The Low Down on the High Notes

TSL spoke to several of the Claremont College’s a capella groups and attended their rehearsals to get a sense of what a cappella in Claremont looks like behind the scenes. Members of every group that we spoke to regarded their personal a cappella experience as a positive one. From citing it as the best activity they chose to do in college, to zealous new members pledging, to high retention rates from year to year, it seems clear that a cappella singers love what they do. In part thanks to recent popular media portrayals such as Pitch Perfect and The Voice, more incoming students are warming up to the full scale of musical culture at the 5Cs.

The Claremont Shades

Sporting their signature black and red, The Claremont Shades were in rehearsal for their performance at a Scripps College Snack concert. Jesse Watts-Russell HM ’15 was the solo performer during Imagine Dragons’ “Demons,” and the group’s original arrangement of “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers created an upbeat tone to that popular song. Hannah Doruelo PO ’16, who was vice president of The Claremont Shades last year, now holds the position of president and leads the group in a no-nonsense manner.

Ninth Street Hooligans

The youngest a cappella group mastered the art of looking professional, but soon proved their hooligan ne’er-do-well name when they broke into silliness during their rehearsal. The goofiness is made apparent through their song choices, which have included gems such as Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” Boasting a full roster of 5C representation, the Hooligans are the first a cappella group to be based at Claremont McKenna College. 

Mood Swing 

“We’re like a family,” many members of Mood Swing said. Unlike relationships in a typical club, the connection between these singers is more like that of teammates. “We went to Huntington Beach a few weeks ago as a group,” Katie Marcus Reker SC ’16 said. “We do lots of activities and hang out. [We’re] more like a family than like a club.” With beach vacations, group dinners, movie marathons and frozen yogurt runs, Mood Swing spends as much time together out of rehearsal as they do in it. 

Women’s Blue and White

From acting professional to setting a more relaxed scene, Women’s Blue and White touches on both ends of the extreme. For every minute a member shows up late, she must pay a fine of 50 cents. However, the group provides an alluring selection of ice cream and hot cider which works as an incentive to spur members to arrive in a timely manner. A cappella isn’t simply a musical pursuit for Women’s Blue and White though: There is the social scene to consider.

“We interact with Men’s [Blue and White] a lot; we actually have a mixer tonight,” Emma Sameth PZ ’14 said, before going on to describe the lioness costume she planned on donning for the Noah’s Ark-themed party. Fun and games aside, like most of the a cappella groups on campus, Women’s Blue and White makes a point to rehearse at least three times a week. 

“Sunday is the most productive, it’s when we have everyone there,” Sameth said. The clever system of tithing the members for tardiness does not punish outright skipping, as there’s a different penalty for entirely failing to appear. 

“We perform a song called ‘Walk of Shame,’” Ellie Abrams PO ’17 said of that particular punishment.  It is a song that was originally composed at a different school, but has been brought to Claremont by Women’s Blue and White. The rendition of the song includes allusions to the infamous Pub and the lyric “Wig has never seemed so far away.” Anyone who has ever trudged from the first-year dormitories on South Campus can judge for themselves the accuracy of that statement.


Also known as the After School Specials—but not very often. Although the group was formed in 2002, Musical Director of ASS Daniel Choi PO ’15 revealed that the acronym predates the full title. The group proudly sports green trucker caps, called ASS hats, at every performance, and are not against showing off derriere during rehearsal or shows. Students join ASS from a range of not only musical backgrounds, but also class years, as half of the newest members are not first-year students.

Midnight Echo

Echoing sentiments of Mood Swing, Midnight Echo President and Business Manager Max Greenberg SC ’14 said, “If there’s one thing I can say about [Midnight] Echo it’s the sense of community. We are a family.” Greenberg has been involved in Midnight Echo for the past four years and cited the crazy pants, the laid back environment, and the friendly people as her main reasons for singing with the group. She said that operations seem to have tightened up in the past two years, not only within Midnight Echo but across all the a cappella groups at the 5Cs.  She credited this change to the presidents and managers taking the rehearsals more seriously and focusing on singing good music, not just fun music.  Fun is absolutely still a foremost concern though: Just take a look at those crazy pants!

Men’s Blue and White

With the cheeky tagline of “Pleasing you aurally since 1895,” Men’s Blue and White consists of 15 singers from four campuses, Scripps not included. A last-minute text exchange with group leader Chris Albanese CM ‘14 led to a rehearsal-crashing, where Men’s Blue and White was unleashed in the raw. From warming up with “Hungover” to admitting that the recent Ben Harper concert brought them to tears, the members displayed a full spectrum of emotion. The whole group is working to prepare for an upcoming snack concert and SCAMFest, but that didn’t stop them from having fun. The highlights included the men not merely singing “You Are A Treasure” but declaring the lyrics  to each other, while circling around this reporter in a gorgeous serenade of song. They offered quotes describing themselves as “ruggedly handsome” and “too distracting for a reporter to take accurate notes,” so head to their concert outside Frary on Tuesday, Nov. 12 and form your own opinion of their charm and vocal abilities.

Despite the vast differences in the a cappella groups on campus, they all share one important quality: Having sniffed out a reporter within 50 feet of a rehearsal, every group jumped at the chance to publicize SCAMFest. Bowing to the wishes of the dozens of students involved in groups, the public notice is out: Come see them all perform at SCAMFest, Nov. 22 at Bridges Auditorium. 

TSL reached out to every a cappella group on the 5Cs; not every group responded.

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