There are over eight different a cappella groups in the Tri-Co, all of which perform at many different campus events, including Plenary, Admitted Student’s Day, May Day, and the president’s trustees meeting. Yet few people know that behind the harmonizing notes and impressive performances, many groups harbor traditions that make each a cappella community unique.
According to Isabella Letson-Ettin, a member of Night Owls, the official a cappella group of Bryn Mawr, the majority of a capella traditions center around welcoming new singers and bidding farewell to the seniors.
The beginning of the year is especially busy, with incoming students trying out for a variety of Tri-Co groups. According to Kelsey Rall, a member of Extreme Keys, the oldest a cappella group in the Tri-Co, the selection process for auditioning singers is the same for a cappella groups across the board.
At Bryn Mawr, the recruitment of new singers culminates with the Welcome Back Concert which happens the Thursday of auditions week and features all of the a cappella groups at Bryn Mawr, so that auditioning students can watch the groups perform. Haverford and Swarthmore’s a capella groups host similar concerts.
Singers audition on the Thursday before Bryn Mawr’s Parade Night, with call backs done on Saturday or Sunday of that week. Singers traditionally find out if they have been accepted at 9 p.m. on Sunday night, an unveiling which can take many forms.
For example, if an individual is accepted into the Night Owls, they receive a congratulatory e-mail, and members of the group serenade them with “Good Night”. For new members of Extreme Keys, the singers are told they will receive an email regarding the decision at 9 p.m., but if they are accepted, veteran members of the groups will come to their room and sing to them. Counterpoint does a similar acceptance serenade.
Rall says that the Extreme Keys and S Chords, the Keys’ brother group from Haverford, will invite accepted singers to a pop-up concert, usually held in Radnor dorm. At the concert, the Keys will sing for the newly accepted members and invite them to join in the singing. . S Chords normally don’t tell newly accepted members where the concert is held— instead, they blindfold the new members to take them to the concert hall in Radnor.
The Keys will often honor seniors by giving them a solo to perform. Seniors choose a song and have the opportunity to either arrange it themselves or have others in the group arrange it. They then solo the song in a concert.
These traditions, some of which are over one hundred years old, make the a cappella experience rich, interesting, and fun. As all traditions within the Tri-Co, they preserve an atmosphere of warmth and inclusion that extends back to class years long past, and creates memories that last long after four years of college are complete.
Photography by Photo Editor Wanyi Yang