A Cappella Go, a staple of Needham High School’s student-led a cappella club, takes the stage on Jan. 26. This popular performance, whose key feature is the return of NHS alumni invited to perform with their college a cappella groups, sells out quickly every year. This year, three groups from Brown University, UMass Amherst and Barnard College will perform alongside the four high school groups.
In September, senior leaders of the different groups — Counterpoint, Fermata Nowhere, Subway Dwarves and Treble Rebels — hold auditions. Fermata Nowhere is the only one that admits everyone. Once the groups are set, the seniors begin selecting, arranging and even choreographing pieces for the three performances of the year.
Jackson Bush, senior leader and music director for the all-male Subway Dwarves, said he and fellow senior leader Lucas Herrera began the fall eager to get started with fresh ideas. They discussed with the rest of their team the types of songs they wanted to perform, how they could be arranged, and whether they would be a good fit for the group they would be working with this year.
“Lucas and I have been cooking up this boy band set — two NSync and one One Direction song,” said Bush, who arranges the pieces and marks choreography. “I’m excited about the songs we’ve chosen.” He said the plan was set at the beginning of the year with reasonable expectations. “It’s a combination of what we want to do and what we’re able to do.”
Bush said his favorite part of A Cappella Go is getting to see what former students have gone on to accomplish with their college groups and get a sense of what “could be” if students continue singing after high school.
“It’s great to have all these alumni groups come back and see what they’re doing now,” he said. “Especially when they’re doing a completely different style than what we see.”
A Cappella Go is the largest fundraiser for Friends of Music, a parent-run booster club that supports the music and theater clubs and programs at the high school.
“It’s a really nice way for the a cappella community to be celebrated by the larger Needham community and then celebrate the success of the alumni,” said Naomi Goldman, Friends of Music president. She said the group recently did outreach at Pollard to give students a preview of options once they get to the high school and to inspire participation.
“It’s a great night of music,” said Christine Mawhinney, former Friends of Music president who helped the group keep the a cappella club alive during COVID. “This was a particularly difficult time as it was deemed safe to play sports, but singing together was banned.”
During the pandemic, Friends of Music purchased premium Zoom licenses with special features that allowed students to continue to make music together. They also hired a sound and video engineer who taught them how to create virtual compilations. The group even held A Cappella Go in a virtual format. “[We] invited all the alumni in a cappella to send in videos to participate,” said Mawhinney. “We had Villanova, Tulane, Northeastern, Suffolk and Boston University participate. It was great for our kids to see how to continue to make music in a different way.”
Mawhinney suggests purchasing tickets for next Friday’s performance in advance, as seats are not reserved and usually sell out before the show.
A Cappella Go comes to the Needham High School Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door.