Central Harmony Still Sings Through The Pandemic

Story by Hallie Neller

Photo courtesy of Emily Rose

Central Harmony is Central Michigan University’s student run a-cappella group. They were formed in the fall of 2005 with the intention of bringing a blend of voices to the stage in their original arrangements.

Central Harmony is a music outlet for students to express themselves through music.

“Central Harmony is just some extra fun on campus and to have a community of people to connect with,” said Caileigh Nitchman, president of Central Harmony. “We kind of see ourselves as a family and not just a singing group.”

Typically, Central Harmony performs around campus, Mt. Pleasant and other colleges, upon invitation to open for another group. They typically compete at The International Championship of Collegiate A-Capella (ICCA), but because of COVID-19, the group will not be competing at ICCA this year due to everything being virtual.

This year, Central Harmony has gone completely virtual to allow for every member to attend. They’re a group of 16 and the available rooms for practice only allow for 10 people.

The group used to meet 3-4 times a week, but they currently only meet once week. In their meetings they go over announcements and questions and then they will meet by sectionals. Usually only one person will be unmuted while singing and everyone else will be muted as they sing along. This is to avoid bad lags, but makes it difficult to know if the group is in harmony.

It takes about two and half weeks to perfect a song when practicing in-person. It takes about four to five weeks virtually because they aren’t meeting as often and because of the formatting of the meeting.

Central Harmony normally sings about 6-10 songs a semester but with a virtual format, and not being able to meet as often, they are only doing two songs.

One of two songs for this semester is a slower, ballad version of “Take On Me” by ’80s pop group A-ha. There are currently two songs still in progress. These are known as senior songs, which is when seniors in the group choose a song for the group to perform.

Central Harmony has a group chat that they’ve used as a support system for this year. They use this format to talk about the group, support one another through school trouble and motivate the team. Nitchman said that this really allowed for more connection this year than before COVID-19.

“We’re always there for each other and want to make each other smile,” Nitchman said.

According to Nitchman, memorizing music is the most challenging aspect of being part of Central Harmony. Their arrangements often don’t sound exactly like the original song, which can be confusing for listeners and performers. When singing a Central Harmony version, it can be easy to mix up the choruses with the actual version of the song. Not everyone knows how to read music, which can also make it difficult as well.

There is no upcoming performance scheduled at this time. Nitchman said that Central Harmony may end up recording parts of their songs and piecing them together to post for a YouTube premiere, or something else with a similar format.

Central Harmony hosts their auditions every fall, usually within the first few weeks of classes. They have a member maximum of 18, due to ICCA guidelines.

The fall of 2020 auditions were done via video submission. It is currently uncertain as to how auditions will be in the fall of 2021.