Student vocalists hold their own

The formation of the Stanford Mendicants, the university’s oldest a cappella group, peppered college life with serenading – both staged and spontaneous.  Audience members, especially the women, were so overwhelmed by the Mendicants’ performances that founder Hank Adams reminisced that there was literally “not a dry seat in the house.”  The Mendicants devote themselves to singing “the best songs of today and yesterday and several decades ago,” including oldies, gospel, barbershop, and original compositions.

Poster for Counterpoint’s 1999 reunion concert

Since the founding of the Mendicants, a colorful concatenation of a cappella has proliferated on campus.  The Stanford Counterpoint, founded in 1979 by Joyce Rogers and Linda Chin, comprises Stanford’s only all-female a cappella group, and has received recognition for their original compositions through both Best of College a Cappella and Voices Only compilations.  The Fleet Street Singers, an all-male a cappella group formed in 1981, is celebrated on campus for its parodic flair.  They recently premiered The Voicecracker, a choral version of the Nutcracker ballet in December of 2012.  Four years later in 1985, Bonnie Zare founded Mixed Company, Stanford’s first co-ed a cappella group encompasses a broad repertoire of pop, rock, “and everything in between.”  Mixed Company has produced a dozen albums and embarked upon a service-through-singing tour in Boston, where they performed at retirement homes, a tutoring center, and the Y.M.C.A.  Addressing the issue of multicultural inclusiveness, Larry Shorter and Tony Stovall founded Everyday People in October of 1987.  As a tribute to Slay and the Family Stone’s titular song and corresponding vision of acceptance, Everyday People uses music – including hip-hop, R&B, Motown, and Soul – to demolish discrimination and unite people.  Embracing a commitment to communities both on and off-campus, the ensemble offers an a cappella class every spring through Splash! (a campus program that brings grade school students from across the nation to Stanford to participate in a weekend-long learning experience). Stanford Talisman (established in 1989), integrates South African and African diaspora music into a cappella techniques.  They have toured internationally, performed at the 1986 Olympic Games, and, in 2012, delivered an impromptu concert to Oprah Winfrey.  Formed in the early 1990s, Stanford Harmonics, another a cappella group comprised of both men and women, has devised a “rockappella” repertoire, which includes electronic distortion, sound effects, and audience participation.  Another ensemble called Raagapella imbues a cappella with a South Asian perspective.  Members perform Bollywood pop, traditional cultural music, and original fusion pieces.  Raagapella has made appearances at the Hollywood Bowl and in India, and received critical acclaim for its debut album, Raags to Riches.  Testimony, a Christian a Cappella collective, has dedicated itself to serving communities of the faithful with song for the last two decades.  Finally, Stanford Law School students have recently formed the Acappellants, a group which members extoll as “the best refuge from law school within law school.”

Poster for Fleet Street Singers’ The Voicecracker, designed by Alex Pittman, 2012


Mendicants sing “Brown-Eyed Girl” at Toyon Hall, May 28, 2011


Featured image: Stanford Mendicants group portrait, c. 2012