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In Tune With A Cappella

Momo and the Coop’s version of “Billie Jean,” by Michael Jackson, opens with the song’s distinctive bass line, adds rich layers of percussive sound, and moves into the driving melody line. You would swear there are instruments playing, but you would be wrong. All the sounds you hear are made only by the human voice.

It’s a cappella music, Lewis & Clark style.

Over the past 25 years, a cappella has become a huge hit in colleges, with more than 1,200 groups active nationwide and 200,000 alumni, according to U.S News & World Report.

Lewis & Clark is a part of that trend. Four years ago, when students formed Momo and the Coop, it was the only a cappella group at Lewis & Clark. Today, five diverse groups are active on campus: Momo and the Coop, Section Line Drive, The Merry Weathers (all female), The Ravine Academy, and C’a cappella (all male). To keep up with the growth, last fall students organized the Acabrella, a union representing all the groups.

“I think it’s popular on campus because it’s quirky and unique—people love seeing their friends pretend to be guitars and keyboards and sing popular songs using only voices,” says Jonah Geil-Neufeld CAS ’11, a member of Momo and a Hispanic studies major.

All the groups are student-run: students select and arrange their own music, organize practice times, and manage their own performances and recordings. “The fact that we have a union and no director is very L&C-esque,” says Kylie Della CAS ’10, a biology major who is a member of both the Merry Weathers and Section Line Drive. Most groups practice about five hours a week—on top of their academic workload.

Although many of the groups’ founding members are graduating this year, all hope their respective enterprises will continue to make music.

“We sing a cappella for no other reason than the pure joy of singing,” says Geil-Neufeld. “My favorite moments have not been on stage but in rehearsal when we’ve really gotten a song right, when I’ve looked at the people around me singing and everyone is beaming, just having the time of their lives.”

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