The Naturals and Gold ‘N Blues work in perfect harmony

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It’s hard to defy the temptation to instinctively view pairings of people and things as warring rivals — even if they’re not. Cats and dogs, Jennifer and Angelina, and even paper or plastic have been misconstrued as the bitterest of foes.

And so it was easy to see the relationship between campus a cappella groups The Naturals and the Gold ’N Blues the same way. After all, there seem to be all the key elements for a great conflict: an established force faced with a group of upstarts, a male-only ensemble in opposition to a co-ed collaboration, and even some good song-and-dance numbers.

But this is no “West Side Story.” While it may seem charming to imagine a fierce musical rivalry, the truth is something much better. Here at Marquette, The Naturals and the Gold ’N Blues are able to work in perfect harmony.

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The Naturals

The Naturals, Marquette's 9-member men's a cappella group, sings "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men.

Until the arrival of the Gold ’N Blues, if you wanted to hear or sing a cappella music on campus, you looked to The Naturals.

Started in 2003, The Naturals is a nine-person men’s a cappella group that performs a mix of oldies standards and contemporary pieces, according to director Joe Capacete, a graduate student studying engineering.

Capacete, who joined the group as a freshman in 2005, said the group was first organized by choir students who wanted to be part of an a cappella group.

“There was no group like this on campus,” Capacete said.

Seven years later, Capacete said, the group is an established part of the campus music scene and performs three concerts per year along with other smaller gigs.

They’re still a presence in the music department as well. Naturals member Andrew Mountin, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the group sings at two chorus concerts each year and six of the group’s members are also members of the university choir.

Mountin said this continued tie to the music department sets The Naturals apart from the Gold ’N Blues. While there are members of the Gold ’N Blues who are part of the choir, he said, The Naturals have a long-standing history with the department.

“We’re not an isolated student group,” Mountin said. “We have a mutual friendship with the choir.”

Capacete describes the group’s sound as “a bunch of guys on a street corner singing,” a strong allusion to the four-part barbershop style they emulate. However, while they may sing like a barbershop quartet, their repertoire on a given night is more likely to include songs like Jason Derülo’s “Whatcha Say,” Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” or their TV theme songs medley, a fan favorite.

For most songs, the lead part is taken by one soloist, with the remainder of the group singing backup harmonies that give their songs that barbershop sound they’re looking for. Because this leaves only two people to a part, maximum, Mountin said the group is considering expanding their roster from nine to 13 next fall. He said the group will already have three spots to fill due to graduating seniors, and if there are enough talented singers interested, they might take the opportunity to swell their ranks.

However, Mountin was quick to stress the group wouldn’t choose quantity over quality.

“Our focus is on a really high level of performance,” Mountin said.

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The Gold ’N Blues

The Gold 'N Blues, Marquette's co-ed a cappella group, sings "Hide and Seek," by Imogen Heap

While it might seem one group like the Naturals is enough for one campus, the creation of the Gold ’N Blues proved otherwise, and provided Marquette with a new breed of a cappella.

Created in 2007 by Hilary Braseth and Katie Blazek, juniors in the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Nursing, respectively, the Gold ’N Blues is now a 17-member co-ed a cappella group specializing in close-knit, contemporary songs.

Braseth said she and Blazek decided to create the Gold ’N Blues after joining choir their freshman year and discovering the only a cappella option was the all-male Naturals. Wanting to create a niche of their own, they recruited a group of nine students and started rehearsing in the basement of McCormick Hall.

Since then, the group’s size and fame have grown dramatically. While Braseth said the first set of auditions, in 2008, weren’t especially large, by last fall the pool had ballooned to more than 50 auditioning students, of which the group could only take five.

“Our popularity just exploded,” Braseth said.

Casey Stelletello, a sophomore in the College of Communication, was one of the five chosen this year. Since joining, Stelletello says she’s grown to love being a part of the Gold ’N Blues because they all share a passion for singing that is impossible to suppress when they’re around each other — whether they’re on stage, in rehearsal or just hanging out together.

“There’s no way to really turn it off,” Stelletello said. “We all have the same love and appreciation for singing.”

Aside from their co-ed composition, Stelletello said the Gold ’N Blues differ from the Naturals in that they don’t want to sound unaccompanied — they want to create the accompaniment themselves.

“Our goal is to make our voices sound like instruments,” Stelletello said.

She said the hardest instrument for her to imitate its the violin, due to its high pitch, but other sections in the group have to deal with creating the sounds of guitars, keyboards and drums.

While the Gold ’N Blues don’t yet perform as many full concerts as the Naturals, Braseth said they perform at numerous other events. She said the group also frequents open mic events around campus throughout the year, and is hoping to record an album soon.

Even though she only has one more year with the Gold ’N Blues, Braseth said she isn’t worried the group will fade away after she graduates.

“I know the group will be left in excellent hands,” Braseth said. “I can’t see anyone in it letting it fall to the wayside.”

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The Naturals will join forces with the Gold ’N Blues for a “Harmony for Hope” benefit concert at the Varsity Theatre May 2, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale in the Brooks Lounge for $5 and proceeds from the concert will go to earthquake relief in Haiti and Chile.

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