Story by Brianna Willis, Assistant Features Editor
Cloud9 began as a one-time deal. Nine members of Phi Mu Alpha performed Straight No Chaser’s arrangement of “12 Days of Christmas” at an event last semester. It was so well received, they said, they decided to continue into the spring semester. Now Cloud9 is made up of 10 Murray State students.
“We are under the umbrella of Phi Mu Alpha,” said Brett Mayberry, junior from Mt. Caramel, Illinois. “We said ‘Why don’t we keep doing it?’ because it was a lot of fun.”
While the performance was meant to be a one-time thing, the guys all got along and shared a passion for music so they decided to continue performing together as an a cappella group.
A cappella music requires stylized arrangements of popular songs. Every member of the group has a hand in arranging songs to fit their a cappella style, said Grant Knox, junior from Louisville, Kentucky. They met and shared ideas and decisions were made on which songs to perform and work on, Knox said.
“Lots of us have good ideas,” Knox said. “Earlier this semester a bunch of people had arranged stuff so we took a poll to see what we would read through.”
So what does it take to arrange a song for an a cappella group? Madison Jarrett, junior from Paducah, Kentucky, said knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses helps.
“You need to know what voices you’re working with,” he said. “Then it gets down to the nitty gritty of just sitting down and listening to the song.”
Michael Gold, senior from Newburgh, Indiana, said because a cappella doesn’t have instruments, part of the work is figuring out which voices work as which instruments.
“The bassline would be the bass singers, so if you are singing bass it’ll be a lot of ‘dododos’ and a tenor singer will probably have more words,” Gold said.
Cloud9 started to gain popularity on campus, even achieving President Bob Davies’ attention. He has retweeted and mentioned them on Twitter more than once and has always been supportive of Phi Mu Alpha and Cloud9.
“Two years ago, we decided to make him [Davies] an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha,” Gold said. “Bob Davies is one of those guys who is going to be supportive of all the groups on campus, which speaks to his character, and he was truly honored to be recognized by Phi Mu Alpha.”
It isn’t all serious work, though. Cloud9 has had their fair share of shenanigans, such as getting stuck on an elevator in the Price Doyle Fine Arts Building.
“We instantly used the opportunity to abuse social media,” Jarrett said. “We made jokes like, ‘Oh no, Cloud9 is about to become Cloud3.’”
Knox even Periscoped the occurance at one point. Jarrett said it was a good bonding experience.
A cappella has been a growing genre of music, with movies such as “Pitch Perfect” and groups like Pentatonix making a cappella mainstream. Jarrett said a cappella is appealing to people because music is powerful and something everyone can appreciate. He said people can appreciate the voice. Not everyone can play an instrument, but everyone has a voice, he said.
“With enough training, you can manipulate [the voice] to do some really cool things,” Jarett said. “Just by getting together, spending some time and hammering it out, it means a lot to people and it’s something they love.”
Eli Meece, junior from Greenville, Kentucky, said it also helps that their general audience is attracted to Disney and pop songs, which aids in the appeal of a cappella.
However, for many of the members, their love of music is deeper than just a cappella and performing around campus. They said it is something that has been impactful in their lives. Phi Mu Alpha and Cloud9 have been outlets for many of the members to pursue their passions in meaningful ways.
Robbie Parsons, senior from Mayfield, Kentucky, said he is not a music major but is still in Phi Mu Alpha.
“I knew it was something I could continue my passion with music, and not make it a job,” he said. “I wanted to keep music as a part of my life in any way I can.”
As far as other people wanting to get into a cappella, Knox said the best thing they can do is to find what makes them different.
“A cappella is the same principle: you’re all singing with no instruments in the background,” Knox said. “You have to find your identity and what makes you different, not more or less, just different.”
Jarrett said he saw the influence music had on people, and he was good at it so he wanted to pursue it. Cloud9 gave Jarrett, and others, an opportunity to channel their love of music in a meaningful way, he said.
“The fact that we can go out and do the things I identified with as a child, making an impact on people through Phi Mu Alpha and this group, I think that is really special,” Jarrett said.