College students everywhere loved “Pitch Perfect” and have possibly binge-watched “Glee” as well. But not many know that Manhattan has their own a cappella group, cleverly called “Manhattones.”
The singing group is not your typical choir, since they focus more on contemporary hits. As Vice President Phoebe Torsilieri said, it is more out of the norm of what other choirs on campus are singing. Along with President Tommy Leo, the two juniors have made Manhattones a group everyone loves being a part of.
The choir is audition only, but you won’t hear any of the “Cup Song.” It is a well-organized group who pride themselves on singing upbeat arrangements without any accompaniment. Their songs in the past have included “Chandelier” by Sia, “Under Pressure” by Queen and classics like “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations.
Members suggest songs and the group chooses whatever songs fit the group best. This year, their key contemporary song is “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap. However, their first performance is the Lessons & Carols concert, so they are focusing now on festive songs such as “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes, made popular by the a cappella group Pentatonix.
This is how the choir has always worked, drawing more people in to audition because of the arrangements they get to learn and perform.
“I saw my sister and all my friends doing it and it looked like a lot of fun and I wanted to join too. The Christmas carols were really good and fun [to perform],” Colleen Kelly, a senior member said.
Students come into the group as strangers and perform together as friends. By performing songs everyone has heard and enjoyed, the connections the group has made are unlike any other. “We’re a tightknit community and we’re all very close,” Torsilieri said. “You walk in here and you automatically have a group of friends that are going to accept you. We strive to bring together people through singing.”
New members audition every year, drawing in students from any year. Freshmen especially come from their high school choir groups looking for people with their similar interests. This is exactly what Torsilieri and Leo are looking for with Manhattones – a place to come together through music no matter what your experiences have been.
“I wanted to find a place in the community where I could feel like I fit in and I could get to know people since I’m new here,” Nicole Monda, a freshman member, said. “I love to sing and I stopped singing in high school so when I got [to college] I knew I wanted to do that again.”
Since December is beginning to loom near, rehearsals are devoted to their Christmas carols. Their performance at Lessons & Carols is on Dec. 4.
The director of performing arts, Andrew Bauer, gathers the group around the piano to begin the practice. He plays a melody on the piano as a circle is made surrounding Bauer. It may seem silly to sing vowels over and over again, but it is the best way to warm up before running through their set list.
“I wanted to do a cappella because it’s very focused on perfecting your pitch,” Charlie Restivo, a freshman, said. “I think the warm ups are really fun because you make funny noises.”
As more people trickle in from class and greet their friends, it’s obvious they want to be there together. Leo decides to begin working on their other carol, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and passes out the sheet music to the alto, tenor, soprano and bass section. They listen to a recording of the sheet music to get a feel of what the song should sound like with only their voices.
As they begin a sight-reading of the tune, it gets a little jumbled up. Bauer decides to go section-by-section and measure-by-measure. Once it is all pieced together, it starts sounding like the recording, but with their own special sound.
Without one section, the song would sound completely different. It is almost like a metaphor for each member of Manhattones – without one member being present, the choir sounds and feels completely different. Manhattones has a good mixture of guys and girls and all sorts of majors, all coming together to get in the Christmas mood.
“I’ve always loved singing. I’m an engineering major and creative arts classes aren’t included in the curriculum, so I wanted to find something to balance with the math and science,” Stephanie Butron, a junior member, said.
But, Manhattones isn’t considered a club as of yet, which makes them limited to only performances on campus.
After every performance, they’ll have people come up to them and say they were shocked with how amazing Manhattones sounded. As both the president and vice president believe, they have the talent but they don’t have the club status. If they were to ever gain the status, they could go to competitions, competing against other colleges.
Their recognition is growing, as they can see on campus and on their Instagram, @mcmanhattones. Club status/competition chances are growing, but Leo is happy with how far Manhattones has come since he joined freshman year.
“Freshman year I was trying to find my niche and when I joined Manhattones, I knew I had found my niche,” Leo said. “That’s probably why I ended up running it now, I’ve been having such a good time with the group.”