Just sing it, don't speak it, boys!

With everyone circled around the piano, junior Seth Gottlieb turned to his fellow group members and showed them how to tune their pipes just right. "To get a really good ahh you gotta breathe from right here," he said, grabbing his stomach. "Make it nice and dark guys, not from your throat."

  Speak of the Devil, one of the University's all-male a cappella groups, met Wednesday night for their last rehearsal before their fast-approaching Friday night Southeastern SoJam competition, the annual competition for a capella groups in the Southeast.

  To simulate the competition's environment, the group's members divided themselves into two quartets who squared off against one another with renditions of "Oh Holy Night." Keeping with the spirit of this Friday, the remaining members of the group acted as judges.

  "Let's show 'em boys," Gottlieb said as he positioned his group members in an arc formation. Quartet One put forth their best efforts before Quartet Two, their competition, headed for center stage.

  "No pressure guys," Quartet One member sophomore Dave Larado taunted.

  "You can't beat perfection. If you guys wanna step down, we'll understand," sophomore Mark Ewing added.

  To Quartet One's surprise however, judges Jamal Chilton and Sam Fleder, both seniors, named Quartet Two the victors. "Their blend was a lot better and you were less likely to hear individual tones in group two," Chilton explained.

  As a member of an a cappella group, it is key is for group members to work together. "You should hear everyone else before yourself," Gottlieb said.

  The members of Speak work hard twice a week for three hours refining their voices and trying to build the best team they can. To keep up their high standards, they only accept the best of the best--while fifty to seventy guys audition every year, only two to four are accepted.

  Members of Speak know that the group needs to be critical of themselves and fine-tune their routine to ensure a win in Friday's competition--a first place finish would guarantee them free recording time in a local studio to work on their latest album.

  To ensure that everything was in order, they did a final run-through of the arranged fifteen minute performance set before practice ended for the night. The guys began in an arc formation, harmonizing to one of Justin Timberlake's latest songs.

  Suddenly Chilton, the group's choreographer, slid smoothly to the middle of the arc, holding an empty water bottle to his mouth as a microphone stand-in. Other group members joined Chilton in the middle of the semi-circle, dancing to originally choreographed moves-- the moves which make their performance entertaining.

  "Although there are a lot of a cappella groups on campus, Speak of the Devil stands out because we're a performance group. When you come out to see us, we're not just going to sing--we're going to put on a show, we're going to entertain you," Speak president Chase Johnson, a junior, said.

  To make sure they caught everything that needed to be worked on, they watched a video recording of the practice they just finished. This enabled each member to not only take suggestions from other members, but also see for themself what they need to improve.

  Chilton was the first person to point out a problem. "You have to think smooth on that song, think body roll," he told the guys. "Almost like you're sliding into it instead of stepping into it," he added, demonstrating one of the group's dances.

  Anyone who has attended a Speak performance would agree that the dancing is not the main part--the audience comes to hear the singing. The song selection process is quite open as any of the members can choose and arrange a song, as long as its agreed upon by the rest of the group.

  But the members emphasize that there's more to Speak than their voices. "One of the things that we really stress is that we don't just want to be a group of eleven great guys who happen to be great singers. We want to be eleven best friends too. That really adds to the dynamics of a performance group," said Johnson.

  Fleder, who has been with the group all four years, expresses Johnson's hope for the group. The strong bond between the guys was why he wanted to join Speak.

  "The camaraderie of [the group] is beyond anything I have ever experienced. [We] spend so much time together and the friendship makes it all that much more rewarding," he said. "They have become some of my best friends."


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