The lights dimmed and the audience waited for something to appear on stage. Instead, a beatboxer sounded over the mic; his location was a mystery. The stage remained unlit and abandoned. An unsettling chant sounded from the rear of Pierce Chapel on Halloween.
The audience finally realized the source of this eerie music was a hoard of people marching in a limp, zombie-like fashion through the audience towards the stage. Once in formation, one of the zombies took the mic and laid down a haunting rap from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The lights came on to reveal that there was nothing to fear — unless one finds Christian a cappella ensembles frightening.
The crowd was electric as familiar and friendly faces broke into song and dance at the a cappella concert, the singing groups killing “Thriller” as if they were the king of pop himself. Wheaton College’s three a cappella groups, Amplify, One a-Chord and the Thundertones, engaged the crowd and moved their captive audience to laughter and thunderous applause. Once the show began, the energy refused to die down. The crowd remained engaged even during the transitions and ten minute intermission as show hosts junior Ryan Fitzpatrick and sophomore Max Terman entertained the crowd with quick jokes and witty introductions.
“It was a gozzzod experience because the reaction of the crowd was very positive, and that reaction fueled my group with a lot of energy and provoked us to do better,” freshman Madison Archer from One a-Chord said in reflection of the night.
The venue was ideal for the number of attendees; students packed into both the floor and balconies of Pierce Chapel. Some of the performers had predicted a smaller turnout, as their concert was competing against costume parties and Halloween candy.
“I was not expecting this many people,” junior Scott Reed said. Reed sang in Thundertones and was pleased with both the turnout and with his crew. He called the annual concert “a great night,” adding, “I am proud of my guys; they killed it.”
Many challenges come with ‘killing it’ for an a cappella choir. For example, the singers must memorize their parts, stay on key without accompaniment, learn the choreography and keep on beat.
Junior Gray Martin, Amplify’s beat boxer, said, “I got a good group that keeps a good rhythm, so I have the freedom to mess around with the beat a bit. I’ve been with groups in the past that want to speed up, so I’d have to focus on just keeping the tempo. But now I am surrounded by talented people who make me sound good.”
According to senior Adam Lindgren from the Thundertones, “Each of the groups performed solidly and to the best of their ability.” Amplify, a co-ed ensemble, danced energetically to clever renditions of mainstream music. One a-Chord, a branch of the Woman’s Chorale, delivered powerful melodies and poetic lyrics. The Thundertones, the showstoppers of the Men’s Glee Club, performed songs varying from a solemn hymn arrangement to a hysterically choreographed medley of boy band classics.
“It was so much fun! It was cool to see different styles clash,” junior Eugenia Kang of Amplify said.
Kang also helped shed some light onto why a cappella is biblical. She said, “A cappella is very raw. When we sing together, we have to focus on each other. It is a way to glorify God, not just with individual voices, but as a choir.”
To steal the phrase from the posters promoting the concert, “You can bet your fatted calf” that focusing on each other rather than on oneself and that raising a united voice of praise to God makes a cappella biblical.
Freshman Katie Dunn-Rankin of Amplify saluted a cappella because, she said, “Unlike mainstream music, we are using the gifts God gave us instead of supplementing them with technology.”
What else makes a cappella biblical? According to sophomore Elizabeth Bretscher of One a-Chord, “To praise the Lord with trumpet and harp lyre and strings and pipe and clashing of cymbals — that is what we are doing. We are worshipping God with our voices, the instruments God gave us.”