Simple Harmony

A cappella on campus: Simple Harmonic Motion • There’s a popular a cappella ensemble on campus called Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM), which begs the question: What’s in a name?
November 13, 2013

Happy to provide the answer is the group’s director, Andrew Michael Smith.

“At a tech school,” Smith says, “physics is a really big basis for all majors and the concept of ‘simple harmonic motion’ — perpetual, repetitive motions, like springs or tuning forks — is all about keeping the same thing going. Simple harmonic motion is also a big contributor to sound, which is the main thing the group produces. Our motto is ‘Keep it Simple,’ which is really important for us. We don’t try to over complicate our music, our group, or our performances.”

SHM has been around campus long before Smith even thought about attending WPI.  It was founded in 1994 by Mike Driscoll, who was a member of the WPI Men’s Glee Club interested in having an a cappella group stemming from glee club members.

In celebration, of its upcoming 20th anniversary, SHM has a collection of dates scattered throughout the 2013-14 calendar. It begins with a mini-concert in the Campus Center at noon, Wednesday, Nov. 13. The group will be joined by Sound Logic.

The annual A Cappella Fest (or, as they say, the ACFest) happens every D-Term. Smith says it’s “a big show where we invite other local and regional groups to perform. We put together an overall theme and script, create backdrops, costumes, and props, and learn some really cool music to fit the theme.”

ACFest happens in conjunction with the Choral Alumni Weekend. “We typically have dozens of SHM alumni from as far back as 10 years,” he says. “This year’s performance will be looking back at the last 20 years of music under a flashback theme.”

The current edition of Simple Harmonic Motion includes Smith, Nick Hewgley (assistant director), Connor Haley (business manager), Bill Hunt, Marc Christiansen, Alden Kelsey, Ted Armstrong, and Mike Higgins.

The group covers a wide swath of modern music. You’ll find them performing such songs as “Mad World” by Tears for Fears — their version is based on The Wise Guys’ arrangement by group member Marc Christiansen. They sing “Hello City” by Barenaked Ladies, which is arranged SHM’s Smith, and they also sing such pieces as “Good Old A Cappella,” with an arrangement by Richard Hsu.

“The joy of singing is an infectious thing,” Smith says, “and Simple Harmonic Motion has been bitten by the bug.” “Singing as part of a small group, or even as a larger group, is a fantastic experience and anyone who has time and even a little interest should do it. You meet great friends, sing great music, and have the best time of your life.”

By Chet Williamson