Concert Preview: Mix ft. The Originals

Classy. Honest. Innovative. Those are the three words that best describe Carnegie Mellon’s all-male, award-winning a cappella group, The Originals. Classy, because of each member’s evident poise and charm; honest, because of the genuine passion and soul they bring to their songs; and innovative, because their performances are for sure unlike anything you’ve ever seen or heard before. Getting to spend some time with them before their Thursday night rehearsal really helped me get to know the group better. Before my meeting with The Originals, I didn’t know too much about them or the world of a cappella. I entered their rehearsal room in McConomy Auditorium having absolutely no expectations.

While walking down the stairs of the auditorium, I was right away greeted with a friendly “hi” from one of the members, Leo Galvan. He seemed to be the only one in the room at the time. As I took a seat, a few more members of the group came from the side doors, laughing and talking with each other; I could already get a strong sense of their supportive and brotherly group dynamic. They all welcomed me, and they were very excited to promote their upcoming performance on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m., where they’ll be opening for the hit a cappella group, MIX. MIX is a co-ed a cappella group from the University of Colorado Denver that has won many awards, including first place in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA). They’re currently touring around Pennsylvania on their PA Takeover Tour, and excitingly one of their stops is right here on campus in the Cohen Center's Rangos Ballroom. Leo Galvan, a sophomore tenor in The Originals, commented on having the opportunity to open for such a successful group like MIX: “We’ve actually never opened for a professional a cappella group, and this is really an amazing opportunity to talk and interact with and see people who do this for a living […] it’ll actually be such an incredible experience and we’re really excited to share it with the community.” Sophomore JP Leigh, who does vocal percussion for the group, also talked a bit about how sharing the stage with MIX will benefit their work: “It’s always good for us to see other a cappella groups to help us improve, because we’ll maybe see something inspirational from them that we can put into our future performances. What goes along with watching and enjoying it, it’s also an educational experience.”

As more and more members of the group began to arrive for rehearsal, I started getting a much clearer picture of the family-like bond The Originals share with one another. There are eleven members in the group, all representing different grades, with two fifth-years, three juniors, three sophomores, and three first-years. The underclassmen look up to the upperclassmen, and they all treat each other like brothers. The group dynamic was one of the reasons why first-year Ben Stern, a baritone in the group, decided to join The Originals last semester. “They’re really a great group of guys. We’re all happy and it’s like a family here.” Already having a sense of The Originals’ fun and friendly personalities, I couldn’t wait to watch them rehearse a bit of their performance for Tuesday.

The group started off rehearsal with some vocal warm-ups. Now, this was my very first time ever seeing an a cappella group perform live, and I was honestly left speechless from just hearing The Originals practice harmonies. Once they began rehearsing two of their songs for Tuesday’s performance, renditions of "Home Alone" by Ansel Elgort and "Closer" by The Chainsmokers, I actually wanted to start singing along with them. You could really feel the passion and energy they gave to their singing, and their stage presence really made it clear that each and every member loves what they’re doing. For The Originals, it’s all about conveying passion, honesty, and getting a message across to their audience. Nitsan Shai, a Fifth Year Scholar and baritone in the group, talked more about the group’s sound: “We really pride ourselves in performing very honestly. If there’s a song that has a lot of meaning to us, we try to project that as much as we can emotionally in a performance.” Earlier, the group had even recalled a recent performance in Atlanta, Georgia that “challenged gender and masculinity standards,” where one of the members, sophomore baritone Ramsey Pack, dressed up in drag during a performance of Beyonce’s "I Care". “It was a statement piece where everyone around us was represented, the masses that help out and support the LGBTQ community. We made that statement and after everyone came up to us and was like ‘We really appreciated how honest you were in your performances,” Leo explained. “What we put out on stage is what comes from our hearts and what we really believe."

Besides their singing, another way in which the group is able to speak to their audiences is through their choreography. Leo elaborated on that by referring to another one of their songs they’ll be performing on Tuesday, "Cellophane" by Sia: “For Cellophane, it actually tells the story of mental illness, so we have a lot of cage-like choreography moves. And basically it helps us tell the story, even beyond the song. What the song can’t tell, we tell with our bodies.” Unfortunately I was unable to see their choreography during rehearsal, but it definitely sounds like they’ll be putting on a powerful performance.

It was an absolute pleasure getting to spend time with The Originals, and I have no doubt that the group and their audience will have an amazing time on Tuesday. It will surely be an experience like no other to watch a live a cappella performance, especially from two very talented groups. Tickets for the show are available online at [SLANT12]carnegiemellontickets.com[SLANT12] or at the door Tuesday night for ten dollars. It’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss.