Every August since my first year, I have attended Rotunda Sing, always in the front row. Because of this viewing perspective, I have been able to notice details not only about crowd reactions, but also the reactions of the performers. It was not until this year that actually paid attention to this most glorious of seats. At this year’s concert, I noticed the differences in audience-performer interaction depending on who the group was, its composition, and the song choice/genre of the group. Out of the twelve current a cappella groups on Grounds, three are all male, three are all female, and three are co-ed, and they cover various genres, from hip-hop, to pop, to contemporary Christian; a new Hispanic/Latino a cappella group was announced, but did not perform.
I observed a difference in the atmosphere on the Lawn when male groups would perform versus female groups. When female groups were on – the Sil’hooettes, the Virginia Belles, and Hoos in Treble – the crowd would applaud, but it was mainly shout-outs to specific people – friends yelling out to boost the confidence of other friends. Once a group began to perform their song, be it “When Love Takes Over,” “Use Sombody,” or “Your Song” the crowd would give brief applause and short cheers for runs that were perform with excellent skill and notes hit with precision. Other the other hand, all the male groups – Academical Village People (AVP), Hullabahoos, and Virginia Gentlemen – had to do was come out onto the steps and perform songs such as “House of the Rising Sun” and “I’ll Be Your Crying Shoulder. ” The crowd went wild, whether they knew any performers or not. I suspect that this may be because the crowd was composed of mainly females and guys may not feel comfortable giving out personal shout-outs unless they are really close “bros” with someone; again, this is pure conjecture, and may be completely off the mark in terms of why the difference in cheers was present. Additionally, when there were moments of excellent talent being displayed, the crowed would go on seemingly forever relative to when the girl groups were on. I will address other reasons for this later.
When it the co-ed groups performed, there was no set formula for how the crowd would react. During the CHoosE’s – Christian Hoos Exalt – performance, the crowd became distracted by side their own side conversations, the murmur began to drown out the performance. Granted, neither of their songs were upbeat or had a loudness to them, but most love showed by the audience was at the end of each song, and modest clap surfaced over the conversational waves. In the past, I do not remember the reception being so cold and distant. However, that may be because I knew one of the members (who has recently graduated), and quite honestly, the vocal projection and performance of past members was of a higher quality. I would like to think that people would still be courteous and have the decency to not be disrespectful whether it be a weaker performance, or because the songs did not fall under the mainstream popular music category. The New Dominions received about the same reaction as female groups. It may sound weird, and what I’m about to state is meant to be a compliment, but they remind me so much of a group I would see on Glee – just saying. Anyways, the group that everyone loves and gets hype for, no matter what kind of music genre they like, is the hip-hop cappella group ReMiX. Singing songs from “Paper Planes” to a mash-up of “If I Ever Fall in Love Again,” “End of the Road,” and “All My Life,” the crowd can never seem to get enough. And then when the one guy sings and beat-boxes “If Your Mother Only Knew” at the same time . . . well is pure ecstasy amazement and astonishment throughout the entire Lawn.
The atmosphere on the Rotunda steps was noticeably different as well. When the male groups would come out from the side holding area, they would come out ready to entertain to the crowd; versus the female groups would come out just to perform. It is a subtle difference, but a distinct one. The guys would play up to the audience, and really show that they were getting into the song, not just showing a little feeling. The co-ed groups all showed, as it seemed to me, to be singing with passion for whatever they were singing. I do not mean to say that the girls did not entertain; I just mean that they do not seem to engage with the crowd as much. In full disclosure, there were only girls in the front part of the Lawn; girls are just more hard-core about getting those front row seats.
Overall, the concert was amazing and the talent was astonishing. The dynamics between audience and performer were so profoundly different, from my perspective, depending on what group was singing, the composition of the group, and the songs performed. Fortunately, I love every moment of the event just as much this year as I have in past years.