Chatfield students learn lessons
from visiting a cappella group
Monday, March 17, 2014 11:09 AM
They're The Cat's Pajamas because the bee's knees couldn't sing.
The Cat's Pajamas, an a cappella group, performs for the entire Chatfield High School student body during a visit last Tuesday, March 11. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
That is how members of the a cappella singing group answered the question "How did you get your name?" posed by one of Barbara Ahl's senior high Chatfield High School choir students.
The students had a chance to visit with the musical group following the all-school assembly where the singers entertained the students during a special educational "Meow-sic" in the Schools program last Tuesday, March 11.
The answer included the fact that "The Cat's Pajamas" was a 1920s saying, like "the bees' knees," meaning "the coolest of the cool."
One of the group's members said they brought it back because they thought they'd make it something cool again.
The next question Ahl's students had for the singers - veterans of the singing contest show "The Sing-Off" - was, "Have you ever been too shy to sing?"
That garnered the admission that at some point in each of the quintet's members' lives, they did encounter stage fright and apprehension. They even admitted that each had encountered occasional poor pitch, though only very temporarily, since they took the "(c)attitude" that the more one performs onstage, the more comfortable one becomes onstage.
Ahl's students also wanted to know whether the singers arrange their own music. Bass vocalist Brian Skinner explained, "We pretty much do it in-house. I find that writing my music down on paper slows me down, so I start working it out on the bass lines, then I put the soloists in, the baritones, and eventually, it all works."
Low lead tenor Michael Samsky stated often the group writes an arrangement on the music composition computer program Finale, then arranges it until it fits everyone's voices. "Then we listen to it over and over again until we never want to hear it one more time, then we sing it for the next five years," he added.
The Cat's Pajamas had performed a 45-minute concert for the entire student body - an event featuring everything from "Love Potion #9" and "Some Kind of Wonderful" to Michael Buble's jazz-pop conversions.
After hearing those songs and the range of talent, the students were curious as to what inspires the gentlemen, especially since Skinner demonstrated a complete range of beat-bass rhythm that encompassed Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice Baby" and a rendition of "Funk Soul Brother."
Austin, Minn., native Donovan Germain told how he first admired the way that Garth Brooks sings. "I started singing what other people sang until I found my own voice," he said.
Liam Ryan related when he was "a wee boy in Wales," he saw Patrick Swayze on television...first doing some "kick-butt martial arts in 'Roadhouse,' then dancing in 'Dirty Dancing'."
"I thought that if he can do martial arts and dance, I could too. But I like listening to '80s music, like Huey Lewis and the News," he added.
Samsky cited being frustrated that he couldn't sing high enough to have a good falsetto like they did in Queen or Paul McCartney did with the Beatles.
"I was told by my high school teacher to never be afraid to use a falsetto because it helps to build my voice's range," he continued.
High tenor and air guitarist Josh David Evans elaborated that he was a pastor's son. "My parents were pretty strict about what I got to listen to, so a lot of what I sing is like the men's parts from the songs in Disney movies."
After a bit of a chuckle, he added, "I think 'N Sync and Boyz II Men have the greatest sound. They had a cappella down way before AutoTune was invented."
Ahl's senior choir finished asking questions, but then felt that an exchange of notes was in order, rising to perform an enthusiastic song, "How Can I Keep From Singing?"
The quintet applauded and commended the bass and baritone singers for their enthusiasm and the entire choir for a musically entertaining moment, wishing them well as the high school concert season continues.
Then, of course, before the vocalists' departure, came the opportunity to take "selfies" with the Pajamas, because how often can one have a selfie taken with, but not in, good-looking "Pajamas?"