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The Dear Abbeys Turn 25

All-male a cappella group celebrates with concert, album

The idea was simple enough. Bring together a small group of men who liked to arrange and perform popular songs. That was 1992. Now, two-and-a-half decades later, members of the Dear Abbeys, BU’s only all-male a cappella group, are celebrating their silver anniversary with a concert tomorrow night at their longtime home, Morse Auditorium.

The release of the Dear Abbeys’ 10th album, Songs for Mary Todd, coincides with the concert. The album goes on sale Saturday and can be downloaded via iTunes and Spotify the same day.

“What’s special about this show is that it’s the Dear Abbeys’ 25th anniversary this year, so it’ll be our 25th anniversary concert,” says Yanni Metaxas (CAS’17), the group’s president. “That means more fun, more entertainment, more tradition, and a lot more alumni.”

Since its founding, the group has earned national and international plaudits. They’ve traveled the country from Alaska to New Orleans, appeared with music legends like Steven Tyler, Ben Folds, and Pentatonix, and won the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) in 2005. Not bad for an organization whose first concert, 25 years back, was nearly canceled because of a blizzard. (Fans showed up anyway, filling Morse Auditorium.)

“We had a line all the way to Warren Towers,” recalls founding member Jamie Kirkpatrick (COM’93). “That really was the moment that we knew we had hit on something, that this was something the University wanted and students craved and would come out for.”

The group’s original members chose the name Dear Abbeys in honor of Abby Borodach (CAS’86), then director of the Student Activities office, who helped them become an official club. She’s better known today as Abby Elmore, wife of Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), associate provost and dean of students.

The 13 vocalists on the constantly changing roster come from a wide variety of disciplines. “We have one member who studies vocal performance as a minor, but other than that we are just a bunch of guys who come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, different countries, different passions outside of music,” Metaxas says. “But we all come together to bond over our love of music. We share that passion.”

Auditions are held each September and the group’s officers say tryouts tend to be pretty casual. The music director guides Abbey-wannabes through a quick warm-up to get a feel for their tone, vocal range, and musicality. Auditioners then sing the verse and chorus of a song they’ve chosen to best showcase their voice. (No show tunes, please.)

Dear Abbeys a cappella group rehearse a rendition of the Bruno Mars song Chunky, which they will perform at the a cappella group's 25th anniversary concert

The Dear Abbeys will perform a rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Chunky” at a special 25th anniversary concert April 29.

The Dear Abbeys’ current repertoire encompasses a wide range, from Stevie Wonder’s “All in Love Is Fair” and Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell’s “Georgia on My Mind” to Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman,” Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” and Hozier’s “From Eden,” the last three featured on the new album and scheduled to be performed at Saturday’s concert.

Being a member of the Dear Abbeys requires both dedication and stamina. Besides rehearsing twice a week and performing two major concerts on campus each year, the group hosts an annual “Men Being Manly” invitational each February that attracts all-male college a cappella groups from around New England. All told, the Abbeys perform about 100 concerts a year, at hospitals, schools, and other venues. During their winter tour, the group performed for students at Zephyrhills High School in Florida.

“We came into this gym that was filled with kids who were mostly high schoolers, and they actually bused in people from a couple of towns over,” says Jacob Nikolajczyk (ENG’18), the group’s business manager. After the concert, the Dear Abbeys hosted a workshop for students, teaching them the basics of a cappella singing.

“We arrange all the music ourselves,” says Brady Moses (CAS’17), the group’s co–music director. “We’re self-governed, and we organize our concerts, decide where we’re going on tour. All that’s done just by us.”

To raise the $15,000 needed to produce the latest album, the group launched a successful Crowdfunding campaign last fall. Members traveled twice to Rochester, N.Y., to record the album, last May and again in January.

The goal for Saturday’s anniversary concert is to “make it a memorable one,” Metaxas says. “Ultimately, the show is about more than the current guys in the group. It’s about more than the seniors who are graduating and performing in their last show. It’s about the 25 years of the group and every alum who’s coming back and everybody who has arranged a song or driven a car to a competition or stayed a couple hours after rehearsal to do some sort of project.”

That said, the group’s senior members say that Saturday’s event will be emotional. “It’s just been such a defining part of my college career and my musical tastes in general, too,” says Moses. “It’s really bittersweet, but wonderful for this concert to be coming.”

The Dear Abbeys will perform their 25th anniversary concert tomorrow, Saturday, April 29, at 7 p.m. at Morse Auditorium, 602 Commonwealth Ave. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are for sale on Eventbrite for $4 apiece for groups of four or more, $5 for students, and $8 for general admission.

Listen to the Dear Abbeys perform their arrangement of Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” here.

Lauren Frias can be reached at lnfrias@bu.edu.

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