Friend Sings My Mind: many voices, one sound

Late on a Tuesday night, first-year Alec Gordon cast a solitary, low melody into the silence of the Dana Auditorium lobby.

But he was not alone. The rest of Friend Sings My Mind, Guilford College’s new a cappella group, stood in a circle beside him.

With Gordon laying down the bass line, sophomore Ben Evans soon crooned the song’s first verse.

“When the night has come and the land is dark,” sang Evans.

As Evans and Gordon edged towards the end of the verse, the remaining members of FSMM painted the wall with melodic embellishments .

“So darling, darling, stand by me,” belted Evans.

By the end of the song, notes and spirits soared as high and bright as the chandeliers overhead.

And that was just an end of a practice jam session.

But like these jam sessions, with Gordon stepping out, Evans stepping in and the rest of the group filling the space between, the formal rehearsals require a combination of individual strength and group blending.

“If everyone sang like Aretha Franklin, we wouldn’t sound good,” said sophomore Addy Allred.

Every voice in FSMM plays an important role, and like Gordon singing the jam-sparking bass line, someone needed to hit the first note.

Over the summer, Allred and sophomore Vince Schueren discussed forming Guilford’s first a cappella group in recent memory.

“It didn’t make sense that Guilford didn’t have an a cappella group since we have a ton of talented singers who love to collaborate,” said Schueren.

Another important voice in the harmony of group dynamics is organization.

After working to form the group with Schueren, Allred, the group’s manager, applied her talents in spreading the word about auditions.

“I’m not very savvy in a cappella, but I’m really good at organizing people,” said Allred.

After holding auditions earlier this semester, FSMM  narrowed to 13 singers and started practicing.

Every voice, both literally and figuratively, is invaluable during the four hours the group spends together each week.

“It’s everyone’s job to make the group into something that each of us wants to be a part of,” said Schueren.

Senior Vita Price agrees that the group’s success is due to the even spread of responsibility across the group.

“Those extra five minutes you were late or those extra five minutes you spent looking over your parts matter … for the whole group,” said Price.

Since a cappella is a new experience for many of the members, during practice the group constantly works to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“Is this OK with everyone if I tap my foot?” sophomore John Madden asked during practice, making sure his time-keeping tactics did not distract from the music.

Listening to the whole sound of their small community, the group runs practices similar to Quaker Meetings.

“I think we have consensus that we want to learn a new measure,” said Schueren, while the group worked on the tender Billy Joel song, “And So It Goes.”

As members voice new ideas — the bass section suggested imitating twangy guitar plucking with goat-like ‘ba’s’ — each member listens intently.

“We have a ‘One Diva, One Mic’ policy,” said sophomore Laura Todd. “If one person is talking, we really try to listen instead of interrupting.”

With such interdependent integrity, the quality of the sound increases, along with, of course, the pleasure the group derives from singing together.

“There’s something so powerful about being part of a chord,” said Evans.

Todd shared similar ideas about group singing.

“There’s a lot of power in that format, trying to be one with the group while keeping your own voice distinct,” said Todd.

Schueren’s advice?

“Listen louder than you sing.”

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