The sound of distant voices singing “I Dreamed a Dream” floated around the first floor of Reiss. Behind the large doors of Reiss 112, eight Chimes singers stood in a semicircle around their soloist, Phil Holt (COL ’20), with “4 days until the show” written on the wall behind them. Suddenly, the singers reached the climax of the piece and their notes soared throughout the lecture hall as they belted out the iconic song from Les Miserables.
“I Dreamed a Dream” is one piece of The Georgetown Chimes’ five song set that has been prepared for their upcoming show, the Cherry Tree Massacre. The Chimes are Georgetown’s oldest and only all-male a cappella group. They are continuing their tradition by hosting the 47th Annual Cherry Tree Massacre, which will occur over three nights: Feb. 7, 8, and 22. Chimes Ephus (title afforded to the leader of the Chimes), Jake Gile (COL ’20) detailed the rumored origin of Cherry Tree: “The Chimes had racked up quite a tab at the 1789 bar so they threw a concert to help them pay off the tab,” he said.
The show has since become a staple of Chimes tradition, giving current undergrad members the opportunity to showcase the Barbershop tradition and reconnect with alumni. Gile defined Barbershop as a close harmony. While modern a capella is characterized by soloists and background performers, the Barbershop tradition involves everyone singing the same words in a four-part split.
In addition to their Barbershop tradition, the Chimes will be celebrating a cappella music by hosting other Georgetown groups like The Phantoms, Gracenotes, Saxatones, Superfood, Capitol G’s, and the Chamber Singers throughout their three shows. The Chimes will also be hosting out of town groups including American University’s Treble in Paradise, Catholic University’s Redline, Duke University’s Speak of the Devil, Bates College’s Deansmen, and the Loyola Belles. While each show will feature a different mix of the Georgetown and outside groups, the Chimes will be organizing, hosting, and performing in all three.
Preparation for Cherry Tree started months in advance. Holt described how each of the nine active Chimes members compiled a list of five to 10 songs they wished to perform for the show. From this list of 45 to 90 songs, the group settled on “Umbrella” by Rihanna, “Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes, a mash-up of “Falling Slowly” from the musical Once and “Fix You” by Coldplay, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, and “I Dreamed a Dream.” Of these songs, four of them have soloists, who were determined by auditions. According to Gile, Holt was a natural choice to sing “Dream”: “It was pretty apparent that it was him, he sounded great and he could hit all the notes.” Though Holt came down with a cold this past weekend, he was confident that the Chimes are essentially ready for the show and Holt is determined to do whatever needs to be done to recover in time for Friday.
Holt is not alone in his determination and excitement for the show, even new Chimes singers Ryan Costley (SFS ’22), Derek Tran (COL ’22), and Anthony Cataldo (COL ’21) are thrilled for their first Cherry Tree performances. The three have recently completed the extensive Chimes induction process, which involves memorizing the group’s past history, music, mission, and members. During rehearsal, Costley noted all of the effort each of the members had put in to prepare for the show. “I think people have done quite a bit of work outside of practice and it’s been very helpful in making these times more productive,” he said. Cataldo also voiced his enthusiasm for the show: “[It’s] exciting [and] different [with] good music all around.” Tran is particularly excited about the group performing more modern songs like “Umbrella,” which he hopes will elicit an energetic response from the audience.
All of the singers expressed enthusiasm for “Umbrella,” as each voice part has its own unique role in the piece. Josh Myers (COL ’20) explained that while “Umbrella” was originally arranged to have a vocal beatboxer, the Chimes made the piece their own by removing the beatboxing part and instead created more intricate rhythms throughout all of the parts. This customization is not exclusive to “Umbrella,” as Myers also arranged the Chimes’ “Hard to Handle.” In “Handle,” Myers noted that he made his own form of beatboxing by having the background voices create rhythm through scatting. Myers exemplifies Gile’s vision of the Chimes “always evolving” while still maintaining their identity and roots as a Barbershop a capella group.
The Chimes are taking their Cherry Tree tradition as an opportunity to celebrate the a capella community, musical innovation, their history, their members—both graduated and undergraduate—and music as a whole. You can see the Chimes’ show this weekend on Feb. 7 and 8, and their Alumni Show on Feb. 22. Tickets are being sold in Red Square and in the Leavey Center or they can be bought online here.
Image Credits: The Georgetown Chimes