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Scattertones’ bond to be essential to performance, despite being scattered apart

(Andrea Grigsby/Illustrations director)

By Yiqing Hu

May 28, 2020 12:39 am

Scattertones is bringing a new performance style to the table for this year’s Spring Sing.

While the group usually performs pop songs with a featured soloist, this time its members opted for a collective ensemble-oriented piece, with the 17-member group performing Billie Eilish’s “when the party’s over.” Scattertones President Aram Krakirian, a fourth-year business economics student, said the group’s choice to switch up its signature style was based on a desire to experiment with the drastic emotional changes that unfold throughout the song.

“We needed to think about what we wanted the audience to feel for different parts of the song,” Krakirian said. “It made us have to pay more attention to body language, facial expressions and our connections to each other onstage. That made it significantly different from the usual upbeat songs.”

For an ensemble piece, the group places more importance on harmonizing among all members, as there isn’t a soloist to draw attention away from minor vocal flaws, said Haley Mark, a second-year business economics student and business manager for Scattertones. Without a live performance, each member has individually recorded and contributed their pieces, which contribute to the full, layered sonic experience alongside their video element. Mark said members are accustomed to practicing individually to ensure quality isn’t lost in the transition from an in-person show.

“We usually have multiple performances each quarter,” Mark said. “Even the new people join in as soon as possible, and we spend a lot of time alone and together to polish and harmonize. It comes down to a day-by-day basis where we’re continuously pushing ourselves to be better.”

Mark said the group’s collective love of a cappella eased the stress of creating a virtual performance. Usually, practices demand a minimum of six hours for group rehearsal a week and even more in private, she said, but the positive chemistry among its members creates a supportive environment meant to motivate members. Paravi Das, a first-year theater student, said she felt the connection between performance quality and group dynamic even before formally joining the group.

“During callback auditions, the alumni came and sang with the current members,” Das said. “It’s incredible that while you may not know the person, you’ve shared the same experiences and emotions through singing and made an intimate bond that goes beyond simply being performers together.”

This intimate bond helps motivate individuals to refine their performance, said Carly Wood, a second-year theater student. For this year’s Spring Sing, Wood credits this bond as a key factor in maintaining her desire to prepare and perform, even while separated from other members of the group.

“The relationship aspect of it is everything,” Wood said. “While I love music itself, being together with other members was always why I want to go to rehearsals every week.”

For Scattertones, its members’ musical and emotional dynamic is central to the quality of every performance, Krakirian said. There’s a natural synchronicity to the group when it is performance-ready, and that requires every member to be on the same page with emotions, group dynamic and rhythm.

While the group works with a music director, Krakirian said it’s still integral that everyone shares their emotional and creative interpretation of the piece and come to an agreement regarding style and vision before any rehearsing begins. This way, everyone understands the collective goals for the piece, creating an overall cohesive performance.

“Sometimes, when you finish a song, you need to take a moment,” Krakirian said. “Everyone’s silent and looking at each other like, ‘Wow, we just did that,’ and at that moment you know a song is ready.”

 

Scattertones has been prepared for Spring Sing since February, Mark said. Although the group has since made creative changes, such as cutting out choreography, Mark said the transition to a virtual platform has been smooth, and the group’s performance should retain the quality of a live show.

“Scattertones has always been about music and people,” Mark said. “We want to bring our best to each performance, but the most important thing is that we enjoy the experience onstage and that the audience enjoys it along with us.”

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Yiqing Hu
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