Family Weekend breeds a cappella stress

Visiting family members walk through Old Campus. Family Weekend begins today and ends on Sunday.
Visiting family members walk through Old Campus. Family Weekend begins today and ends on Sunday. Photo by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi.

This year’s early arrival of Family Weekend has brought a capella stress levels to a crescendo.

This year’s Family Weekend — Friday, Oct. 12 through Sunday, Oct. 14 ­— comes two weeks earlier than the weekend has fallen in the past, giving student performance groups little time to arrange pieces and prepare new members for one of the groups’ three major on-campus concerts each year. Many a cappella inductees, whose rigorous rush period ended on tap night Sept. 19, said they have undergone a fast-paced training regimen to learn their groups’ pieces in time for this weekend’s performances. Adding to the groups’ concerns, Family Weekend falls during this year’s midterm season, putting additional stress on members to find time to keep up with their musical and academic commitments.

“Not only have we had less time to rehearse than we have in the past, but the past two weeks have been extra stressful for our all members,” said Emefa Agawu ’15, the pitch of Redhot & Blue. “It’s incredibly difficult to put in all the studying we need to do to ace our midterms on top of preparing for such a big concert.”

Agawu added that fitting in studying and rehearsing has been especially difficult for freshmen who are experiencing the pressures of their first midterm season.

To cope with the challenges of the earlier date, Redhot & Blue has adjusted its set list, Agawu said. Audience members should expect more quartets and trios than usual, she said, with fewer group songs that are more difficult to rehearse.

Gabe Reynoso-Palley ’16 joined the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus last month. Although he said he expects the group to still sound good this weekend, he has found it “next to impossible” to learn all the required music in such a short period.

“It’s a very stressful place to be in,” said Hannah Sears ’16, a new member of Shades.

Out of the Blue Pitch Fiona Vella ’14 said that the weekend’s early date has “put a little more pressure on us to rehearse more frequently,” although the new date will not change how many songs the group performs. She added that two performances last weekend — one at Froyo World and the other at Campus Customs — helped new members of the group learn the pieces.

According to Natalie Punzak ’16, a recent addition to Out of the Blue, new members of Out of the Blue face a greater challenge than those of other groups this Family Weekend, since all new members and departing members are required to solo at the concert. But Out of the Blue prepared its freshmen well for their solos — new members were required to attend individual lessons with the group’s solo instructor, she added.

But Proof of the Pudding Pitch Antonia Gallman ’14 said the earlier date has not significantly altered her group’s rehearsal activity, since it is always difficult for new members to learn all the music before Family Weekend. In an ideal world, Family Weekend would fall at least two months after rush ends, she said, adding that she understands that a month-long rush period makes adequate preparation time impossible.

“Yes, this makes it harder to teach new members the music, but it’s hard every year,” Gallman said. “On this time scale of three to four weeks, it’s just difficult for any new member to remember so much music.”

Yale has 15 a cappella groups, including two with all-senior members.

Correction: Oct. 15

A previous version of this article misquoted Emefa Agawu ’15. It mistakenly stated that she referred to the “intense tech-week rehearsal schedule” of Redhot & Blue’s Family Weekend concert, when in fact she was referring to the tech-week of the group’s Singing Dessert and Jam concerts.

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