Group will sing national anthem at Sugar Bowl
Michael Brookens and his a cappella singing group Six Appeal ultimately have two directives: keep the audience guessing and have as much fun as possible.
“I don’t want to put on a concert where people are bored,” Brookens said. “Audiences love energy.”
He thought about both of those elements when he prepared an arrangement for the Marion High School men’s chorus, who are scheduled to perform at the Kansas Music Educators Association Convention. As an MHS alumnus, Brookens has collaborated with vocal instructor David Clark to do something different for the chorus performance.
“How can you get a group of guys to go crazy on stage?” Brookens pondered.
Inspiration struck when Brookens was watching “Night at the Roxbury.” The song “What is Love” by Haddaway, Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan’s head nodding anthem, would provide the canvas for Brooken’s arrangement.
“There’s a moment at every high school dance, when this song comes on and all the girls sprint off the dance floor and all the guys sprint on,” Brookens said.
Brookens arrangement is divided into three sections. In the first, the MHS men’s chorus does an a cappella version of the song, complete with beat boxing and other instrument imitation. The basses carry a heavy accompaniment responsibility throughout the piece.
Then the pace changes and the song drops into monastic tones. The chorus sings the Haddaway tune in the style of Renaissance polyphony, a technical style based on fugues, Brookens said.
“It’s tongue-in-cheek,” Brookens said. “It makes fun of a concert environment, while still performing the style well.”
The third section, with an interlude of purposeful chatter, features the chorus’ dub step version of “What is Love.” Dub step is a form of electronic music featuring amplified bass lines that mimic the sound of machinery. Brookens chose Alex Care’s “Too Close” as a pop example for the genre.
“Make that your jam,” Brookens told the chorus.
While going over this section, Brookens’ bandmate Rueben Hushagen chimed in with suggestions. He told the MHS singers to listen to machinery to copy its sounds. He also explained that experimenting with mouth shapes and movements could drastically change a sound.
For Six Appeal, this type of experimentation is constant. In the USD 408 Performing Arts Center lobby, five of the band members took pieces of songs played over phones and then started a beat boxing collaboration to work out the various sounds.
In essence, the writing process for the group never ends. Brookens and Jordan Roll are two of the three arrangers for the group, but each member has an input for each song, which can change from performance to performance.
Although the group is constantly working on new material, the element of surprise is still featured. One of the group’s staples is Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” While that piece is famously feminine, the all-male ensemble has no hesitation in tackling songs from other female artists like Miley Cyrus, Kesha, and Lady Gaga.
Not to be overlooked, the fun element has been a part of the band since its inception at Concordia College in Morehead, Minn. Brookens and Roll were both in the college choir together. Between rehearsals, the pair starting playing around with “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego,” and noticed they were drawing a crowd of people peaking in the auditorium doorway. Brookens and Roll worked on the a cappella sound for the freshman talent show and then decided to form a group.
Brookens and Roll moved to the twin cities and teamed up with the current lineup of band members, Hushagen, Nathan Hickey, Andrew Berkowitz, and Trey Jones.
The crowds have grown over time. Six Appeal performs full-time, traveling the country in a van. Their circuit of venues include colleges, corporate events, community events like Florence’s Labor Day Celebration, and Education performances at elementary and high schools.
The group earned a breakthrough when they won the Harmony Sweepstakes A Capella Festival for 2012 in San Rafael, Calif. On the strength of that performance, the group has racked up more than 100 tour dates. The new goal is to double that number and play 200 shows in 2013. The band is currently booked through July 2014.
What should raise Six Appeal’s profile even further is singing for their largest audience ever, about 75,000, on Jan. 2. The group is signing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the Sugar Bowl between Florida and Louisville in the Super Dome in New Orleans, La.
To learn more about Six Appeal visit them on facebook.com/sixappeal, twitter.com/sixappeal, or their website getsixappeal.com.