The Swinging Gates Make Sweet Music

Alyssa Labelle

Music is in the air this spring! The Swinging ‘Gates, Colgate’s only all female a cappella group, is gearing up for a busy semester, which will be topped off nicely with the highly anticipated release of a new album.

The ‘Gates are not new to the album-making business. They try to record a new CD every two years so the senior and junior members can all experience recording music professionally. The group’s last studio album, Unplugged, came out in 2004, and their most recent release was a live album entitled One Night Stand recorded over its January 2005 tour. The currently untitled forthcoming album will be the newest addition to their wall of fame. The group is tossing around ideas but have not yet decided on a title.

One of the main goals the group kept in mind while putting together the set list for this album was that they wanted to include many new, recently arranged songs. Some songs to look forward to are “Chain of Fools,” “Least Complicated,” “Let’s Pretend,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Time and Tide,” “Saint Teresa,” “Wonder” and “Lonesome Road.” Of course, the Colgate “Alma Mater” will be featured on the CD, as well as some songs that have never been professionally recorded by the ‘Gates before. Those songs include Dido’s “White Flag,” Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“Having the songs professionally recorded and mixed makes a difference in the sound and quality,” said senior Elizabeth O’Leary, administrative leader and longtime member of the Swinging ‘Gates. The album was recorded right on the third floor of James C. Colgate Student Union with the aid of professional equipment and soundmaster Ed Vollmer, with whom the ‘Gates have recorded in the past.

“He’s great,” O’Leary said of Vollmer. “He knows us all and he knows our sound. Not only that, but he cares what we sound like. He has invested a lot of time in this CD and he has been a great help.”

Of course, it’s not just the final product that matters, but also the process of creating it. “We were very fortunate recording this CD,” O’Leary explained. “We had a very talented recording group with regards to both soloists and the ensemble. Especially with soloists – I was blown away every time one went up to the microphone.”

Surprisingly, nearly all of the songs were recorded in a single take, a rare occurrence in the world of music recording. The girls attribute this to the amount of teamwork and group-bonding that happened with the recording of this album.

“Everyone really gelled,” O’Leary noted. “We put in lots of work and practice for this CD. Having it all culminate in a room with the recording equipment, with this group that has become really close and with the knowledge that it’s finally happening, really made it all come together.”

“We got to concentrate more on the musicality of everything more than normally with the recording of this CD,” senior Courtney Olsen explained.

Just as the individual voices and group sound are equally important and dependent upon each other in any singing group, the recording experience did a lot for members individually, as well as for the group as a whole.

“I had never recorded anything like that before,” junior Mary Pratt said when discussing what she took away from the experience. “But for the group overall, I think making this album really helped the group come together and work together to make something we’re proud of. [Recording] went smoothly and I think it sounds good! It was just a lot of fun.”

The Swinging ‘Gates musical leader, senior Karla Yeh agrees. Not only was recording a fun time and a good musical experience, but it was a culmination of the dedication and love for singing felt by the members of this group, many of whom have been in the ‘Gates since the beginning of their years at Colgate.

“The senior class has waited four years for this, to hear ourselves and our friends on a recorded CD,” Yeh said. “This is really a privilege for us. It was a good bonding experience and we had a really fun time together.”

In addition to the album release, it appears that the Swinging ‘Gates have a whole plateful of other things to keep them busy during the spring semester. One thing to look forward to is the possibility of receiving a “Swinging Valentine” sometime in the near future.

“It’s pretty much a singing telegram to give to someone you care about for Valentine’s Day, or just to totally embarrass a friend,” O’Leary explained with a laugh.

Of course, since it is the beginning of a new semester, the group is currently auditioning new members. The results should be out by the end of the week. All members were enthusiastic about this semester’s new prospects.

The ‘Gates will also be arranging new music for the “Jamboree,” their spring formal concert. The group hasn’t yet arranged any new music this year, so it is hoping to prepare three or four new songs to perform at this upcoming event. In addition to the Jamboree, the ‘Gates will be holding annual pub concerts and benefit concerts throughout the semester.

Even with all this hustle and bustle, the icing on the cake is definitely the new album release. It is currently still in the mixing process, with a prospective release date set for some time in April. Everyone can take part in the celebration at the release party (on a date to be determined), which is open to faculty and students.

The CD will be sold on campus at the traditional price of $13. You’ll be able to pick it up at the Bookstore, at tailgates, via the group’s website and many other places.

In October of 2005, the Swinging ‘Gates were reviewed and praised in Sports Illustrated. The singers hope the upcoming album release will generate even more public interest.

“I hope the purchasers [of the new album] can feel the energy we had while recording,” O’Leary said. “It’s a nice thing for all the seniors to walk away with. People should buy the CD so we’ll have the funds to record more music! I’m proud of the hard work we all put into this. We’re going to end up with a really hot CD!”

For further information about the Swinging ‘Gates or to purchase their other albums, you can check out their website at Stay tuned for specifics regarding the album release date and party.