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The Daily Tar Heel

Clef Hangers embrace new traditions

Jeff Popkin, Jason Hill, and Miles Herr (from left to right), members of the oldest A Capella group at UNC Chapel Hill, The Clef Hangers, perform their Fall Concert in Memorial Theater.
Jeff Popkin, Jason Hill, and Miles Herr (from left to right), members of the oldest A Capella group at UNC Chapel Hill, The Clef Hangers, perform their Fall Concert in Memorial Theater.

What audience members don’t know is the amount of work that went on behind the scenes. The week leading up to the Clef’s fall concert was grueling, consisting of daily, three-hour-long practices and intense vocal workouts.

Sophomore Clef Hanger Brian Vercauteren has been with the group since his freshman year, and said despite the intense practice schedules and late night rehearsals, performing is still the most rewarding aspect.

“I’m always excited to sing up there with my best friends because we’re just full of adrenaline and ready to get out there,” Vercauteren said. “All of us are very close, and when you have a close bond like that it helps your sound improve.”

The Clefs took the stage Saturday night to cheers from girls and frat boys alike, launching into a rendition of “Your Love” by The Outfield before slowing things down with “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison.

The guys switched button-covered vests for black suits in the second act, beginning with a haunting period of harmonization on a dimly-lit stage before upping the tempo with beat boxing and foot stomping on “Jungle” by X Ambassadors and Jamie N Commons.

Vercauteren said the Clefs are working on revamping some aspects of their live shows this year. The use of individual rather than group microphones allowed the guys to experiment with a different live sound and a freer range of movement.

The group turned their concert into a more engaging performance by frequently breaking away from the traditional a capella huddle and singing from different parts of the stage. Vercauteren, who’s also the group’s historian, said the Clefs are excited about these changes.

“We’re taking a new, fresh take on the Clefs and what we do, but we’re still trying to hold on to some tradition as well,” he said.

Other standout performances of the night included traditional favorites like “Africa” by Toto, and “Carolina on My Mind” by James Taylor. During their rendition of “Ave Maria,” the guys ditched their microphones and gave the audience an enchanting, acoustic treat.

Junior Isabel Thompson, who tries to see the Clefs perform at least once a year, said she keeps returning because she thinks the group an integral part of UNC.

“The Clefs are a tradition here. When they come together and sing they really represent Carolina pride,” Thompson said.

Sophomore Rachael George attended her first Clef Hangers concert Saturday, and it was an experience she said she won’t soon forget.

“The concert was so much more than what I expected,” George said. “They don’t just stand there and sing. They’re very interactive, and they have a great sense of humor. I had a really great time.”

The Clefs have won the hearts of many through their voices, but their presence in the UNC community is what keeps their ever-growing fan base strong and loyal.

“They show so much love for their school and they support so many different organizations around campus,” George said.

“I really like that they try to be a part of everyone’s Carolina experience.”

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