Although there was no sax in sight nor an air guitar around at last year's MACFest, a nearly full Rackham Auditorium rocked and rolled with the musical energy of the a cappella groups that call the U-M home. Each group has its own theme and some sport humorous names, including the all-female Sopranos, the mixed group of melodious law students called the Headnotes, and another mixed group, Compulsive Lyres. Thirteen groups performed last year: two all female, and two all male, one Jewish, one Christian, one Asian, one multicultural, and five others with mixed voices.

Each group performs at least two songs, providing variety and possibly propelling listeners to an ensemble's own concert later in the year. When Amazin' Blue sang its second song, an arrangement of "How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You," the audience enthusiastically added its own chorus of "Yeah, yeah, yeah." The Harmonettes wore matching black knee-length dresses with V-necks, and you could have heard a pin drop during the alto's well-enunciated and mellifluous solo.

The Compulsive Lyres began with a tune that was peaceful without inducing sleep, and followed with an up-tempo arrangement of "Magic Carpet Ride," complete with choreography. Kol Hakavod bounded on stage wearing jeans and turquoise T-shirts emblazoned with their logo, tuned with a pitch pipe, and opened with "Nachamu," a song about comfort, which the male and female soloists performed in dulcet tones. This gave way to humorous songs about what life would be like if one's mom were on campus ("I'd eat three meals a day, be in bed by ten . . . have no life") and a medley beginning "It's my bris, and I'll cry if I want to."

The tuxedo-clad Friars' moving arrangement of "Stand by Me" began with a solo backed up by sotto-voce harmonizing that slowly built in volume. Before their next number, they explained that most of them are single and occasionally have relationship troubles — leading to a medley that included "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" and "She Loves You."

The seats in Rackham are perhaps the most comfortable of any campus auditorium, and this music fits right in; it's fun, and the youthful joy of the musicians shines through. The seventh annual MACFest is Saturday, October 27, at Rackham Auditorium.

[Review published October 2007]