“We just try to have fun with it,” said Michael Brookens, mid-tenor vocalist of the renowned sextet A capella ensemble, Six Appeal. And fun was what both the group and the audience had at The Memorial Union on August 25 as the group sang, danced and joked to applause after applause.
John Wonderlich, a sophomore psychology major and program director for the Campus Activities Board, pointed out that Washburn doesn’t get many vocal performers.
“We went to Texas this summer for the National Association for Campus Activities to search for talent we could bring to Washburn. We found Six Appeal,” said Wonderlich. “This is a treat.”
The members, Michael Brookens (mid-tenor), Andrew Berkowitz (vocal percussionist), Ruben Hushagen (bass), Jordan Roll (high tenor), Trenard Jones (baritone) and the newest member, Evan Taylor Jones (low tenor) were unwearied from their set. For most songs, they danced and moved around the stage at an energetic pace, ad-libbing where possible. However, there wasn’t even a suggestion of any of the members being out of breath. This is doubly impressive as the band had performed in South Carolina the night before.
Michael gave vocal warmups and water the credit for them being able to retain their voice and energy, although that shouldn’t detract from the fact that the group has been active for 12 years and have had time to hone their craft since their humble beginnings at Concordia College, Minnesota. In that time, the group has won multiple awards. Last spring, they received the first prize in the Moscow Spring A Capella festival, where around 180 ensembles from 16 countries competed. In March, they performed at The Vanity Fair Oscar Party amidst A-list celebrities, and those are their recent successes.
For this show, they sauntered onto the stage wearing suave grey, black suits and shirts. There were also popping reds.
“It’s easier to shop for red clothes, which is why we switched from our older themes of black and white, which felt too boring, or purple,” Berkowitz said.
They started with a beautiful rendition of “Circle of Life,” which preceded a formal introduction of each of the members and their vocal functions in the group. Each member’s natural charm and comedic timing invoked genuine laughter from the audience, which isn’t what one really expects at an A capella show. The comedic moments also highlighted just how closely knit the group is as the members comfortably jested with each other and seemed to know how to extract laughter from the audience.
Students were treated with hits like Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean,” emblematic of the group’s style, a medley of rock, funk and pop. They also sang Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” and a heartfelt and relevant “Where is the Love” by Black Eyed Peas. Of course, as with any cover, there was a certain degree of interpretation with each song.
Each performer got their chance to shine as each added to the harmonious experience.
“The percussion, bass and baritone form one section and a counterpoint to that are the three tenors,” Brookens said.
After curing their hunger with pre-show tacos and witnessing an outstanding show, students also got to hang out with the members a bit. Wonderstruck, musically inclined students asked as many questions as they could while others gathered around the ensemble for photos. It was a more-than-satisfying experience for everyone involved. Wonderlich was right. It was a treat.