For the first time in their 18 year history, the Crimson 7 recorded a song, “Good Ol’ A Cappella,” in Roberts Theater on Feb. 3, 2021.
While in 2016 the boys a cappella group of the KO Upper School recorded a song in an official recording studio, this was the first time they recorded a song on campus.
When it came time to choose the song they would be recording, the group unanimously selected “Good Ol’ A Cappella,” which has been a part of the program since 2008.
“The group wanted to have a memory of the pandemic kept,” History Department Chair and Director of Crimson 7 David Baker said, “so at the start, when we knew we could record, the group said let’s do that one, let’s capture that one.”
To record the song, they used the official recording microphone that creative arts teacher Mark Kravetz has. They also utilized a camera with a wide shot to record all of the members in the group as they stood twelve feet apart from each other due to COVID-19 protocols. A camera with panning ability was used in order to capture each individual soloist as well.
Mr. Baker said there were many reasons as to why the group undertook this project. “We recorded a song to replace the fact that we cannot do live concerts, to capture a memory of this very distinct moment in time, and to have a goal to work towards,” he said. “Goals are terrific enforcers of hope and perseverance. They give you a direction and allow you to work towards something.”
Unlike in past years, the group is unable to perform for a live audience due to COVID-19 guidelines. This has made the opportunity of recording a song especially important, as it has given the group something to work towards achieving.
“When the group found out that we were recording a song, they got a lot more serious about learning parts of the performance,” Mr. Baker said.
While the members of the group recognize that recording a song is not quite like the concerts they have been able to put on in the past, they appreciate the fact it brought back a sense of normalcy in this unusual school year.
“I would say that recording is a close substitute, but there’s nothing that really replicates being in front of an audience,” senior and soloist Braeden Rose said. “I do think there’s a benefit of it, and that is that you can get a recording of it and you can look at it after.”
Braeden has been a part of the Crimson 7 for two and a half years now, as he joined in his sophomore year. In his long tenure with the group, however, he said he has never experienced anything quite like this year.
“Recording a song under the COVID conditions was a little bit weird because you were so far away from everyone else and you could not really hear them,” he said. “It did not sound like we were singing together as much.” He also noted that hearing the other group members is one of the best ways to stay on pitch and on key, so by singing farther away from each other, accomplishing these feats is more difficult.
Senior Henry Mandell felt the same way. “When you’re performing in front of a crowd, it’s easy to get nervous and feel a lot of adrenaline,” he said. “Your group members are sort of like hyping you up, and that energy is easy to get, so you perform in a more realistic way. Recording on the other hand is a little different because it’s harder to generate that.”
Like Braeden, Henry also joined the group as a sophomore. He noted that having been in the group for more than two years now, the recording experience did not feel too out of the ordinary. “It really wasn’t that big of a change, sort of from like a dress rehearsal,” he said. “You dress up, you go to the auditorium, you stand where you’re meant to stand, and you sing the part you’ve been practicing for months. It’s pretty standard protocol in that regard.”
This year is not only different for the group because they cannot put on live concerts, but also because the COVID-19 protocols have impacted the amount of rehearsal time that the group has available to them. They have gone from rehearsing every Tuesday from 7-8:30 p.m. to rehearsing in person once a week during lunch for only thirty minutes.
Mr. Baker noted the impact of this change in rehearsal time. “You can get a lot done in a 90-minute session, and you’re just together,” he said. In only thirty minutes, it is hard for the group to be as productive, he said. While the group has not been able to meet in person as frequently this year, they have been able to come together over Zoom on Tuesday nights from 8:00-9:00 p.m. Mr. Baker has thought of a creative way to keep these Zoom rehearsals dynamic.
“So one thing I’ve done…is I’ve been having one alum come to the Tuesday night rehearsals and just do a Q&A with the group,” Mr. Baker said. “Just to ask them, ‘Okay, where are you in your life right now? How did Crimson 7 impact you? What role does music play in your life now?’ Which has been really cool. It’s been really great to connect with alums from 2009 all the way up to 2017, just to hear their story, like what are they doing?”
These sessions have allowed the group to come together and bond, which has been more difficult this year due to their limited in-person rehearsal time.
In addition, the manner in which the group can rehearse has been affected greatly this year. “The biggest sort of change overall is normally, pre-COVID we’d stand in a half-circle, all shoulder to shoulder, very close, and we can hear each other really well,” Henry said. “We’d sing and that was really great because you had your good friends right next to you. Being closer together, brought us closer together as a group. We don’t have that this year, but we still try to make do with what we can. It’s nice to be able to sing with the guys, even if it’s a little bit strange or a little bit new.”
Even with the many challenges the group has faced this year, they are still optimistic about what they have been able to do. “It’s too bad we can’t perform for a big crowd,” Henry said, “but we are still happy to be able to get something out to the public and to the families.”