Mantiphondrakes Bring A Cappella to the COOP

Alan Dowling

The last time I saw the Mantiphondrakes sing was last spring, under the direction of their founder, Xavia Publius ’13. She has since graduated, and I was looking forward to seeing what form the group’s dynamic would take in her absence. Their performance was more cohesive than what I have seen in the past and the group sang and danced genuinely and with a confidence which I was happy to see rise to the surface. The Mantiphondrakes, it seemed to me, were enthusiastically developing self-assurance in their newfound place in the Colgate a cappellascene.

The music they’ve chosen is certainly more “mainstream” than I have seen performed in the past, lacking some of Publius’s more experimental arrangements. I was particularly impressed with their opening number, a cover of Bon Iver’s “Woods.” The number developed, literally and figuratively, over the course of several solos as the group entered the stage one by one. The harmonies hinted at the sensibilities of the classical and at blue-noted minor tension which seemed to me reminiscent of subtle gospel harmony. I enjoyed this because no individual chords were particularly complex but the chords transitioned and interrelated quite nicely. I found this arrangement superlative and want to hear more like it.

Their second song was a cover of Muse’s “Madness.” This was an interesting choice, as Muse has a lot of musical complexity underneath simple surface melodies. The backbeat swell’s increase in intensity over the course of the song was quite effective for adding more layers to the piece and lifting up the solo vocals of senior Carolina Swift. I’m not sure how much the voiced “guitar solo” near the end added to the overall performance; this would have been a good song to stray farther from the original and to take more creative liberties.

They closed with OneRepublic’s pop anthem, “Good Life.” The arrangement for this was rhythm-focused and the backing vocals did not add very much beyond maintaining the basic chord structure of the song. What I really enjoyed about the performance of this song was soloist junior Alex Pandolfo’s handling of the verses. Pandolfo sung dramatically, with much more intensity than OneRepublic’s conversational sing-song. When I hear the original verses, I think about taking a nap in a hammock. What I heard on Saturday was Pandolfo arguing, trying to prove something to the world through what she was singing. This treatment added depth where the original lacked it and I greatly enjoyed that.

Finally, I would like to praise the Mantiphondrake’s music director, sophomore Rachel Shook, who, I am told, arranged the first three pieces. Shook conducted the performance with a level of professionalism far above what I usually see in a cappellaand her conducting was a joy to watch. All in all, I encourage the Mantiphondrakes to keep up the good work, keep practicing and take risks. I look forward to the next performance and encourage readers to check this group out next time they sing; it will be time well spent.

Contact Alan Dowling at [email protected]