Green Note a cappella student group hits high note

If you’ve ever made your way between the Smith Memorial Student Union and Cramer Hall buildings on a Tuesday afternoon, chances are you have run into a crowd of congregated singers serenading passing students.

This is Green Note, Portland State’s own a cappella group. The group is still fairly young, having been founded only five years ago. Green Note was originally founded as an all-girls a cappella group, but turned coed in its third year.

Adrienne Wallace, the coordinating manager for the group, and Chris Stumpf, the marketing manager, both joined in the group’s fourth year.

“We’re still a fairly new group in the a cappella world, and I want to make the group a bigger deal on campus. That’s my goal this year,” Stumpf said.

Recently, Green Note has been gearing up for one of the most important moments in the group’s history with the scheduled release of their first full-length album, set to debut this December.

“As far as coed groups go, we have a very unique sound. Our music director [Ian Adams-Dirks] is a really talented beat boxer,” Wallace said. “He can arrange a song and know what it’s supposed to sound like, and add a beat and our own flare. We have a very congruent sound.”

The album is titled Kicked Out, inspired by the group’s many experiences with being kicked out of free basements during their recording process. A preview EP with three tracks was released at Green Note’s latest showcase on Nov. 15.

The album has been in the works for several years, and the group has received input from Grammy Award winning producer Bill Hare, who has worked with numerous high profile a cappella groups, and on projects such as Glee.

While the casual observer might think that a cappella groups largely focus on performance, it is actually quite common for groups to release albums. There are even a cappella album competitions, which is something Green Note has targeted as their next goal.

The recording process differs greatly from putting together a live performance.

“It’s not like we’re in a room and you put a mic in front of all 16 of us. It’s all individual, each person goes in and records their part, and we just kind of layer it in,” Stumpf said.

Green Note is layered with genuine drive and positivity, crediting much of their success to the support PSU has given them.

“We’re a tight-knit family who loves to sing together, and we support each other in every aspect of life and we’re really happy to be putting out this first album,” Stumpf said.

Group effort

Members of Green Note are not only organizing the performances, but they’re also getting on stage to perform. Green Note is a completely student-managed group. As with all of the group’s coordinators, Wallace and Stumpf are students and performers.

“I make sure everything is functioning well, everyone is showing up and wearing what they’re supposed to be wearing, and doing some event planning,” Wallace said.

Surprisingly, not all of the singers in Green Note are music students. Stumpf, for example, was looking for a creative and musical outlet when he switched his major from music. Wallace and Stumpf agreed that despite members’ majors or skill levels, everyone in the group has immense talent.

“This is my third year in the group, and they’re all my best friends,” Stumpf said. “We are the biggest family, always there for each other outside of rehearsal and performances.”

Having that foundation of friendship has aided the group immensely. Going into a performance, Green Note is able to create a more comfortable atmosphere for singing, something that Stumpf credits to the group’s close, personal ties.

Wallace said the group’s closeness has helped executive decisions run more smoothly, something she has noted more since she began serving as an officer for the group.

“We have a lot of discussions and we talk about, ‘Okay is this really what we want to do and is this what everybody agrees on,’” Wallace said. “We all are either comfortable enough to share our opinions if we don’t agree, or we just all agree.”

Green Note has three annual performances per year, each of which fall at the end of a school term, respectively.

“It’s a way to really focus the group, we have a mission at the end of each term to put on a great show that people are going to pay to see,” Stumpf said. Green Note showcases are typically held on campus and admission is free for students.

Liesl Dittrich, a student who attended the group’s latest showcase, noted the group’s enthusiasm and ability to engage their audience.

“It was fun, and very different from any other concert. It was very involved, because they really wanted to have the audience get involved in standing and dancing and screaming,” Dittrich said.

Green Note also competes at the International Collegiate A Cappella Championships every year. This January, the championships will be held in Tualatin, Oregon for the first time.

To compete, each group is given 12 minutes to perform a set, starting off with a catchy opener, followed by a ballad and ending with a punchy closer. The competition is divided into a quarter-final, a semi-final and a final round.

While Green Note has yet to make it past the quarter-final round, the group is confident this will change in the future.

Diverse genres

Unlike many a cappella groups, Green Note performs a variety of genres including pop, rock, R&B and jazz. Stumpf said the most obscure song they’ve ever performed is “Let it Die” by the Foo Fighters.

“That song is really hard. It’s very rockish and grungy. You wouldn’t expect an a cappella group to do that,” Stumpf said.

Stumpf said many popular a cappella groups focus on uplifting pop songs, but that it doesn’t necessarily matter what genre groups pull from as long as the performative aspects and audience engagement are a priority.

“It’s not a traditional choir. A cappella brings in that performance aspect, and so you have to be excited and you have to be performing,” Wallace said.

Stumpf said the experience of performing in an a cappella group is very different from that of a traditional choir or band.

“At band concerts, the audience focuses solely on the music. At our concerts, we want the crowd to be active. It’s a louder audience, but we feed off of that energy,” Stumpf said. “We want you to be screaming, we want you to be dancing and clapping along with us. We want you to enjoy the show, but we also want you to feel like you’re an active participant.”

Portland State Green Note’s debut album Kicked Out will be available for purchase this December. The group can be found on Twitter at @thegreennotepdx for important announcements and deeper insight into their rehearsal process.