I discovered the existence of The Naturals by accident. At work a couple of months ago, I was following along with the live Twitter feed for MU Mania, which was a showcase of all of Marquette’s entertainment groups. I was familiar with every group but the Naturals. But once I saw a friend tweet that the group was a bow tie-wearing, all-male a capella group, I was intrigued. I have always wanted to know how an a capella group arranges its songs, so I decided to look into it.
After contacting the group, one of its members invited me to sit on a practice so I could film. The practice involved all the guys running through songs in their repertoire. Many terms used in their practice were Italian musical terms. A tip for anyone who ever sits in on an a capella practice: If members of the group talk about "Barry," they are likely referring to someone singing baritone, not a guy named Barry.
Chris Hardin is one of the arrangers for The Naturals. Hardin has taken music theory most of his life, but this is the first semester he has started to arrange for his group. Once Hardin has a song picked out, he looks up other a capella arrangements of that song on YouTube. Then, he can use that version for comparison when he enters in his own version of the song into a musical arrangement program on his computer. He will often refer back to the original when writing his own version.
“[I] take bits and pieces to make something original from that,” Hardin said. He says that current computer software makes it easy for him to create his own original piece.
He compares arranging a song to writing a paper; he likes to have another arranger look over his work to see if there are any mistakes.
“It’s really like writing a paper,” said Hardin. “When you have someone else look at it, mistakes are a lot more obvious.”
At the time of the interview, Hardin was arranging a rendition of "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction. Hardin's arrangement was debuted at The Naturals' Nov. 3 show. Check out the final product here.
Let me tell you a secret: I did not know the Naturals existed until a few weeks ago. Many of Marquette University's entertainment groups came together on August 28th to put on a show called "MU Mania." This show featured improv troupe, The Studio 013 Refugees, hip hop dance team Hype and acapella groups The Gold 'n' Blues and The Naturals (sorry if I missed a group!). Unfortunately, I had to miss out on this show because I was working. I had seen all the other groups in the showcase perform, so I followed along with MU Mania's live Twitter feed while I was at work. This tweet is when I decided I had to learn more about The Naturals:
It is not secret that I love bow ties. But i also really love acapella music. I have always been curious how acappella groups arrange their songs. So, I decided to take on a third story this week and sit in on a Naturals practice.
I thought I was out of place when listening to the lingo used in theatre rehearsals, but acapella practices are a whole different thing. I mean, a lot of their terms are Italian musical terms. So they were literally speaking another language. I played the piano when I was younger, but I still struggled to remember the terms they were throwing out. I have a tip for anyone who ever sits in on an acapella practice: If members of the group talk about "Barry," they are most likely referring to someone singing baritone, not a guy named Barry. That one took me a bit to figure out.
The practice involved all the guys gathered around running through songs in their repertoire. They ran through about 4 or 5 songs during their two-hour practice. I absolutely LOVED the first song the guys ran through. I found every other song the Naturals ran through on their YouTube Channel except for that one, so I'm wondering if they are debuting it at an upcoming performance (Speaking of upcoming performances by The Naturals). So, I guess we will let that song be a surprise! Through this first song and the rest of the song the group practiced, the guys would sing lines or entire songs and then offer each other feedback and listen to feedback from their president.
The only issue I faced with my story was that the room the Naturals were practicing in is not ideal for filming. They were in a small room inside the Alumni Memorial Union. Since they were gathered around a piano, many of their backs were to me. Unfortunately, I couldn't move around during their practice, so I was stuck at that same spot.
Luckily, the practice I filmed is not the main focus of my story. Song arrangement is the focus of my story. The Naturals were kind enough to offer to let me sit in with one of their guys as he arranges a song for future performances. That footage will be the main point of my story, and footage from their practice will be interspersed to show the next step.
I am not quite sure when I will be sitting in on the arrangement of a song, but I am pretty excited for it. The guys told me which song they are working on next, and let me just say: girls will swoon.
In case you're wondering, working on three stories simultaneously is a good way to lose your mind. But, when the opportunity presents itself to work on three awesome stories, I guess its okay to overlook these little details, right? So, I will use this blog post to introduce the next three stories for Student Media Interactive that I will be producing over the next month.
The Studio 013 Refugees
Anyone who knows me knows that I really, really dislike the Studio 013 Refugees. I find them to be difficult to work with, not funny and pretty much a nasty group of people. Divas, really.
Anyone who knows me also knows that the above statement is a joke.
The Fugees know I think they're the bees' knees. I first worked with the improv group when I profiled last year's co-president, Andrew Pauly for a class project last year. They were so much fun to work with and so welcoming that I had to find an excuse to come back. I mean, at the end of practices I photographed, some of the Fugees thanked me for stopping by. They basically thanked me for doing my homework.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to follow the process of becoming a new member of the Fugees (AKA a Newgee). I have been filming and blogging about their once-a-week workshops, which began last week. At these workshops, the Fugees work with potential Newgees on improv style by playing a variety of improv games. After a month of workshops, the Fugees will hold auditions.
The main focus of this project will be a video. I will mix footage from workshops and interviews with the Fugees to document the journey. I am still debating with myself how to capture the end of this process for my video, but more on that later. I will be including a newspaper article to accompany this video, as the Marquette Tribune will most likely be running my story.
I've never had to work so hard to get my foot in the door for a story. I've always loved with behind-the-scenes documentaries, so I' m taking a stab at my own. I've decided to make a behind-the-scenes documentary of Marquette's production of Larry Shue's, "The Foreigner."
I first began inquiring about this story 2-3 weeks ago. After tracking down my contact, we began trading emails back and forward. The first issue we ran into was copyright regulations. I was informed that, due to copyright rules, I would only be able to include small bytes of scenes and shots that include no dialogue. I took a look at a few behind-the-scenes documentaries, and realized that's how films had to do it, as well. I could work with copyright rules.
Once we worked that out, we came across another speed bump – my vision for the story. I thought behind-the-scenes was vision enough. I was asked to write a proposal for my video, so I wrote up what I thought was acceptable – a very basic outline of my plan.
However, this was not was was expected of me. The woman I had been emailing responded to me with a challenge: dig deeper. Boy, did she know how to light a fire under me. After working about four hours on a new proposal, I came up with something I think to be pretty great. Long story short, I have decided to spin this story as a human interest piece on the cast of "The Foreigner." I am making this a story about the journey of a group of random people into becoming a well-functioning cast. I start this project in a few days and couldn't be more excited.
And now we come to my most recent endeavor. The Naturals are Marquette's all-male acapella group. I have loved acapella/been jealous of people with that talent for years. As the trailer for the movie "Pitch Perfect," states: "We sing songs without any instruments. It's all from our mouths!" Honestly. How cool is that? So I decided to a piece documenting the arrangement of an acapella number. I start this project a few days after I start with the cast of the Foreigner. I won't lie, though. I may not be able to keep my composure around boys who can sing acapella and wear bow ties to their shows. Oh. My. Gosh.
So there you have it. That's my month. It will be a little crazy, but I am so excited for the final product of all these stories. The lack of sleep and sanity will be worth it. But, just a warning. If you run into me within the next few weeks, I may look incredibly frazzled and no longer obtain the ability to speak words coherently. Do me a favor and go with it? Some fun journalism will come out of it.