Serenade me, Valentine!
Behind the scenes of an MIT tradition
So you’re sitting in 18.02 lecture in your classy “I Heart Bio” t-shirt, nodding off as you peruse the latest edition of The Tech. Suddenly, a horde of teenage males wearing a riot of colorful shirts and ties burst into your classroom.
They point to you and say to Professor Mattuck, “We have a message of love for that sleeping biologist! May we have your permission to deliver this message?”
As you slump down in your seat in a vain attempt to make yourself invisible, a group of Logs — short for “Logarhythms,” the all-male a cappella group, not a pile of lumber — sprint toward you.
Gustaf “Gus” P. Downs ’13, who is the “Knee” of February 2010, kneels in the aisle, and instructs you to sit on his thigh. You awkwardly straddle his leg, realizing just a second too late that you have chosen to face him in an incredibly awkward pose.
Despite your discomfort, you should know that you’re one of the lucky ones. At least they didn’t sing Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” to you. Your secret admirer carefully selected a song with a soloist about whom Logs President Thomas Gerrity ‘11 waxed poetic with an admiring sigh, “I cannot wait for Jason Ashe to be unleashed on MIT this Friday... I think he really kills the solo in ‘Love’ by Musiq Soulchild. Oftentimes, we in the background have trouble trying to capture that song, but Jason just makes it seem so easy.”
Although you might feel alone in that room of over two-hundred happily anonymous classmates, you are not actually alone in your discomfort. The sale of Valentine’s Day serenades has become an annual tradition for MIT’s two single-sex a cappella groups. Today there will be over eighty romantic and not-necessarily-consensual serenades as the Muses, an all female group, and the Logs sprint back and forth across campus to deliver musical declarations of love.
For you, these serenades will consist of a few minutes of pleasing harmony and corny (or comical) lyrics. For the Logs and the Muses, however, each serenade is the product of hours of practice and preparation. Today the songsters will put their practice and hard-earned stamina to the test in the biggest challenge they have faced to date — together, they sold more songs than ever this year. The Muses alone sold almost 3 times as many serenades as in previous years, for a grand total of over 40 serenades.
Want to serenade? Run!
More goes into these serenades than just one week of preparation. In essence, the groups begin preparing for the serenades with their first rehearsals of the year. Each group rehearses for six hours each week. Both groups have shows off-campus and on-campus. The Logs perform nearly every weekend, and at times have up to six gigs in just one weekend.
Given their easy-going attitudes during performance, the Logs conduct themselves in a surprisingly professional manner during practice. Having attended their spring concert, I knew of their strong personalities and vocal talents. What I didn’t realize was how artfully they must balance fun and work in order to maintain their tradition of singing for the fun of it. The boys bump into each other and roughhouse a bit during the short breaks, but when called to attention by director Edan Krolewicz ‘12, they immediately assemble into an orderly formation.
In addition to their six hours of practice each week, all members of both groups take on additional responsibilities to make the serenades possible. They staff a sales booth from Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They miss their Friday classes. They run more 500m dashes than track sprinters. Then, after all that, they face the awkward task of asking award-winning professors for permission to interrupt lectures. They deliver their message — often to beet-red, reluctant individuals — and sprint off to their next appointment. It’s “a logistical nightmare,” Gerrity said.
This year, had to deal with a huge influx of new members. “We have two-thirds new members right now,” said Devorah Kengmana ’11, the serenades manager. “They are all very lively, and there’s a lot of silliness that goes on.”
Because they gained so many new members during IAP, The Muses have faced a time crunch. In order to deliver on their offered selection options for Valentine’s Day Serenades, they had to learn six entirely new songs. Despite this challenge, President Amber R Lin ’11 was able to create a calm and relaxed atmosphere for the Muses’ Tuesday night practice
“We try to be serious,” Kengmana explains, “but that doesn’t always work. It’s partially doing serious singing and it’s partially just hanging out, being silly, and enjoying singing because we all love it so much.”
Despite being known by his friends as a bit of a goofball, Edan Krolewicz ’12 effortlessly switched into his role as the Logs’ director at this past Tuesday’s rehearsal. “Everyone is very supportive. The older guys lead by example... They show me respect and allow me to [take control of] my role,” he said.
Krolewicz showed no mercy to the Logs while training them. He had them all sing, run sprints through the halls of the Infinite, and then sing more in order to prepare them for the ardors of singing love songs immediately after sprinting from a previous serenade. Already familiar with the songs they’ll be singing this Friday, the Logs focused on fine-tuning the audio and visual aspects of their performance.
Although the Muses and the Logs are separate organizations and operate their serenades independently, they do communicate and bond together through the experience of serenading. They share a booth. They watch each other’s things, alternate who selects the music, and talk with one another. Kengmana revealed that the Muses support the Logs by baking them cookies before each of their on-campus performances, and that the Logs return the favor by bringing flowers to the Muses at their performances.
Although they have several serious love songs, The Muses are best known for their rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s “I Wanna Have Your Babies.” This year, the group added another laugh-garnering love song, The Backstreet Boys’ “As Long as You Love Me,” which was arranged for the Muses by a Logs alum.