High, low notes of a cappella, according to Madrigal singers

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Emma Newman cub writer

With nine songs and not a single instrument, the Madrigals a cappella showcase is not your typical choir performance. But for the fifth year in a row, the showcase is being put together, soon to be performed on Jan. 31.  

Because this style of music differs from traditional choral music, the preparation process for the showcase differs from the preparation of a normal choir concert. The most noticeable change, however, is the fact that Stacey Kikkawa, the vocal music teacher, is not the only person helping to put the showcase together. Rob Deetz, an a cappella arranger, is also helping with the process.

Deetz’s presence in the preparation for the concert is the best aspect of this process according to senior Caroline German, a soprano who has been a Madrigal for one year.

“Because he arranged the pieces, he…knows how they all sound and how they’re all supposed to feel,” German said.

German is not the only member of Madrigals who is happy that Deetz is helping with the showcase. Senior Sebastian Shramkobsky, the Madrigal’s representative and a member of the choir for the last three years, also views Deetz as the best part about arranging the showcase.

“[He] make[s] all of the pieces we do, and it’s cool to get a more inside look into the a capella world,” Shramkobsky said.

Not only does Deetz help with the showcase by arranging the songs, but he also gives the Madrigals learning tracks to help them with their performance.

“Some of [the songs] are very…hard. He gives us learning tracks that we can learn from. We don’t have to…sight read the music. With certain songs that we don’t have learning tracks for, we have to learn it all by ourselves. The rhythms and…the pitches will be hard,” German said.

Despite help from Deetz, some Madrigal singers face some difficulties with songs, styles and teamwork. German found songs like “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley and “Lullaby” by Josh Groban particularly tough to sing, while Shramkobsky has his own challenges.

“I do some of the vocal percussion beatboxing for the a cappella shows, so for me personally, a song called ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder [is a song that] I am having a lot of trouble getting the beatboxing for because it’s a little bit more of the offbeat [and] it’s more jazzy,” Shramkobsky said.

However, the Madrigals have been working diligently to overcome these challenges by practicing every day during class since finals week, with individuals like Shramkobsky practicing for about two hours a day.  

“Sometimes certain songs are a little bit more on the difficult side and sometimes getting the whole ensemble together to get a better group sound is a little bit difficult, but we usually work together and get through,” Shramkobsky said.  

Another type of challenge the group has encountered is the shift in musical style.

“Madrigals have a more classical tone to it, while the a cappella showcase is more pop-oriented…Instead of us trying to be people singing all together in a group, we’re imitating instruments to create that a cappella sound,” Shramkobsky said.

However, despite the challenges and differences of a cappella, many Madrigals singers  like German and Shramkobsky enjoy performing this style as much, if not more, than traditional choral music.

“It’s different and that’s why I like it,” German said. “Being able to do something that’s very different from what…most of the people in our choir do [and] getting to…try out new music that you have never really sung…is really fulfilling.”

 

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