By Staff Writer Sawyer Pollitt.
This past Sunday was the first annual Winter Showcase put on by UMass Dartmouth’s premiere acapella group, Mental Note. This event brought the holiday spirit to campus in the best way these folks know how, with a song.
With introductions by Mental Note president, Rachel Ferrante, it was explained that this event has a dual purpose. The Winter Showcase gives a chance for Mental Note to put forward the talent that exists within the group. When performing as an acapella unit, it is often difficult to put individual members of a pedestal. This show is able to accomplish this task excellently.
Mental Note’s Winter Showcase is also an opportunity for the group to raise funds to both pay for the music they perform, and to cover the costs of using the UMass Dartmouth main auditorium for their larger shows in the semester.
The showcase started off with a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas which was a step in a new direction for the group. This beloved Christmas classic was performed as an improv comedy number that showed the versatility of Mental Note as a whole.
Next were a string of solo performances that highlighted individual members of the group. First, Joe Oliver sang I Wonder as I Wander showing off his powerful belt. Next, Samantha Wahl sang an elegant rendition of Merry Christmas Darling. This was followed by a delightful acoustic guitar cover of Wham!’s Last Christmas by Lauren Froeberg. To finish off this first round of solos was Robert Oliver III with a suave rendition of Blue Christmas.
To break up the solos was a group number featuring Samia Arado, Will Ferrari, Michael Chhim, Victor Pierre, and Lauren Illes. This acapella number was accented by a rhythm of the clapping, snapping, and drumming hands of the performers. This served to be one of the most interesting pieces of the night with the intricate drumming patterns adding layers of sound to the performance.
Going back to solo pieces, Melanie Muzyka charmed the audience with a performance Something About December. Brothers, Robert and Joe Oliver, described as a “dynamic duo” by Ferrante, took the stage next with a medley of the songs Peace on Earth and Little Drummer Boy.
Rounding out the solo acts was Rachel Ferrante with New Year’s Day. This song was enhanced by Ferrante’s own piano skills that accompanied her vocals. Last but not least was Lauren Illes with that sultry Christmas classic Santa Baby. The performers finished out their Winter Showcase with That’s Christmas to Me, a group acapella number that was quintessential Mental Note.
The only critique that I can level toward the group would be an overall lack of stage presence throughout the show. While the vocals were well-done and the song selection was top-notch, the entire experience would have been pushed up a level if the performers seemed more at ease in a solo situation.
To be fair, these wonderful singers are used to a choir setting. It was, however, great to see the voices of Mental Note move in a new direction with their shows. Having backing music, either recorded, or in the cases of Froeberg and Ferrante, live, added a depth to the performances. Although not the acapella experience that many have come to expect from the group, served to provide an entertaining and engaging night for all in attendance.
If you missed this event and want to catch the lovely people of Mental Note one last time before the semester ends, they are holding their annual Winter Concert next weekend. It will take place on December 8th, in the main auditorium at 6:00pm with doors opening at 5:30pm. The event will have free admission, but donations are encouraged.