For some of us, the third time’s a charm. But for the Compulsive Lyres, the first time was the winning ticket. Newly minted as the university’s premier a cappella group, the Lyres will take their award-winning repertoire to East Hall Auditorium tomorrow night.
The Lyres were shocked a few weeks ago to learn that they had advanced to the final round of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (or ICCA) competition. Besting fellow university ensembles, such as 58 Greene, the Dicks & Janes and Gimble, the Lyres placed first both in the Midwestern quarterfinal and semifinals. The final round, held at Lincoln Center in New York City, will allow them a shot at the ultimate prize: The title of best collegiate a cappella group in the nation.
The news of their advancement was particularly overwhelming for the Lyres, who entered the ICCA for the first time this year. The last ensemble from Michigan to perform in the final round was Amazin’ Blue in 1998. “It’s been a Cinderella year for the group,” said Lyres musical director Senior Mark Surprenant. “We started pretty much at ground zero in September with a new focus on music.”
A self-proclaimed “social organization,” the Lyres shifted gears this year into competition mode. Performing popular favorites such as Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” they gained the attention of audiences and critics alike. Their newfound success was first manifested on the Best of College A Cappella (or BOCA) CD. As the only university group featured on this year’s BOCA disc, the Lyres, in the course of a few months, have become one of the nation’s finest a cappella ensembles.
“Most of the group had never even seen the inside of a recording studio before, so we really put all our eggs in one basket,” said Surprenant, reflecting on the BOCA experience. “My jaw almost hit the floor when we got the call saying we were going to be featured on this disc.”
The Lyres attribute their newfound success to lengthy rehearsals and a highly collaborative work ethic. Though Surprenant arranges most of the group’s music, in recent months, many of the younger members have stepped up to the plate. Surprenant hopes that at some point in their Lyres career, each singer will arrange and rehearse at least one song. “This year has brought us closer together than we ever thought possible,” Suprenant said. “The unity is reflected in the music – you can see it on stage and hear it in our sound.”
Convening on April 28, the concert at Lincoln Center features the top six ensembles from around the nation. There, the Lyres will face groups from Oregon, Boston University, the University of Maryland, Cornell and Skidmore College. Though the competition is steep, Surprenant is confident in the Lyres chances to take home the trophy. Regardless of the outcome, the group is most anticipating the performance at such a prestigious venue and in the company of such fine ensembles. “It’s going to be a great show,” said Surprenant. “It’s been awhile since a U-M group has made it this far, and we’re looking forward to showing the nation what the maize ‘n blue can do.”
At tomorrow’s concert, the Lyres will perform their competition set in addition to their favorite tunes. Jesse Nager, who won the best soloist award in the semifinal round of IACC, will lead the group in “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” The show will also feature rock band U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and Vox One’s “Over the Rainbow.”