Before anyone even walked on the stage at Historic Playmakers Theatre on Saturday evening, the audience had already begun cheering loudly as the lights began to dim. The UNC Clef Hangers, wearing their signature vests covered in decorative pins, soon appeared.
The all-male a capella group was hosting the second night of Winter Jam, an annual concert featuring a capella singers from different universities.
Saturday’s concert featured the Clef Hangers, the University of Virginia Sil'hooettes, the Villanova University Spires and the UNC Loreleis. The N.C. State Grains of Time, the University of Virginia Belles and Elon University’s Rip_Chord performed Friday evening.
The different groups engaged Saturday night’s audience with both their voices and choreography. People cheered as the Lorelei’s snapped and incorporated synchronized head turns into their performance, which included renditions of Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power” and LSD’s “Thunderclouds.” They clapped along as the Clef Hangers performed Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.”
First-year Eddie Sanders said this is his favorite part of being a Clef Hanger.
“It’s really nice to see how we can affect people and seeing that pay off in concert when we’re able to make people smile and enjoy the music,” Sanders said.
Sanders enjoys collaborating with other a capella groups.
“It’s really cool to meet people from other schools who we otherwise probably wouldn’t have anything in common with,” Sanders said. “But we have this one very specific, very special thing in common with all of them.”
Brooks Jalbert, a member of the Villanova Spires, said this sense of companionship was his favorite thing about being in an a capella group.
“The guys are really awesome, and we all get along really well,” Jalbert said. “And, you know, as much as we love to sing, we love to just hang out together.”
The Spires travel with some regularity, but UNC is the farthest they have gone, Jalbert said.
He said the experience was well worth the trip because traveling and getting to perform for other people in new places is the most fun aspect of what they do.
First-year Chris Keesor, the Clef Hangers' Winter Jam manager, also appreciated the opportunity to interact with other a capella singers.
“It really is a community,” Keesor said. “We’re from different places. We’re different people. There’s a lot of diversity within the a capella community, but we all sort of share this love for this particular type of music, and that certainly brings us closer together.”
As Winter Jam manager, Keesor handled all of the managerial work behind the event, which included booking the venue, inviting groups and ensuring they had adequate accommodations.
Keesor’s favorite part of singing a capella is using his voice to make music, followed by interacting with the other Clef Hangers.
“The second most important thing of course is the camaraderie of the group,” Keesor said. “Everybody’s got everybody’s back. It’s a great group of guys.”