Who doesn’t love a good serenade?

By Michaela Hughes

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Have you ever been standing around and all of a sudden found yourself snapping and swaying to the downbeat of a catchy tune? Well, you’re not alone.

Hundreds of schools across America have embraced the musical styling of a cappella, including UMass, which has five different groups actively performing and competing in the Pioneer Valley.

A cappella means “from the chapel” in Italian and was originally used as early religious music. Over the years, a cappella grew and took on different styles from barbershop quartets to modern pop music (Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” if anyone is looking for a good cry). Collegiate a cappella groups popped up throughout the 20th century and now it is hard to find a college campus that does not have a group of talented young musicians doo-ing and da-ing. But endlessly repeating syllables is not all they do; in fact, almost all groups have students who create some of their own arrangements.

“You can try to replicate it as much as you can, all the nuances and all the instruments or something that’s more challenging is to make it your own and do something totally different and just turn the song around,” said Jarrod Stein, a junior from the UMass group Vocal Suspects.

Vocal Suspects is the oldest co-ed a cappella group at UMass, whose members perform on campus and in the Amherst area. Members also compete annually at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

“In the last 10 years,we’ve won the quarter final 10 times,” Stein said.

“We’re getting pretty excited about it this year” said junior Emily Henriksen of the competition coming up in November.

Vocal Suspects also performs with other groups on campus in various concerts – one in particular is the annual event known as Acapalooza.

“It’s nice to have a Vocal Suspects concert, but it’s very one tone … I know my friends appreciate hearing not only us perform, but one or two different groups, they have their own spin on songs and their own tone or style,” Henriksen said.

The Vocal Suspects might find that its popularity is growing with the release of “Pitch Perfect,” a major motion picture about rival a cappella groups on a fictional college campus,

“We tend to get a significant number of auditioners; over a hundred … this year we accepted five” said Alex Russell, a sophomore in the group.

Students in the group come from many different  backgrounds, but it’s their devotion to song craft that brings them together.

“We’re all diverse majors and backgrounds but we all love singing and we’ve all had this real passion for making music,” Stein said.

“Most things, unless you major in it, you can’t be a part of it. You can’t do math unless you’re in a math major. Music is something you can have your entire life, I think that’s one of the things I love about it,” Henriksen said.

Vocal Suspects will host a special Halloween Concert, Oct 27 at 7 p.m. at a location to be determined.

Michaela Hughes can be reached at [email protected]