Arts, Arts Features

Generations of Bostonians Celebrate 35 Years of A Cappella

When Kaitlin McBride came to Boston College, she knew she wanted to explore the variety of a cappella groups on campus. During the first weeks of the fall semester she auditioned for multiple groups, but when she walked into the room for her audition with the Bostonians, she said she knew she would choose this group. 

“Just walking into the rehearsal room and the audition room for the Bostonians you could already tell they were so just supportive of each other and it was a very low-stakes environment,” McBride, MCAS ’25, said. 

On Saturday evening, McBride stepped up to the microphone to sing her solo of “Levitating” by Dua Lipa in front of over 100 Bostonian alumni and their families in a packed lecture hall. Every five years, the Bostonian alumni have returned to BC’s campus to connect with friends who feel more like family and to immerse themselves once again in the music they love. This year, the a cappella group and alumni celebrated the Bostonian’s 35th anniversary. 

Officially founded in November 1986, the Bostonians are the oldest a cappella group on campus. At the time the group was established, the only other music groups on campus were the University Chorale and the “Screaming Eagles” Marching Band. The group’s foundation marked the beginning of a growing a capella scene on campus that now includes eight additional groups. Nicholas Wieber, president of the Bostonians and MCAS ’22, noted how the Bostonians have maintained its presence on campus over the years. 

“Our repertoire is one of the most diverse I’d say at Boston College,” Wieber said. “We’ve gone all the way from Aretha Franklin to Chance the Rapper, so we have a lot of different varieties of music. We also have a really, really strong alumni network.”

Loyalty to the group has clearly thrived among its members long after graduation, as the reunion events this weekend brought together 103 members out of a total of 192 alumni, according to Tom Leyden, BC ’94. The ages of current and former Bostonians in attendance ranged from 18 to 54 and alumni hailed from all across the country to celebrate 35 years of the Bostonians. Packing into one section, the group also attended Friday night’s Red Bandanna football game against Virginia Tech

In the early afternoon on Saturday, alumni split into groups based on their graduation year to rehearse songs they had sung together during their time at BC. Leyden, who helps coordinate alumni events, said he corresponded with alumni before this weekend and publicized the reunion. Members organized themselves by generation in order to reacquaint themselves with their favorite tunes and prepare the evening’s lineup of 17 songs. 

“That’s always the thing that’s always been key about this group,” Leyden said. “We know that … when it’s time to shine, we better be ready.”

When it was showtime, alumni and their families trickled into Devlin 008 and groups of people gathered outside to enjoy refreshments. There were plenty of pleasantly surprised greetings, long handshakes, and hugs in the lecture hall aisles as people found their seats for the show. 

The lights dimmed and the first group of Bostonians, a cohort of members who attended BC in the early ’90s, gathered in the front of the room to kick off the night. After tuning their voices to the sound of the original Bostonian pitch pipe, the group sang its rendition of “Love The One You’re With” by Crosby, Stills & Nash. 

Two of the founding members were in the first crowd. Elisa Vela Ferguson and Julie Temple Stan, both BC ’90, reflected on what it’s like to come to the reunions and see how the group has flourished since its inaugural year. 

“We’re just overjoyed and proud of the work and love that has gone into 35 years of Bostonians,” Stan, who was also the first music director for the Bostonians, said. 

The show continued as different eras of Bostonians huddled together—bouncing to their beats and singing through smiles. Alumni who graduated from the late ’90s to the early 2000s performed a moving rendition of “Parachute” by Guster, sending chills through the audience. The classes of 2008 to 2013 sang “Boondocks” by Little Big Town, evoking shouts of encouragement from the crowd. Before turning the spotlight over to the current Bostonians, the classes of 2014 to 2017 sang some pop selections such as “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn. The most recent graduates, from 2019 and on, performed their arrangement of “Friends” by Francis and the Lights. 

The Bostonians showed their true admiration for each other’s voices all night as they yelled their praise down to the crooning performers. When the troop of 15 current Bostonians gave its performance, the crowd cheered the loudest they had all night. Belting out the lyrics to “Finesse” by Bruno Mars, Etinnah Garcia, co-music director and MCAS ’23, received a standing ovation. Many of the alumni expressed how impressed they were with the progress the group has shown over the years. 

“They are leagues ahead of, you know, probably where we were back in the 2000s,” Genevieve Reiner Mills, BC ’00, said. “And they just keep evolving and getting better and better.”

Demonstrating the continual growth of the program, the current group of Bostonians released its six-track EP, Closer to the Heart, on Friday. Wieber said that the short album was a culmination of four years of planning and coordination, the track list includes the group’s moving arrangement of “Something In the Way” by Jorja Smith and a haunting cover of “I Found” by Amber Run. Earlier in the week, the group gathered on Thursday night for a release party—counting down the minutes until the album was available on streaming platforms. 

At the end of the show on Saturday, all the alumni filed down the stairs to gather again at the front of the hall. Staying loyal to their reunion tradition, the mass of Bostonians sang “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper. As they swayed and bounced along together, the sense of family that has united their community for the last 35 years was on display. 

“It goes so much further than just in the rehearsal room like we want to see each other do our best in the classroom and our other extracurricular interests, just like in life in general,” McBride said. “So it’s really special to be able to do something that I love, but also be able to do it with people who are already amazing.” 

The final notes of the song rang through the hall, but no one wanted to stop singing. As they started with “Love the One You’re With” once again, the group’s mantra rang true: “Once a Bostonian, always a Bostonian.”

Featured Images by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

November 7, 2021