A Cappella Roundup: Family Weekend Edition

Fun fact: Brown has the largest number of a cappella groups per capita of any university (thanks, handy dandy tour guide packet).  Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that a cappella is huge here, filling our campus’s many arches with sweet music, impressive beat boxing, and sometimes drunken pirates.

There are a few times each year when the majority of a cappella groups on campus take advantage of the opportunity to perform for as many people as possible – during orientation, freshmen flock like flies; prior to auditions, anyone who can sing (and even some who can’t) are curious.  But Family Weekend is when they break out the big guns, and it can be a little overwhelming deciding which groups you want to see.  To help you out, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to a cappella at Brown – here’s what you can expect from each of the many groups.

Friday, October 14th

Harmo and the Ursa Minors’ Parents Weekend Concert!: 8:00-9:30pm, Salomon 001

Ursa Minors: One of several all-female a cappella groups.  The Ursas generally achieve a uniform look by wearing all black, and they perform lots of popular, contemporary music.  They also hold the honor of being the only Brown a cappella group whose name is also an astronomy pun.

Harmonic Motion: Made up of both Brown and RISD students.  They’re definitely the most artsy of the groups, from their haircuts to their outfits to their song selections – which are unique but still wildly entertaining.

Shades of Brown Fall Concert: 8:00pm, Hunter 100

Shades of Brown: In true Brown spirit, Shades of Brown is a multicultural a cappella group with a varied repertoire and equally diverse members.  The group sings songs “in the African American tradition,” [via] and incorporates lots of different styles of music.  Three cheers for diversity

The Second Annual BEST FAMILY WEEKEND CONCERT EVER!: 8:30-9:30pm, Salomon 101

Brown Derbies: They like to say that they “sing without instruments… or girls.”  Both are true, and the Derbies are known jokesters who make every performance fun.  As the group’s name would suggest, its members wear cool hats.   (They also surprised me with a performance on my birthday last year.  But this is journalism, so I’m going to try to at least fake impartiality.)


Saturday, October 15th

The Madrigals Family Weekend Concert: 1:00-2:30pm, St. Stephen’s Church

Madrigal Singers: Brown’s classical a cappella group.  You know they’re good because they sing in languages we don’t understand and they hold binders while they perform.  Seriously, though – pretty much every classical singer at this school is in this group, and they’re crazy talented.

Pirates on Parents (Weekend): 5:00pm, Wayland Arch

ARRR!!!: They’re pirates, so you can expect them to be rowdy, and their nicknames and songs are loaded with innuendo.  Legend has it they like to hijack other groups’ performances, but this weekend they’re having their own show.  Like most pirates, the members ARRR!!! pretty big fans of alcohol (yes, it’s a verb AND a name), so you won’t be out of place if you BYOG (Bring Your Own Grog).

The Higher Keys Parents’ Weekend Concert: 5:30-6:30pm, List 120

Higher Keys: Brown’s oldest co-ed a cappella group.  The Higher Keys have a smooth, jazzy style that they apply to both old-school classics and today’s hits.  It’s impossible to not feel classy while watching them perform.  Also, this happened, and that’s pretty awesome.

GoldiTOCKS and the BEARS: 7:00-8:00pm, Salomon 001

Chattertocks: Brown’s oldest all-female group, made up in its first incarnation of girlfriends of members of the Jabberwocks.  The Chattertocks are known for their hilarious parody of “Let It Be,” an ode to everyone’s favorite grading option called “S/NC.”

Bear Necessities: Brown’s youngest all-male group.  These adorable and energetic bears can be identified in the wild by their many pairs of colorful and patterned suspenders, and their rendition of “Circle of Life” (featuring a tiny stuffed Baby Simba) is not to be missed.

(Alef) Beat It: 7:30-8:30pm, Brown RISD Hillel’s Winnick Chapel

Alef Beats: Brown’s only Jewish a cappella group — but you don’t have to be Jewish to join.  Their motto is, “Oy is just yo backwards!”  Some of their songs are religious, but they also perform contemporary songs, including a fantastically hilarious rendition of “I’m On A Boat.”

Wockin’ on ‘sTones: 8:00-9:30pm, Salomon 101

Brown’sTones: Brown’s youngest all-female group.  They’re also the fiercest, flyest, freshest a cappella group we have.  The ladies of the Brown’sTones have some serious voices, and they bring their trademark sass to whatever they perform — whether it’s Lady Marmalade or Fall Out Boy.

Jabberwocks: The oldest all-male a cappella group on campus, their name comes from the expectedly trippy Lewis Carroll poem.  Just like the other all-male a cappella groups, the Jabberwocks have a particular way of dressing that distinguishes them (they all wear blue blazers).  They gained even more recognition off of College Hill last fall, when they were one of the first groups to cover a certain Cee Lo Green song.


Not Performing This Weekend (As Far As We Know)

Disney A Cappella: One of our newest groups.  Disney A Cappella preys on every college student’s nostalgia for days when our biggest worry was whether to watch The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast.  Of all the a cappella groups on campus, you’re most likely to want to sing along to every single number these guys perform.

Jockapella: Our newest group.  Jockapella is made up of athletes who had difficulty joining other groups because of their practice schedules.  It’s obvious they belong in the a cappella community, though, based upon how quickly they adapted to the time-tested tradition of music and/or Brown-related puns.

With One Voice: The Christian a cappella group, featuring both Brown and RISD students.  They’re co-ed, and they perform both religious music and contemporary music in lots of different styles.


Check out one a cappella show or check out them all — you’ll have fun (we promise!) and your parents will enjoy,  if only for an hour or two, feeling like they’re on Glee — minus Mr. Schue’s weird rapping, of course.

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