Nor’easters celebrate album release with Blackman concert


The Nor’easters perform in celebration of their sixth studio album release. / Photo courtesy Lauren Scornavacca, Nor’easters

Paxtyn Merten, managing editor

The black and white backdrop flooded with a blue-to-purple gradient as soloist Tiffany Fujiwara took command of the stage. Purple saturated the screen as the voices-only arrangement of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” intensified. It flared red during an enlivened bridge before finally fading back to black during the come-down.

Tiffany Fujiwara solos in “New Rules.” / Photo courtesy Lauren Scornavacca, Nor’easters

The rendition kicked off the first big concert of the school year for Northeastern’s international a cappella champions. After taking a semester-long hiatus from big shows to record their sixth studio album — Collective, Vol. II — the Nor’easters performed in a packed Blackman Auditorium Tuesday night to celebrate its release earlier that morning.

With pop hits like Drake’s “Too Good” and Ariana Grande’s “Breathin’,” Vol. II is a major departure from the group’s prior album. Collective, Vol. I, contains the group’s winning set from the 2017 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or ICCA. Those arrangements were adapted from lesser-known gems like “FOOLS” by Troye Sivan and Bon Iver’s 715 – CR∑∑KS.”

With this album, Nor’easters tenor and former president Anthony Rodriguez said the group hand-picked their songs to relate to what’s happening in the world.

“A lot of these songs are current and contemporary, but a lot of people can identify with them and they’re very empowering,” said Rodriguez, a fifth-year psychology major. “It’s all about lifting people up with songs like ‘New Rules,’ women supporting women, and with ‘Breathin’’ talking about mental illness and being like, ‘It’s okay to take a breath and just take a step back.’”

The Ariana Grande adaptation was a hit, with a solo by alto Claudia Moericke and complex choreography against cyan lights.

Lyrics like “Feel my blood running / Swear the sky is falling” and “I cannot control my mind / Don’t know what else to try” matched choreography that emblemized anxiety. A dozen performers ran circles around soloist Moericke and covered her head with their hands. Moericke broke through the human walls closing in on her.

Claudia Moericke solos during Nor’easters’ Breathin’ performance. / Photo courtesy Lauren Scornavacca, Nor’easters

“Their choreography makes them stand out from the other groups,” said fourth-year music industry major Allie Gurland, an a cappella fan who attended the finals-week concert. “I just wanted to hear it again as soon as it was over.”

The Nor’easters split their performance into three parts with guest appearances by two other co-ed a cappella groups: Northeastern’s The Downbeats and Boston University’s In Achord. Each group effectively drew out the concert and built anticipation for the Nor’easters’ next appearance.

The Downbeats stood in the signature a cappella half-circle around soloists for arrangements of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” Beyoncé’s “If” and NOTD and Bea Miller’s “I Wanna Know.” In similar form, BU’s In Achord performed Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” Billie Eilish and Khalid’s “Lovely” and another Ariana Grande bop, “God is a woman.”

“They were good, but anyone compared to the Nor’easters just pales in comparison,” Gurland said.

The Nor’easters perform against a red backdrop. / Photo courtesy Lauren Scornavacca, Nor’easters

The Nor’easters’ other songs of the night were MUNA’s “I Know a Place,” Camila Cabello’s “Crying in the Club,” Nathan Sykes’ “I Can’t be Mad” and Kovic’s “Drown,” which didn’t make the cut for the six-song album.

“We really wanted to create an album that was catered toward giving people a voice and making people feel jazzed and excited to do something in the world — to make a difference and just empower people,” Rodriguez said.

The concert concluded with “Plum” by Troye Sivan, featuring a solo by graduating fifth-year business administration major Peter St. Lawrence. Earlier in the night, his fellow Nor’easters played a wholesome video compilation for St. Lawrence, who has been a member of the group since fall 2014.

Aanu Fawole gives Peter St. Lawrence a farewell speech. / Photo courtesy Lauren Scornavacca, Nor’easters

Nor’easters bass Aanu Fawole also read a prepared speech from his phone and called St. Lawrence a “music-loving goofball” who could go off on a single riff.

“You brought energy essential to our performance,” Fawole said. “You electrify everyone around you and make us all better performers.”

The Kinematix, a Northeastern hip-hop dance crew, joined the Nor’easters onstage during “Plum” — appearing as spots of white fabric weaving between the black-clad singers. Their presence held additional significance for the Nor’easters senior.

Peter St. Lawrence solos in “Plum” as the Kinematix dance beside him. / Photo courtesy Lauren Scornavacca, Nor’easters

“My first solo I did with this group was ‘Sorry’ and we did it with the same group of dancers,” St. Lawrence said, “so bringing it all full circle at the end was really fun.”

Rodriguez said playing the song live was much different from recording the album. In the studio, each member records alone. It’s only onstage when they bring their voices together.

And it shows. During the live performance, each voice built on every other voice, and it created a powerful, floor-shaking and goosebump-inducing effect. The recorded album, while a fantastic display of the group’s talent, simply can’t produce the same level of passion they deliver together onstage.

Collective, Vol. II’s top arrangements will hit the stage again next semester in the Nor’easters’ three scheduled on-campus performances — All Cappella in January, the Best of the Northeast in March and a final show in April.

Rodriguez said the group will also hold auditions the first weekend after classes resume to fill St. Lawrence’s slot, as well as those left by performers gone on co-op.

“Every year, every group is different, every iteration is different, so we all have a different sound,” Rodriguez said.