Elon University is no stranger to a cappella music, with the five and counting student organizations, but Élan is not a traditional a cappella group. Élan is the vocal jazz ensemble students of all majors can audition for. The group’s director, associate professor of music Stephen Futrell, says the group is about training voices for different styles of music.
“The group will always have some differences because of the changes in style of music [we perform],” Futrell said. “We teach fundamental vocal technique to help students find their voices and find their technique so they can be more expressive. Sometimes, the differences are a style issue. Certain styles demand certain techniques, and we want to teach that technique to sing the style in a healthy manner.”
According to Futrell, the ensemble will learn techniques, work with microphones, work in the studios and perform in multiple venues, all in a given semester. Freshman Nic Nelson said the rigorous training the group goes through is what makes the ensemble stand out from musical experiences he has had before.
“Élan is very different from the choirs I've been involved with in the past because there's a higher level of talent among the individuals in the group as well as the effort put into rehearsals,” Nelson said. “Also, Dr. Futrell has a wealth of information about how to properly use the voice to create different sounds but while still using it in a healthy way.
Élan’s concert, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. on April 29 in McCrary Theatre, will highlight the diversity of sound the group has practiced successfully executing throughout the semester. Freshman Anders Borg said the array of music they will perform is something the audience can look forward to.
“There will be no instruments, only our voices, and there is a wide array of types of music that we will be singing, from traditional a cappella to 80s rock songs to Bobby McFerrin vocal experimentation,” Borg said. “I am most looking forward to presenting our arrangement of ‘Poor Wayfaring Stranger.’ The song is well-known, but the actual arrangement is very impressive and complex, so I am excited to hopefully blow some minds in the audience.”
This concert is the group’s first public event since performing at the Southern Division Conference of the American Choir Directors Association. Their appearance at the conference marked the first time an Elon music department ensemble was invited to perform at a professional conference at this level.
With that honor in mind, Élan’s members looks forward to the upcoming opportunity to perform for their peers and community. Futrell said the students’ passion for the music will engage the audience and hopefully give them a meaningful performance.
“[This group] wants music to sound great and want to perform well,” Futrell said. “If the performance is just mechanical, it lacks expression, so the students really get into it. We look forward to performances, to sing the music and communicate and give audience an experience. [The energy] comes across, even in a serious/sad tune. There’s the in-the-moment experience we want to give the audience.”