Saturday, April 21, 2012

A capella

So much for the last eight weeks, huh?

Two nights ago I attended a fancy dinner to encourage admitted students to attend the University.  They pulled out all the stops -- a cello quartet, a lecture by an esteemed professor.  For part of the lecture I was standing in the back of the room, where I could see a gaggle of kids hanging around in the foyer outside.  They looked young and uncomfortably dressed.  "Are they here for a bar mitzvah?" I wondered. 

After the lecture ended the kids trouped in and - voila! - they were an a capella group here to perform.  They gathered in a semi-circle by the dais and sure enough, the familiar pum pum pum's and beat-boxing began, and they were off.

The sound immediately brought me back 12 years or so to college, to cold nights when we would trundle outside the dorm to the quad where an a capella group was putting on a brief performance at 11:30 or midnight.  The sounds would bounce around the brick buildings surrounding us and the singers would cast long shadows from the streetlamps speckling the walks.  I loved the way the voices would merge and part, the layering of sounds and tones.  Such passion, such defiance, to send those songs up into the cold night!  Such freedom.

All of that came back as those kids sang, bouncing on their toes and gesturing as waiters awkwardly served dessert around them.  When the singers finished I was filled with a rush of pride and love for the University, the kind of unabashed school spirit that is not often found here.  I looked around and it seemed like the parents of the prospective students seemed a little befuddled by what had happened.  But I looked at the prospective students, and the current students, and even the alums, and I think they got it.