Purple Haze to compete for international award

Christina Chaey

The members of Purple Haze are making their sixth attempt at an arrangement of Nine Days’ “Story of a Girl,” gathering close together in a big circle, but no one can make it through the first few lines without bursting into laughter.

“Coming to Purple Haze rehearsals is the best part of my day, ” said Tasha Koontz, a School of Music sophomore and one of Purple Haze’s music directors.

Purple Haze is one of NU’s 14 a cappella groups. It recently won the Varsity Vocals International Championship of A Cappella Midwest region semifinal, an achievement none of the members were expecting.

“We weren’t really sure how we were going to do it,” said Catherine Brookman, another music director for the group and School of Music junior. “It’s been a mixture of surprise and delight along the way.”

Purple Haze will head to New York on April 19 to perform at Lincoln Center for the final competition. They will compete against five other a cappella groups from the U.S. and Europe.

The members of Purple Haze feel making the final is an accomplishment in itself, Brookman said.

“At this point we’re just excited to see what the other a cappella groups have to offer,” she said. “We’re now considered one of the top six a cappella groups in the world.”

The groups in the final are all “phenomenal,” said Amanda Grish, executive director of Varsity Vocals.

“If the judges didn’t have score sheets, they wouldn’t know what to do,” she said. “This is a way of helping them pick the best one qualitatively.”

Grish, a Chicago resident and former Midwest producer for the international competition, said she was familiar with Purple Haze.

“They’re a great group and we’re glad to have them in the finals,” she said.

The group was originally worried about the competition conflicting with some members’ schedules, Brookman said.

“Eleven of the 17 members are involved in productions and we’re all very busy,” she said. “Luckily, things worked out.”

The group will be performing some old favorites at the national competition, such as Regina Spektor’s “Samson” and an *NSync medley complete with boy band choreography, Brookman said.

In addition to preparing for the final, the group is also practicing for its spring show, a full-length play they wrote that features 15 songs.

“We all love the process of making our music,” Koontz said. “The bonds that we feel are one and the same.”

The group is also releasing its yet-to-be-titled sixth studio album this spring. The album’s release will coincide with the group’s spring show in late May.

“What we really want is to share our music with other students,” Koontz said. “I think each a cappella group (on campus) has something different to offer, but what I love about Purple Haze is that we do all of our own arrangements. We care about making really good music.”

Although many of the group members are involved in theater, opera and other student groups, Purple Haze gives members the opportunity to come together to share their love of contemporary pop music.

“Having so many eclectic people come together to make music is incredible,” Koontz said.

Hearing the group perform the music that they arrange themselves is one of the most gratifying parts of the process, Brookman said.

“The group sings with so much love and so much joy,” she said. “It’s very special.”

[email protected]