OGDEN — This weekend, Weber State University and Onstage Ogden welcome to the stage BYU Vocal Point, a nine-voice male a cappella group.
Nine voices? What’s up with that odd number?
“Well, the original intent of the students who formed Vocal Point in 1991 was that they wanted to create a double quartet — four and four,” explained current artistic director/producer McKay Crockett. “But they got to the final round of callback auditions, and they couldn’t decide between two people. So they said, ‘Let’s put ’em both in!’”
It’s been a tradition ever since.
Of course, the wisdom in creating a nonet would be realized in later years, when modern a cappella groups began adding beatboxing — making drum sounds with the mouth. As a result, BYU Vocal Point was able to add a “drummer” and still have a full double quartet.
“It just happened to be a happy accident,” Crockett said.
BYU Vocal Point will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, in the Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium on the Weber State campus, 3848 Harrison Blvd. Tickets are $10 to $30, available at onstageogden.com or by calling 801-399-9214.
Crockett calls a Vocal Point concert “a really unique entertainment experience.” Aside from the novelty of all the sounds created by the human voice, the group performs a wide variety of styles and genres.
“Unlike a typical a cappella concert — where you hear lovely voices — this contemporary a cappella group features drums, guitars, trumpets, bass and more, all created by the human voice,” he said. “Your mind plays tricks on you to the point where you think the sounds aren’t being made by voices.”
A family-friendly BYU Vocal Point concert offers a little bit of everything, according to Crockett. He says this year’s eclectic program will feature a tribute to the Bee Gees with the song “Stayin’ Alive,” and then in the next breath they’ll sing the tender Calum Scott song “You are the Reason.” There’s also some Beach Boys, some Ben Rector, and — of course — “some inspirational things.”
But don’t expect inspirational music to dominate a BYU Vocal Point performance.
“For those who assume being a BYU group we’re going to sing a bunch of hymns, that’s just not the case,” Crockett said. “It’s a fun, high-energy experience — it’s definitely not a recital.”
In addition to their tight, lush harmonies, the group uses audience interaction, on-stage banter and large doses of humor to propel a performance forward.
“We feel like that’s a piece of the puzzle,” Crockett said of the humor that peppers a Vocal Point concert. “Music is a pathway to connect with others and to feel emotion, so come ready to laugh as well as feel some powerful emotions.”
BYU Vocal Point was created in 1991 by then-Brigham Young University students Dave Boyce and Bob Ahlander. Three years later, the group was adopted into the School of Music and became an official part of the university. It has since moved into the Performing Arts Management department at BYU.
Among the group’s many accolades is winning the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella in 2006.
Crocket, who now directs the group, spent his four undergraduate years at BYU singing in Vocal Point. When he graduated in 2012, the then-director of the group was stepping down, and Crockett was invited to take over the group.
“I’m currently in my eighth season directing, so I’ve spent the last 12 years with Vocal Point,” he said.
Although Crockett does most of the arrangements for the group, he said that overall it really is a collaborative effort.
“I think the success of the group is because these students are actively engaged in every detail,” he said. “An orchestra is under the direction of so-and-so, but Vocal Point is all about the singers.”
Students invited to perform in the group sign a yearly commitment, then re-audition at the end of each year. Crockett said turnover takes about half of the group each spring. Such a revolving door can present problems.
“It’s a challenge, because just when the group feels like it’s firing on all cylinders, we start all over again,” Crockett said.
But he also points to the advantages in a certain amount of annual turnover.
“Part of that is really charming, because it keeps the group fresh and young, and full of new ideas and energy,” Crockett said.
Although members of the group receive college credit for their time in Vocal Point, it requires a fairly hefty time commitment. Crockett says members can find it difficult to hold down another job between school and singing with the group.
“On a regular week, members are putting in about 20 hours,” he said.
And then, when the group goes out on tour, it’s even more of a time commitment. For example, after the group performs in Ogden on Saturday night, Crockett says they’ll head out on their mid-semester tour. The group will be out on the road for more than a week.
“So, occasionally, it is a 24-7 thing,” he said.
Crocket said he and the group are looking forward to this weekend’s concert in Ogden.
“We’re stoked to be back at Austad, they always treat us well there,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun concert.”