Bedecked in their finest festive attire and cloaked in shades of red and green, the singers of the Boston College Dynamics fill Gasson Commons with the harmony of their caroling. The accomplished a cappella group dances as members wrap their arms around each other, surrounded by Christmas trees and tinsel, in their music video featuring the group’s rendition of “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway.
Arriving just in time for the frenzy of Christmas festivities that begin right after the turkey has been cleared from everyone’s plates, the Dynamics released their rendition of the single and the accompanying music video on Friday. The song is available on all streaming platforms and its cover art is a familiar sight for BC students: an illuminated Gasson Hall obscured by a few drifting snowflakes.
The single and music video are the culmination of an almost year-long project. In the fall semester of 2020, the Dynamics were practicing under the strict social-distancing regulations—either virtually or outside, 10 feet apart, with masks on. When Robert D’Alessandro, business manager for the Dynamics and CSOM ’23, went home for Thanksgiving, he brainstormed what could bring some hope to the group’s abnormal semester.
The group then reached out to the well-known a cappella vocal producer and creative director Shams Ahmed, who had created an arrangement of “This Christmas” for two other famous a cappella groups—Ear Candy and Citizen Queen. Ahmed has won many international awards for his arrangements and directed Northeastern University’s highly successful a cappella group, the Nor’easters. The renowned director agreed to create an arrangement tailored to the Dynamics’ singers, D’Alessandro said.
Receiving the new arrangement of the song last May, the group started rehearsing virtually and recording its separate parts. Many of the 18 singers on the track had already left Boston for summer break, but D’Alessandro boxed up the recording equipment and sent it to their homes.
Each of the members recorded their part of the song before D’Alessandro sent all the audio to the single’s Grammy award–winning audio mixer, Ed Boyer, who has worked on the Pitch Perfect films and the television show Glee. Boyer said he took each individual recording and mixed them to make the final track.
“It went really smoothly because I think they’re organized and they’re led well. And they seemed to have a pretty strong vision for what they wanted, which is always a big plus,” Boyer said about working with the Dynamics.
Looking ahead to the fall 2021 semester, D’Alessandro, who is also the executive producer of the music video, invited Ahmed to come to BC to lead a vocal workshop and film the music video.
On Oct. 3, when the weather was getting a bit colder but the holiday season was still a distant dream, the Dynamics took over Gasson Commons to film their music video with Ahmed. The wooden tables meant for studying were removed and five Christmas trees—some over 10 feet tall—were assembled. Freshman members of the group helped D’Alessandro wrap presents to place under the trees as the group came together to prepare for filming. D’Alessandro said that the filming day went from noon to 11:30 p.m. that night.
Tomos Owen, senior exchange student and tenor, joined the Dynamics at the beginning of the semester and said he was excited to be a part of the impressive work the group produces and its collaboration with professionals like Ahmed.
“It was really like a joint effort, and I really hope that BC sees how hardworking our group is and how much fun we have doing what we do. And I hope they got at least some joy out of it,” Owen said.
Julia McCahill, alto and mezzo singer and CSOM ’24, said the experience of filming offered valuable insight into the technicalities that go into creating a polished music video. The singers had their hair and makeup done earlier that day and many of the scenes were shot multiple times. According to D’Alessandro and Owen, Ahmed brought high energy and humor to the long day of filming.
“Working with the Dynamics was a dream! They are, of course, talented musically, but -more importantly- they are a joy to work with. Everyone was professional and proactive, and made the whole experience so collaborative,” Ahmed said in an email to The Heights.
The finished product not only demonstrates the vocal work and performance of the Dynamics. McCahill, who is one of four soloists in the video, reflected on how the video demonstrates the close community within the Dynamics.
“Every vocal part kind of has their own moment to shine, and you’re only going to sound good as a soloist if you’re supported and uplifted by all the other voices in the group,” McCahill said.
The release of the song, which Owen said the group will be performing at upcoming performances this semester, marks the end of a year-long period of work and collaboration for the group. But, as the singers all lean into each other, swaying along to their song, the video highlights their communal creative effort.
“This video really serves as, like, our capstone in like the COVID era,” D’Alessandro said. “And being able to say, like, ‘Hey, we’re back. And we’re ready to go.’”
Featured Images by Brock Britton