MAC and WAC sing contemporary songs at concert

The fall MAC and WAC assembly, one of the most anticipated assemblies of the year, took place on Oct. 29. Each group, made up of about 25 Upper School students, has two or three seniors as leaders. This year, seniors Juliana Freschi and Alison Nichols head WAC, and seniors Ruben Roy, Jake Smith, and Robert Cushing head MAC. MAC, which stands for Men’s A Cappella, performed “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, “She’s Always a Woman,” by Billy Joel, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” by Paul Simon, and “Shut Up and Dance,” by Walk the Moon.

“The group thought the concert went very well,” said Roy. “The guys were pumped and the crowd was hyped. It was everything we wanted from a concert.”

WAC, which stands for Women’s A Cappella, performed “Always Be My Baby,” by Mariah Carey, “Blank Space,” by Taylor Swift, “Goodness Gracious,” by Ellie Goulding, and “Ghost,” by Ella Henderson.

“Things got pretty hectic after we lost a few practices to the musical and other conflicts, but we made the most of the time that we had,” said Freschi.  “But I think that we pulled off a really nice performance.”

MAC and WAC spend two hours on Wednesday nights practicing for concerts and performances. Practices are also sometimes held during office hours to make sure everyone can attend. To properly prepare for performances, the group splits into voice parts and practices their specific parts before performing the whole song as a group.

“Preparing for concerts is actually not that much different from normal practice,” said sophomore WAC member Sophia Rubin. “We usually make an arc like we would do onstage and we have the soloists sing through their parts to make sure they’re ready.”

To receive a solo for a concert, singers must learn the lyrics for the solo they want and perform it for the group. A soloist is then picked from everyone who auditioned. Since MAC and WAC are a cappella choirs, members can also choose to arrange a song for the group to sing.

“Anyone in WAC can arrange a song if they want to, but the number of songs we do per year is more limited than it used to be because we have to purchase the rights,” said Freschi. “When someone creates an arrangement, Alison and I are ultimately the ones that OK the song, but we would never turn down somebody’s arrangement unless it was inappropriate or the rights were super expensive.”

The process works relatively the same way in MAC, although the group sometimes is lent arrangements by other a cappella choirs such as No Strings Attached, Emory’s all-male a cappella group.

“Anyone in MAC can arrange music; they just need to get the song approved by the leaders,” said Roy. “The leaders pick the repertoire based on what the group wants, what the audience wants, and what we think will be best for the group.”

The songs sung at the most recent concert were arranged by Freschi, Nichols, Cushing, senior Clark Conrad, and sophomore Julia Clark.

To try out for MAC or WAC, everyone auditioning is asked to prepare a section of a song to sing for the current leaders, as well as demonstrate their technical vocal abilities.

“The audition process happens at the end of the year,” said Roy. “People who audition prepare a piece to sing for the leaders, sing some scales, and are tested on their sight-reading and their tonal memory abilities.”

WAC also has students fill out a questionnaire about musical background.

“We also include a couple silly questions like ‘Who is your MAC crush?’” said Freschi.

After preliminary auditions, a select group of students is asked to return for callbacks, where they work with current members of WAC or MAC to perform sections of one of the choir’s tradition songs or other songs picked by the leaders. Once the leaders have observed each singer’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how they work with the rest of the group, the leaders send out a final list of who has been accepted into the choir.

“I like being in WAC because the girls in it are awesome,” said Rubin. “It’s really fun to be able to recreate popular songs without instruments, just with our voices.”

MAC and WAC hold concerts throughout the year, including the November fall concert and future concerts around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.

“WAC was awesome as a freshman and it’s still awesome now [as a senior],” said Freschi. “I love WAC because I love singing, but it’s been fun to see the group change year after year.”

Several of the leaders have been in WAC and MAC since their freshman year.

“As a leader it’s really exciting to be in charge of it all. Alison and I are definitely WAC’s biggest fans. We are so proud of what WAC has accomplished so far this year,” said Freshci. “We can’t wait to show everyone what we have in store for the rest of the year!”