The Elizabethans up close

The Elizabethans are a happening a cappella group that offers a distinct alternative to the other a cappella groups on campus. With its unique combination of Renaissance music, humor and singing talent, it has amassed a contingent of devoted fans. The members of the Elizabethans are Meghan Freeman ’00, Katy Miyamoto ’01, Anna Mullikin ’98, Torie Gorges ’00, Allegra Martin ’99, Greg Bloch ’99, Heath Dill ’98, Brian Gerke ’99 and Dan Mason ’00. The Record visited the group at a rehearsal before its April 25 concert. Here’s a look at their conception, their aspirations and their dirty songs.

Record: When was the Elizabethans founded? Is the group today what the founders envisioned?

Greg: The group was started during Winter Study ’94.

Brian: I would say we have gone from being really wacky people who sing kind of good music to being less wacky and better singers who sing really good music.

Heath: I would say that the quality of voices have gone up, while the number of members has gone down. The group has become more technical, and we are more vocally proficient. The original members basically just wanted to have fun, but we really concentrate on putting on good music shows.

What is the philosophy of the group?

Allegra: To sing good music. We just want to have fun.

Brian: We would like to present some alternative to the standard a cappella group fare.

Would you say it is more difficult to sing Elizabethan music? Your group is extremely technically proficient. I doubt that everyone could do it.

Heath: Well, these kinds of songs are supposed to sound a certain way.

Meghan: For our songs, you have to sing an entire part. Blending is really important too.

Brian: See, we can’t take people who can’t not sound like soloists and who can’t blend.

Allegra: We still tend to want the same people as the other groups on campus. However, if a voice is too distinctive or strange, it doesn’t work with the rest of this group, or with the music.

What’s up with the sheep and the fancy costumes?

Greg: Well, the pastoral genre was the 16th century ideal in literature and music.

Allegra: Sheep, lambs and flocks meant a lot back then.

Dan: Also, the original members really liked sheep a lot.

Allegra: A faculty member gave them a stuffed sheep, and it became the mascot of the group.

Torie: Unfortunately the whole sheep thing lowered itself to people throwing sheep all over the stage. The Elizabethan costumes were made by Brian and his mother.

How do you pick your music?

Allegra: We’ll bring in a piece, run it a couple times and then see what people think. I tried to write marginally crude music but some people with Catholic grandmothers didn’t approve. The Elizabethans sang some pretty dirty songs, they weren’t old and prissy.

Brian: But the ones dedicated to Queen Elizabeth are not dirty.

Dan: Well, if you imagine your grandmother singing these songs, you realize how dirty some of them can be.

Heath: Of course, not all of us have thought about this [our grandmothers singing dirty songs].

Do you do much arranging?

Dan: Well, if it’s been around since back then, and it’s by famous composers, it’s probably as good as it’s going to get.

Torie: Yeah, you know, 16th century music is 16th century music.

Greg: Some stuff does get arranged though.

Allegra: Yes. I get tons of material from the library and kind of look it over. Also, we add something different to our signature song every time we perform it; this concert, Heath did an entire pop-type a cappella concert for the ending.

Do you travel much to other schools?

Allegra: Every year we take a week-long trip during Spring Break….Everyone looks forward to it. This year, we travelled to Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C. and Virginia, among others.

What are the group’s goals for next year?

Allegra: We want to find some really good voices, since we are losing several very strong members.

Dan: It would be nice to get a fresh start, although we try to do that every year. We’d like to get the same crack at new singers that other groups get.

Allegra: We would also like to widen our visibility on campus, to let people know that we’re really good.

Katy: That we’re good, and we’re here.

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