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Q&A: The Achordants bring fun to a cappella performances

The UNC Achordants perform during their fall concert on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Caroline Bittenbender.

Staff writer Charlie Bagwell sat down with senior Henry Farnham, the president of a cappella group the Achordants, as part of a series featuring the a cappella groups on campus.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Daily Tar Heel: Can you tell me a little about how the Achordants works? How do you operate administratively?

Henry Farnham: We're an all-male a cappella group at UNC. Currently, we're 14 members, expecting to be a little bit bigger in the spring. 

Essentially we have two weekly rehearsals, and then we have a concert every semester that, usually, is in November in the fall, and in April in the spring. Basically, all of our rehearsal time that entire semester leads up to the concert. 

We do gigs here and there — we've done gigs for campus groups, several organizations, and then we also do gigs for alumni or gigs for people in the community.

DTH: How did you get involved with the Achordants? What was the process?

HF: It took me a little while to join the Achordants. I joined as a junior — I'm a senior this year — I joined last fall. 

I actually knew the music director. He was one of the first people I met at UNC, on the second or third day of college. I knew him for two years, I knew that he was in the Achordants, and then, one of the other guys I knew from the first couple days of college joined his sophomore year.

When junior year came around I was just like, “I'm gonna go for it. I'm gonna audition.” 

And I did and immediately fell in love with the Achordants, fell in love with a cappella and now it's the biggest part of my life. 

I spend, maybe 80-90 percent of my time with Achordants people, doing Achordants things or hanging out with some of the members I'm closest with. 

I was elected president last December after being in the group for about a semester.

DTH: What’s the Achordants' style? What sets you apart? 

HF: Well, we like to think of ourselves as the most fun, maybe the least serious, in the best way possible. 

We really care about making good music, and focusing on the music, and presenting the best possible performance we can, but we also like to have fun while doing it. 

That can come in a variety of forms, one of which is our song selections themselves. 

Last year, one of our big pieces was a boy band medley, which is a compilation of six or seven classic boy band songs from NSYNC, Jonas Brothers, those types of songs.

We also perform live skits during our concerts, so we have 12 songs and then interspersed skits that sort of relate to the theme of the concert, sometimes more than others. 

One of the fun things we do is what's called the “boxer song,” where we take off our pants and sing in colorful boxers, a more romantic, sexy song. 

We're all singers, we care a lot about music, but we try to make it the most fun it can be, and try to have a good time as best we can during rehearsal and during the concerts.

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DTH: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Achordants?

HF: We were started in 2001 as an all-male group, and we still are. 

Every Achordant since 2001 has had a number. It started with number one, obviously, and now we've made it up to number 140. 

Currently, we have 125 alumni and about 15 members who are students at UNC now. Some of the alumni are still in the area and come to our concerts, and they'll come visit us during concert week and bring us snacks and help us with our songs, make sure we're sounding the best.

But there are also alumni all over the country, and some international ones too, so it's a big alumni base. 

It's great, and we are all sort of attached to our numbers. It's part of our identity in the group. Everyone is given a nickname as well. At the first concert we received our baseball jersey with our number and name on the back — my number is 132, and my nickname is Squirrel King. Just a little inside joke, a little connection to the group. 

The Achordants are preparing for the end of the semester with two more performances — the Student Alumni Association's Holiday Concert on Nov. 28 and the Loreleis’ Winter Showcase on Dec. 3.

The UNC Achordants perform during their fall concert on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Caroline Bittenbender.

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