WKU a capella groups bring community joy through song

Katie Vogel sings solo at The Treblemakers/Redshirts concert at First Christian Church on Saturday, Nov. 11

Griffin Fletcher

WKU’s men’s and women’s a capella ensembles, the Redshirts and Treblemakers, respectively, performed Saturday at First Christian Church in downtown Bowling Green.

The Redshirts kicked off the concert soloing, harmonizing and beatboxing to a variety of modern and classic hits, including James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and Panic! at the Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor,” all performed with great energy and group cohesion.

The Treblemakers took to the stage next, singing everything from Abba’s pop staple “Dancing Queen” and the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” to “Dog Days are Over” by Florence + the Machine and “Say Something” by A Great Big World. Many of the songs performed included heartfelt work from various soloists and visibly engaged the audience, who responded with excited applause.

After a brief intermission, the Redshirts returned to the stage, this time executing a theatrical and crowd-involving rendition of TLC’s “No Scrubs” and ending by paying homage to WKU’s original popular singing group, the Hilltoppers, by performing a “P.S. I Love You,” one of its hit songs.

Next, the Treblemakers again took up where the Redshirts left off, singing a number of songs, such as Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” wherein a Treblemaker alumna was invited to perform with the group.

The concert ended with the Redshirts and Treblemakers singing a choral rendition of “You’re All I Need to Get By” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

Not only featuring great vocal performances, the Redshirts and Treblemakers alike made the recital feel like a legitimate theatrical production. Given both groups’ use of humor and theatrics throughout, it’s no surprise that each group more resembles a family than a college a cappella ensemble.

According to Georgetown senior and Treblemakers Director Maddie Hughes, who’s been a member of the Treblemakers since her first semester at WKU, the 14 women who make up the Treblemakers are very close-knit and committed to both their music and each other.

“It’s a family, honestly,” Hughes said, discussing her relationship with the ensemble and its individual members. “It’s a community.”

The community of both the Treblemakers and Redshirts consists primarily of music education and vocal performance majors. After college, many members of each group will look to teach and direct choirs.

Given the independence of each organization, members have the opportunity to do so now within their respective ensemble.

Louisville junior Trevor Neaveill is the Redshirts’ social media chairman and is in his fifth semester with the Redshirts. Neaveill notes that the Redshirts “are completely student-run” and “not sponsored by the Music Department,” which holds true for the Treblemakers and demands that each group designates two student directors.

One of the Redshirts’ directors is Bowling Green senior Hardin Butts, who’s been with the Redshirts for seven semesters and has helped lead as director for the past six.

As director, Butts helps run rehearsals, which last between one and a half to two hours and take place every Tuesday and Thursday, sometimes sets rehearsal times and helps arrange vocals for each of the Redshirts’ 11 members for songs performed at Redshirt recitals. Through his experience as director, Butts believes he’s more prepared for his eventual career in music education.

“Basically anything to do with music, I kind of do it,” Butts said. “Being music director, it kind of helps me and gives me practice before I get in front of a classroom.”

Despite the effort put into rehearsals and arrangements, members of each organization enjoy and take pride in what they do.

“I really enjoy performing for others and just bringing joy to people through music,” Neaveill said. “Being able to take music and make it beautiful, make it something people can really enjoy, is just one of my favorite things.”

Hughes says that singing’s ability to personally influence others appeals to her specifically.

“We’re really lucky. Vocalists are the only kind of musician who actually gets to use words,” Hughes said. “Because of that, we get to communicate so much better with people. We can actually communicate stories and feelings and emotions and thoughts, and we can really influence people that way.”

Through such influence, each ensemble hopes to draw attention to a capella and expand within the WKU community.

The Redshirts and Treblemakers will next perform at Holy Spirit Catholic Church for its “Winterfest” event Dec. 2, per the WKU Music Calendar.

Reporter Griffin Fletcher can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].