Drew University’s music department hosted their Unaccompanied concert—a joint performance from Drew’s Chorale and the university’s three a cappella groups. The concert was organized by Sarah Michal, Adjunct Instructor of Music and the director of Drew’s choirs. Michal put the event together in hopes of not only showcasing Drew’s many vocal talents both on their own and in conjunction with one another, but also forming new ways of making and sharing music at Drew.
“There’s just so much great music on campus, and so much great vocal music on campus, and we don’t do enough together,” said Michal. Michal also emphasized their desire to get to know the students in the a cappella groups and make them aware of the academic choir.
As can be assumed from the name, the repertoire of the concert was composed entirely of songs that do not require instrumental accompaniment. The four groups performed three songs each.
Chorale’s selection was composed of “Weep, O Mine Eyes,” an English madrigal from the 1500s; “Underneath the Stars,” which is a sweeping, poetic and lyrical piece, and an arrangement of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” in the style of a traditional English madrigal, which was a particular hit at both its original performance this past fall and at the Unaccompanied concert.
“‘All Star,’ well, that just speaks for itself,” said Michals about the student-favorite song. “I came across that music last year and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s great, but I don’t have a group that can sing this. Wait, yes I do!’”
The three a cappella groups––36 Madison Avenue, On A Different Note and All Of The Above––all drew on repertoire from previous performances throughout the 2022-2023 academic year, including 36 Madison Avenue’s rendition of “Sixteen Tons,” On A Different Note’s take on Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over” and All Of The Above’s performance of “Paradise” by Coldplay.
The atmosphere of the concert was intentionally relaxed and comfortable, though not unprofessional. Students in the audience cheered for their friends on stage and danced along to the music, further encouraging and engaging with Michal’s goals of making music together in a fun, collaborative space.
“There’s something quite vulnerable in sharing your voice,” said Michals. “And I try to not take that for granted, because I know that everyone is sharing in that, sharing their vulnerability and taking on that responsibility of making music together.”
The concert concluded with a performance of “I Have Had Singing” by Chorale and all three a cappella groups. The song is composed by Steven Sametz and is available for free on his website. “I Have Had Singing” speaks to amateur and professional musicians alike about the simple love of singing and the lasting joy it can bring,” Sametz states in his program notes.
This attitude is precisely what Michals aimed to depict in the Unaccompanied concert.
“‘I Have Had Singing’ is just one that I’ve had in my pocket forever. I do it with almost every group that I conduct and it becomes something that we take ownership of,” Michal said. “And the fact that it’s scored out, that there’s three different versions of it––one for tenors and basses, one for sopranos and altos and one for all––that means that if they want to, Mad Ave can perform it alone, On A Different Note can perform it alone, we can all perform it together. And that’s what I’m all about.”
For Michals, and indeed for the students in Chorale and in the a cappella groups, performance and the act of sharing music are things of joy and beauty, and it certainly seems, from the lively energy of the concert, that they are labors of love.
Chloe is a sophomore majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing and minoring in Spanish.