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Tuesday, July 05, 2022 — Houston, TX

Acappellooza raises vibrations in this year’s showcase

Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Michelle Gachelin     3/30/22 12:08am

Last Saturday, March 26, Rice’s five a cappella groups combined forces for an evening of performances that couldn’t have been more pitch perfect. The Philharmonics, Basmati Beats, Nocturnal, the Apollos and Low Keys each took the Grand Hall stage to perform their sets featuring creative arrangements and mashups of popular hits. The groups came together at the end of the evening for a joint performance of Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open,” with singers from the featured groups alternating solos.

Vibha Sastri, president of the Philharmonics, said that the event is a great opportunity to discover each group’s unique qualities.

“This is really the one-stop shop for all things a cappella,” Sastri, a McMurtry College senior, said. “Each group does a ten minute set, so you get a tiny little sampler from every group. You get to know their different voices and what music styles they perform.” 

The event doubled as a fundraiser for the Houston Music Therapy Services, which provides trauma-informed music therapy interventions in the Greater Houston area to people of all ages. According to Sastri, the 200 or so audience members in attendance helped raise around $150 for the center. 

“That’s a collaboration we’ve been fostering for the last several years, because we really believe in what they do for the Houston community,” Sastri said.

As a longtime a cappella fan, Sastri said she knew she wanted to join the a cappella community once she came to Rice. She auditioned as a freshman, as did Apollos first tenor Randall Schulz, who was able to hone his vocal skills in the process.

“I wanted to be in an a cappella group when I came to college because I’ve always loved singing. I had also been afraid to sing in public for a long time, and so I just wanted to do it,” Schulz, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said. “I tried out for another group, Nocturnal, my freshman year and did not make it. I took some voice lessons … Then I tried out for the Apollos this year and made it.”

Schulz credits the Apollos’ social atmosphere as a large part of what makes the group special.

“I enjoy the group dynamic a lot — in rehearsals, we definitely laugh a lot,” Schulz said. “I look forward to going to rehearsals because I enjoy singing, so it’s fun that way, but it’s also a de-stressing social time. I feel like all of the guys enjoy each other.”

Emily Plotkin, a Nocturnal member since their freshman year and the group’s previous digital media lead, also said that she enjoyed the social aspect of acapella. This year, the group is showcasing more complex vocal arrangements, which Plotkin credits to music director Katie Kirkpatrick’s vision. 

“When I joined, we were doing four-part harmonies, but over the course of the time that I’ve been in the group, it’s really gotten a bit more serious,” Plotkin, a Lovett College senior, said. “Now we’re in six-part harmony, we have some choreography planned and I feel like we’re giving a different kind of performance now than we were before.”

Plotkin said that she hopes that Nocturnal’s bond shines through in their performance.

“Whenever I’m singing, I just want to be able to touch people. I really think everybody can sing, but there’s something special that happens when you’re singing with a group,” Plotkin said. “I would hope that the audience can see the connection that we have with each other and that I feel like we have with the audience as well. [I want them] to feel like they’re a part of something.”

Martalisa Fischer, a member of the Low Keys and a soloist, echoed Plotkin’s hope to positively impact the audience.

“I just want them to see the effort and the love that we’ve poured into it,” Fischer, a Wiess College freshman, said. “And that they can really enjoy it and walk away from it feeling refreshed, because music is very refreshing and can bring a lot of joy to people.”

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