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Albright College Junior Makes Music

Ilyssa DePonte

Take 24 people, divide them into five groups and find a way to make their voices sound like instruments of a small band.  It’s no simple task but Ilyssa DePonte ’13 managed to do it several times.

A cappella music is written for voices only, no instruments accompany the singers.  Last summer DePonte completed an Albright Creative Research Experience (ACRE) with Adlai Binger, director of choral studies and co-chair of the Albright music department, in which she arranged eight different pieces for a cappella voices. 

She also spent time working on several other aspects of choral programming.  “In addition to arranging for a cappella voice, Ilyssa collaborated in researching repertoire, choosing program content and writing program notes for several pieces in the 2011-2012 concert season,” said Binger.

DePonte’s experience with a cappella music began at the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Redbank Regional High School in Tinton, N.J., where she was a member of the Rock N Roll Chorus.  Made up of 25 select high school singers from around New Jersey, this group met for eight hours every Saturday to rehearse and arrange pieces.  The group performed around the country and was even nominated for a Grammy Award. 

With that experience under her belt and two years of a cappella singing at Albright, DePonte arranged three selections for the Fall Pops Concert held in October. 

“Runaround Sue” was originally released in 1961 by Dian and the Del-Satins and has been named one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.  Performed by Albright’s Mane Men, the doo-wop style of the song lent itself to a cappella arrangement.

Emmy Rossum’s “Slow Me Down” was a very different piece.  “Arranging a ballad can often be the most difficult and this one was,” said DePonte.  “I had to approach it very analytically and spent a lot of time just listening to the song.”  Split into six different vocal groups, the music flowed seamlessly when performed by the Albright Angels, Albright’s female a cappella ensemble.

Perhaps the most complex piece was Lord Kitchener’s “Jump in the Line.”  The piece required voices to replicate instruments such as percussion and brass.  With lyrics like “ja na na ja” and “ba da ba da ba ba ba” the singers needed weeks of rehearsals to get the patterns down correctly. 

For the Sounds of the Season Concert in December DePonte arranged a version of Gustav Holst’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” and the traditional French carol “Bring a Torch Jeaneette Isabella.”  In the spring DePonte will show off three additional pieces.  “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carol King, “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Click here to view the written manuscript for “Jump in the Line.”

You can view video of Albright’s fall vocal concerts at http://albright.edu/concerts.