The Friars Are On F(r)ire

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Friday night, April 19, University of Michigan’s a capella group, “The Friars,” performed at Rackham Auditorium for a group of about 70 people. “The Friars” are made up of eight male college students who sing, dance, act and perform with each other. They rehearse together for two hours twice a week until the week of their performance when they bump it up a bit in order to perfect their pieces. “Yesterday we did seven hours just to kind of gear up for this,” said Rob Beisel, a junior in the group.

In order to be in “The Friars” a student must already be a member of the University’s Men’s Glee Club. Being a part of The Friars is a lot about personality and the social chemistry of the group. Beisel explained the audition process; “You fill out a questionnaire with a bunch of really funny questions, to just kind of test if you’re a good mental fit for the group. Then they have you sing a bit, they have you dance… and sight-read and sing with the rest of the group. It’s a very social thing for sure.”

Though it is a musical group, music is not what they pride themselves on most. “Glee Club was all about musicianship: being able to sing, hit the right notes, hit the right pitches, being able to sight read music. Friars [is] about being able to have fun on stage as well as being able to sing solo so it was a little different just in terms of that,” explained Andrew Lumley, another junior in the group.

“This is our 57th annual Best Concert Ever so it’s really cool like when the alums come back for concerts. Tonight we didn’t have so many but usually there’s like ten to twelve alumns and it’s really cool to connect with them and hear about their experiences with the group” said Beisel, expressing the sense of community and togetherness. Even after all the years, the men could bond over tradition and personality.

At a school as big as the University of Michigan, it can be hard to find your group and a place to share your passion.  Beisel experienced this at first. “I was in the Glee Club already and it was kind of like a mid-college crisis thing you could say. I knew I was about to graduate and I wanted to get more involved in the Glee Club and on campus. It seemed like an awesome opportunity.” Since joining, Beisel and Lumley are very happy with the group and its members. “It’s really defined my college career in a very positive way,” said Lumley.

Because the group is a weekly commitment, rehearsals and responsibilities can get in the way of time with other friends. “It’s been an interesting balance. I’m putting so many hours a week now into these specific groups and I’m seeing all these guys over and over again. I still have a good group of friends that I actually live with at home and that are around campus… I don’t get to see [them] as much because of it so it’s been tough to balance that.”

The group had put in many hours for their Friday night performance, and it was well worth it. After “Moon Blue”—a women’s a capella group—opened the show with three songs, the men’s group ran onstage in their gold and black suits. The high energy show kept the crowd engaged and entertained as they sang a variety of songs, ranging from spoofs of originals to classic older pieces.

They opened the show with their own version of “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker, and continued with songs such as “Dance,” “Superhero,” “Respect You,” “I Won’t Give Up” and “Grease Lightening.” Each song had a different feel to it; some were funny, some serious, and some beautiful and melodic.

After the show, the swarm of an audience met the performers in the lobby to congratulate them on an incredible performance. Hugs and kisses filled the air and smiles stretched from ear to ear on every one of the members of “The Friars” faces. As people started to head out, and the room cleared, the members started cleaning up and getting ready to go home.

With the night over, the group’s hard work had paid off. They could go home with smiles on their faces, knowing they had kept their tradition alive.

 

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