Last week marked the 100th Homecoming for the University of Tennessee, and while some watched “the stately walls rise glorious to the sight,” others filled the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall in the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center to hear the UT Singers annual homecoming concert Friday night.
The UT Singers, premier a cappella ensemble and Tennessee’s musical ambassadors, took the stage under the direction of Interim Associate Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Jaclyn Johnson, before a nearly full recital hall. Johnson encouraged the audience to clap, cheer, video, livestream and “woohoo” during the performance.
“Blending is everything, especially with each person on a microphone. Every tiny flaw is amplified, and because the group is only 14 members, there is absolutely nowhere to hide,” Johnson said commenting on the group’s performance and efforts. “We spend a great deal of time devoted to blend and balance.”
The recital hall resonated with balanced sound as the 14 singers performed 14 songs including modern pop hits, classic R&B and of course, “Rocky Top.” Lights were orchestrated to fit each song and were brightly displayed on the stage in hues of pink, purple, blue and orange, creating an enjoyable ambiance for all in attendance.
The singers opened with a mash up of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” and Fall Out Boy’s hit “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” featuring soloist, Megan Murray.
Murray, a first year UT Singer and junior from Kingsport, loves the opportunity to sing in such an ensemble. She said, “UT Singers has made me love UT more and more every week. It has allowed me to pursue my Public Relations major while still having an amazing outlet to pursue my passion for music alongside others who share that same passion.”
Murray and the other members broke into smaller ensembles for several songs. They branched beyond a cappella by incorporating guitar and piano. Hayley McGinnis belted Tori Kelley’s “Hollow” with an acoustic twist accompanied on guitar by Cory Sauer. Paul Davis III also accompanied Nicole Doyal on piano for Adele’s “All I Ask.”
Their time and efforts reached a pinnacle as they invited UT Singers alumni to sing the Alma Mater as well as “Rocky Top” arranged by recent UT Singer alumnus, Seth O’Kegley. Many alumni ranging from the graduating class of 1959 to the most recent class of 2016 joined them on stage donning their orange and white. Other alumni like HGTV design celebrity, Josh Johnson, watched livestream on Facebook.
The generational group sang in a style unfamiliar to some of the former singers because the group was formerly geared toward show choir.
“As a UT Singer, I’d have been intimidated by the complex a cappella harmonies that make groups like Pentatonix so incredible, but it sure would’ve been fun to learn! They have paved the way to an entirely new take on the oldest form of singing, and I think it’s awesome that UTS is taking on the challenge,” UT Singers alumna, Liz Mabie, said.
The UT Singers enjoy opportunities to perform for alumni, public and private events. Dr. Johnson and the UT Singers take pride in their service as they “have the honor of singing for multimillion dollar donor and alumni events.”
Their family-like bond and support system enables them to shine individually as they move to the music they make and connect with the audience. Audience members like Ellen Sudarshan enjoyed both the music and their stage presence.
“Their arrangements were really dissonant and resolved really well. I think they all had a great, unique personality onstage, and they were really fun to watch,” Sudarshan said.
The UT Singers join with the rest of their a cappella family, ReVOLution and VOLume, for the Winter Choral Concert on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. in Cox Auditorium. The University of Tennessee Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, Men’s Chorale and Women’s Chorale will also perform. Admission is free.
Featured photo by Lexie Little
Edited by Katy Hill