Undertones and Harmonia add zing to study days
By Maria Smith and Christie Bolsen
Scene Editor and Assistant Scene Editor
Ever wanted to hear 13 guys in suits serenade you with "My Maria," or girls hit the high notes in an a cappella rendition of "Landslide?"
This Friday is your chance to hear all this and more when the Undertones and Harmonia, two of Notre Dame's elite a cappella choirs, take the stage at Washington Hall. A cappella means no piano, no drums, no accompaniment — just what the singers can build from their voices. And the result can be stunning.
The Undertones are famous not only for the quality of their music, but also for their showmanship. The singers introduce themselves and their music creatively and get the audience involved, even if it means bringing leis and Tiki torches onstage. This year promises to be no different.
The Undertones are a subset of the Glee Club, with all 13 members chosen from the larger choir at the end of every school year. Unlike their parent group, the Undertones perform exclusively a cappella arrangements of popular music.
The arrangements are written and performed only by members of the Undertones. Although the group has to ask permission from the original performers to record many of their arrangements on CD for sale in the Notre Dame Bookstore, they are rarely turned down. The group was especially honored when the Counting Crows played the Undertones' rendition of "Long December" between acts at the Morris Performing Arts Center, in Chicago and at other venues around the country on their tour this fall.
This year's spring concert will feature new hits like "Hanging by a Moment" by Lifehouse as well as old favorites like "Kiss the Girl" from "The Little Mermaid." The group will also introduce their new members at the end of the show in what has become a yearly tradition.
Performing without accompaniment and without direction is a difficult challenge for any singing group, and the Undertones are notorious for working well together. Many members sing with the choir from sophomore year on, helping to build a solid sound in the group. Although the group is generally composed of upperclassmen, this year's choir also has two freshmen that could potentially continue to sing with the group for four years.
Harmonia began as the all-female version of the Undertones only two years ago. Four girls in McGlinn, who admired the a cappella group but couldn't get involved for obvious reasons, decided to take matters into their own hands. Senior Danielle Rinaldi and three of her friends in the dorm were big fans of the Undertones and had all been in a cappella groups in high school. They decided to start their own group and auditions were held the very next fall. The process involves teaching potential singers a piece and then choosing between 12 and 16 girls, whichever seems to work best that year. There are usually three days of auditions held early in the year.
Now in their second year, Harmonia will be headlining Friday's concert along with the Undertones. The two groups will be switching off, each performing sets of three songs at a time. The songs will be a wide range of popular hits, including eighties tunes as well as more recent songs. The concert should be full of recognizable, fun music for the audience.
Jenny Radelet, who was the winner of this year's Irish Idol contest, will be opening the concert with a song she performed at Irish Idol. She became involved with Harmonia as a result of her admiration for the Undertones as well; after seeing them perform, a fellow Cavanaugh resident told her about the female a cappella group. She says that both groups are very well prepared and talented, and believes that any audience member will have a great time at the concert.
So if you're in need of a study break by Friday, there will be two groups of gifted singers waiting to harmonize classics for your listening pleasure. After all, wouldn't you rather hear gorgeous voices singing "In the Still of the Night" instead of studying in the still of the night?
The Undertones and Harmonia will be performing at 8 p.m. Friday in Washington Hall.
All Scene Stories for Friday, May 2, 2003