‘Idol’ contestants prepare for finals

Back-up singers rehearse for the final round of

Back-up singers rehearse for the final round of

Following three rounds of elimination spanning five weeks, this year’s edition of the Hopkins Center-sponsored singing competition “Dartmouth Idol” will culminate in a concert Friday night in Spaulding Auditorium. Since the field of 70 auditioning singers was narrowed to 18 semifinalists, then six contestants following the semifinal round on Feb. 9, the finalists Katie Horner ’11, Jamie Hwang ’10, Michael Tree ’13, Dan van Deusen ’11, Kevin Oh ’12 and Andrew Purpura ’11 have been hard at work with vocal coaches and production crews in preparation for the finals.

Whereas the semifinals took place in Alumni Hall and used a karaoke machine to provide background music, the final round should prove more of a spectacle for audience members, with a 10-piece live band, choreography and even a group number a medley of 13 Michael Jackson songs.

“It is just one of the hugest things that we could possibly do in Spaulding from a technical and audio perspective,” said Joshua Kol, director of Hop ensembles, who helped conceive of the competition. “We are constantly refining, even how many mics we can get on stage, how many inputs. We are maxed out on what we can accommodate on stage.”

According to Dartmouth Idol director Walt Cunningham, who also heads the Dartmouth Gospel Choir, each finalist will perform two songs one of their choosing and one chosen by Cunningham.

“Only certain pieces work for certain singers,” Cunningham explained in an interview with the Dartmouth.

According to Cunningham, the pieces sung by the Idols had to be arranged for the live band.

“After we chose [the finalists’] selections, I went back to my studio in Chicago and spliced and created the songs because the way the song sounds on the radio won’t necessarily work in front of a live audience,” Cunningham said.

In order to prepare for the final performance, contestants have been practicing informally on their own and have met with Cunningham twice for vocal work, contestants said.

“[Cunningham] coaches us, tells us things stylistic things,” Oh said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “Usually when I practice it’s just on my couch playing with my guitar. For this it’s [in] practice rooms. I’ve never gotten lessons or anything before.”

This week has been very busy for the cast and crew of “Idol.” Because songs could not be chosen until the finalists were announced, the singers and the production crew have had only three weeks to organize and practice for the finals, Cunningham said.

In addition to the six finalists, a large group of other individuals involved in the production from back-up singers to band members have been working behind the scenes to prepare for the Idol finals, both during individual rehearsals and as a group. Further, the singers have had to learn choreography for their individual and group numbers.

The contestants will be joined by back-up dancers. While this may seem a bit gratuitous, Tree’s rehearsal on Wednesday night in which he practiced humorously serenading four fawning back-up dancers proved that the choreography has the potential to enhance the overall performance.

Overall, extensive preparation on the part of everyone involved promises an exciting show. Given the variety of songs and a few additional surprises, this is one show that should not be missed.

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