarah McLachlan, their eyes meet, their teeth shine and joy emanates from the group members’ bouncing, black-lycra-clad bodies. Choreographed dance moves are broken out and sexy hair tosses are employed while the rest of us are left wondering whether these people have even a remote grip on reality.

According to Weinberg junior Matt Pearson, a member of Purple Haze, there are sacrifices that must be made for the cause. This sense of reality must be, for a few hours, forgone.

“You go through a lot of times when you feel like a complete idiot,” Pearson says. “But the point is that you just kind of embrace it. If you’re gonna be singing a capella music — if you’re gonna be singing ‘dos’ and ‘dums,’ ‘bops’ and ‘bums’ you’ve just gotta make it joyful. There’s no other way to do it except full commitment. You might as well succumb to utter joy.”

It’s not as easy as it may look, either. According to Pearson this euphoria is self-induced, although surprisingly genuine. “It’s like you brainwash yourself” into being joyful, he says.

Of course I appreciate the talent that exists in these groups — I love music and am supremely jealous of those friends of mine who possess the singing talent that I lack. My life would probably be very different right now if I hadn’t discovered, while earnestly singing my solo in the eighth-grade musical, that I was completely tone deaf. I’d probably be much nicer, much more chipper and have way more friends.

Then again my friends would probably all sing joyfully on the streets. And you know how much I hate that.