When I first arrived at Berklee College of Music, I was a little surprised to see that there were very few A Capella groups other than Pitch Slapped and the Berklee Chamber Choir (which I ended up joining). Then I heard about the Y Chromotones – an all-male A Capella group that sings mostly medleys of popular songs. I was somewhat disappointed when I heard that it was boys-only, but interestingly, I found that the forty-odd male voices sounded really good together, and that the ensemble did not need women’s higher register voices.
This student-run club was created in Fall 2010 by Luke McGinnis, and has been performing in a variety of places such as the Red Room @ Café 939, private parties, Newbury Street, and, in Monday’s case, the Berklee Performance Center. Their concert “Back to Skul” featured many new arrangements of popular songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga (Bad “Bromance”), the Beatles, and more.
The show began with the ominous recording of “O Fortuna”, a piece featured in Franz Berlioz’s Carmen. The singers entered the stage quietly yet intensely, and once all the men were onstage, Liam Lewis, a veteran Y Chromotone who hosted the show, announced that there was no reason for that entrance other than they thought it would look cool. Liam’s introduction for the concert was almost like a stand-up comedy set, and the audience was loving it. After their first song, a Taylor Swift medley, the audience went crazy. A lot of their repertoire seemed to be aimed at making the audience laugh, creating a very relaxed performance environment. Their mashup of “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas with “Be a Man” from Disney’s Mulan (entitled “Wayward Hun”) included some great original choreography, and their rendition of “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by CAKE featured four solos, each with more attitude than the last.
The Y Chromotones changed moods from comedic to heartwarming a few times when they sang pieces like “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story II or “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel, but the energy and passion was still there. It was great to see them shift the atmosphere because it created a different kind of beauty. As a lover of choral music, I was excited to hear what they would do with "When She Loved Me" without accompaniment, and I wasn’t disappointed. The harmonies were beautiful, the solo (sung by Erik Dulick) was incredibly heartfelt, and the overall tone of the group worked very well for a slow and touching piece.
The thing I always love about seeing the Y Chromotones is watching them have a total blast onstage. Every time they perform they have new harmonies or choreography that they are excited to show off, and it’s their energy that really makes their concerts fun. Next time they have a show, I would highly recommend you attend, because watching forty college men singing medleys and dancing in colorful ties will always make my day.