The members of Emerson’s Noteworthy a capella group emerged under a strand of red Solo cups that stretched over the stage, wearing an intentionally disheveled wardrobe, donning everything from plaid bathrobes to pirate hats. Forgoing the formal wear generally associated with such a performance, they instead opted for fuzzy slippers and oversized button-down shirts to fit the humorous theme of the evening, “Walk of Shame.”
Heading into its 11th year, Noteworthy is the oldest a cappella group on campus. Comprised of students from many different majors and years, its unaccompanied musical arrangements showcases a lot of musical talent.
Though the group faced a significant loss this year after nine members graduated, Noteworthy still managed to pack the Cabaret on Saturday, Nov. 9 for “Walk of Shame,” its first performance of the year.
The group opened the show on an upbeat note with a rendition of “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5, featuring senior performing arts major Audrey Owens as a soloist.
The audience was instantly receptive, and remained supportive with hearty applause and cheers throughout the entire evening. The crowd’s enthusiasm during a powerful interpretation of Adele’s “Skyfall,” during which soloist Talia Robinson, a junior performing arts major, received many appreciative cheers.
Noteworthy’s diverse set list featured everything from old classics such as “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by the Beatles to newer songs, including an ambitious take on “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus mashed up with One Republic’s recent hit “Counting Stars.”
“I really loved the newer arrangements,” said Stanson Afoa, a freshman communication studies major. “The older songs were great too, but I really enjoyed the newer material.”
Noteworthy owes the strength of these arrangements to musical director Walker Desing, a junior visual and media arts major, whose hard work allows the group to integrate such a variety of songs into their repertoire.
“It’s always stressful bringing new songs in, because there’s always a disconnect between how the songs sound in your head and how actual human voices will sing them,” said Desing.
Desing emphasized that a lot of care goes into making the arrangements just right for the group.
“Sometimes you have to sacrifice parts you think sound really cool in order to make something more cohesive and pleasing to the ear,” said Desing. “The trick is to strike a balance between singability and musical density. Sometimes it needs to be fun as well as technical.”
According to president Celia Lechtman, a junior performing arts major, Noteworthy strives to keep its performances exciting and original by democratically selecting new songs at the beginning of the semester.
“Everyone in the group has the opportunity to submit one to three songs for voting,” said Lechtman. “Some things that are considered are the song’s ability to be translated into an a cappella arrangement, where it will fit into our set, whether or not the group can get into it.”
When the group welcomed up alumni to sing with them later in the evening, the joyful reunion that ensued as the members hugged and linked arms proved that new members have a strong bond to look forward to.
Noteworthy owes a lot to its alumni, who have encouraged the group to set aside time to go into the studio and capture some of its material.
“Recording is something we really enjoy. The guys we’ve been working with really understand a cappella and work very closely with us to make sure we still sound like Noteworthy,” said Lechtman. “A lot of a cappella recordings just sound like synthesizers because they’re so overproduced, and our human-ness is very important to us.”
Soon, the group will participate in A Cappella Armageddon, a Boston-wide college a cappella competition that takes place on Sunday, Nov. 17 at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Toward the end of Noteworthy’s performance, faculty advisor Thomas Cooper came onstage to encourage attendees to attend the competition, as audience reaction is factored into the judging process and a win could result in up to 25 hours of studio time for Noteworthy.
The show lasted a mere half hour, but the audience nonetheless seemed satisfied as it left. The group closed out the evening with a sweet, slow arrangement of “Wake Your Eyes” by Steel Train. Despite any setbacks Noteworthy faced in preparation, the array of songs, soloists, and silly costumes proved the evening an ultimate success.
“I’m so impressed,” said freshman communication studies Marty Miller after the performance. “There is a lot of talent.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated that Noteworthy showcased all of the singing talent on campus. Noteworthy features some of, but not all of, the singing talent on campus. Additionally, the attribution made to Walker Desing regarding MassArt was incorrect. It was according to the A Cappella Armageddon website.
McGrath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.