Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Arts Are Alive And Well! An Enchanted Evening In Newton

I flew into Boston on Friday after spending more than a week in Virginia visiting with family. My first priority was to get to Newton in time for the Newton South High School AcaFest – an annual gathering of collegiate a cappella groups from the Boston area. I made it just in time, and was treated to a memorable evening. Newton South has its own a cappella group, the NewTones. They host this annual event as a fund-raiser for The VH1 Save The Music Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental musical education in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as a part of each child’s complete education.


As you are probably painfully aware, many shortsighted politicians and even educators have eliminated or severely reduced musical education from the budgets of many of our public schools. As someone who benefited immensely from music training – at home and in school – I am an enthusiastic supporter of the arts as part of a balanced academic curriculum. It is a false dichotomy to be forced to choose between the hard sciences on one extreme and the liberal and creative arts on the other. Despite the growing evidence of the validity of the so-called “Mozart Effect,” (see link below), our leaders continue to make uninformed and unenlightened budgetary choices that will handicap emerging generations.


While a cappella music is not at the top of my list of favorite vocal musical genres, I find it a nice change of pace from time to time. So, I arrived in Newton ready to have a pleasant, de-compressing evening after a long day of flying from Virginia to Boston via Detroit! I was blown away with the quality and originality of the music I heard. Four groups performed. The host group, The NewTones from Newton South High School, is a very good choral group, singing with close harmony, rhythm and a nice assortment of solo performers. A group from Boston called “Element” sang some wonderful numbers, including an Earth, Wind and Fire number and a terrific version of a Three Dog Night tune I had heard live many years ago at a TDG concert in Rochester, Minnesota!

For me, the real highlight of the evening came with the sets performed by two college groups – SQ from Tufts and VoiceMale from Brandeis.

SQ has a CD with a cut called “Flicks” that was nominated for a CARA (The Contemporary A Cappella Society of America) award for the best mixed collegiate song. After the concert, I had a fascinating conversion with one of the members of SQ, who subsequently encouraged me to by a copy of their CD. I have not been able to stop listening to it. The arrangements are brilliant - even haunting - in their syncopated and perpetually modulating and pulsating bursts of energy, sonority and beauty.

VoiceMale also has a CARA award winning CD, which I will buy as soon as I am able to order it. This group demonstrated both great musicianship and showmanship. The joy they exuded was infectious, and the multi-generational audience responded with enthusiasm.

If you are a resident of the Boston area, I can enthusiastically encourage you to seek out each of these four groups. Below are links to VoiceMale and SQ Websites, with performances dates and information about ordering their CD’s.





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