A Cappella groups keep a college tradition alive

Tom Pilcher

For everything that distinguishes Lawrence from other universities, there are a few aspects of the small Appleton campus that tie it to other colleges, and the a cappella tradition is one of them. If so inclined, one could find a cappella versions of thousands of songs on YouTube, all from various college a cappella groups.
To top it off, Ben Folds, perhaps the one artist that nearly all college students can agree on, recently put together an album called “University A Cappella!” which features a cappella versions of his own songs by various college groups.
Lawrentians kept this collegiate tradition alive on Monday in Stansbury, singing to a relatively full house. Downplay, the first and smallest of the three groups to perform, opened the night patriotically with a rendition of the national anthem, even going so far as to ask the audience to stand for the anthem.
Made up of four freshman guys, Downplay projected a much larger sound than expected from such a small group, and the four easily filled the room with their tight barbershop harmonies.
The quartet did not utilize the beatboxing technique like the other two did, preferring instead to stick to more traditional barbershop songs that overall suited them well.
After the last harmonies from “My Coney Island Baby” and other Downplay songs faded away, Conchordance, a group of eight ladies, took the stage. Conchordance stuck more closely to the a cappella tradition of arranging popular songs, and even featured beatboxing on many of their tunes.
The beatboxing provided an interesting backdrop for the airtight harmonies of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On.”
The only weakness in Conchordance’s set was the song selection, which generally featured top 40 pop hits, except for one strange, interesting Bulgarian pop song. Overall, the group performed well, but the set could have been more interesting with more oddball selections like the Bulgarian song.
The Con Artists, an established group of guys in the Lawrence Bubble, began its set with a funny skit about the confusion of which group member would sing the lead part and what song the group members would sing.
After a few false starts and some laughter, the group members revealed that they had in fact rehearsed and began a strong set that featured good arrangements and strong singing all around. Their arrangement of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” drew the biggest response from the crowd, and the group clearly enjoyed performing it.
Despite the similarly pop-heavy song selection to Conchordance, The Con Artists confidently performed a strong set that emphasized the artists’ strengths as musicians.
Overall, the three a cappella groups performed a well-arranged concert, despite the proliferation of top 40 pop hits. As a non-singer, I was impressed by their ability to recreate all the sounds from various songs with only their voices, even if the concert did not make me search out every YouTube a cappella video I could find.