Naked Statues ‘Bare It All’ in Xavier Hall

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Everyone at Saint Louis University has heard of the Bare Naked Statues.

Even if you haven't been to one of their shows yet, chances are you've seen them perform at a campus event at least once. This semester, the Statues have loaned out their talents to the Relay for Life, sung the national anthem of the Philippines at the Filipino Student Organization's culture show and opened for SLU's all-female a cappella group, Beyond All Reason, among other things.

This weekend, they're holding a show all their own. "Bare Naked Statues Bare It All: Behind the Music" will take place Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Xavier Hall Theater.

Opening for the Bare Naked Statues on Friday are Beyond All Reason and the Melody of Praise Gospel Ensemble. Two a cappella groups from Washington University, the Stereotypes and After Dark, will open for the Statues on Saturday.

"This is the biggest event of the year for the Bare Naked Statues," said James Fortney, Bare Naked Statues president. "It's our spring concert, and it's a tradition that we come up with a theme that takes it from being a concert to being a show."

The theme provides a context for the music, incorporating videos, skits, props and choreography-and enabling the audience to get to know each of the all-male a cappella group's 12 members.

"People who have not been to our concert before are going to be surprised. This is…not like a choir concert. I think that sometimes is a confusion about us, that we're just sort of like a glee club," that performs at campus events, Fortney said. "It's very easy for us to get up and just sing a song, but ['Bare It All'] is a show. We want to have flow to it and develop characters, just like in a theatrical production."

A cappella performance does, however, have its origins in the glee clubs of the Ivy League schools on the east coast.

The scene has become less conservative and more diverse since then, Fortney explained.

"It's really a very creative and unique style that has, within the past 10 years, invaded college campuses across the United States," he said.

A cappella groups range from the traditional all-male ensemble to co-ed and all-female, and perform a variety of different styles of music.

The Stereotypes, an all-male group from Wash. U. opening for the Bare Naked Statues on Saturday, "are different because they tend to do more punk, freestyle rap and jazz. We try to incorporate choral singing, because it strengthens the musical ability of our members and adds another dynamic and another level of singing to our repertoire," Fortney explained.

While style of performance varies, a cappella arrangements typically have a soloist, a counter-soloist and a vocal percussionist, and the rest of the voice parts make up the "instruments."

Every year, the Bare Naked Statues takes songs from the radio and arrange them for the group-so it's not uncommon to hear them sing one of your favorites.

This year, the Bare Naked Statues has worked on "so much new music," Fortney said. After graduating seven seniors last spring-leaving Fortney as the only senior this year-it's been a big transition year for the Statues.

"It's been a rebuilding year for leadership within the group, but also musically," Fortney said.

Among this year's seven new Statues is freshman Louie Reinoso, one of the soloists who will be featured in the show this weekend.

"The first a cappella song I heard was 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' from the [television] show, and I really liked it and really wanted to join a group really bad," Reinoso said.

Charlie Barrale, also a freshman, didn't foresee himself joining an a cappella group in college, but after his work with the Statues this year, Barrale says, "I am more confident with my voice, and I'm more able to do things that I didn't think I'd be able to do, because of the support that you get from the people in the group."

But the best part of being a Bare Naked Statue this year, for Barrale, was more than just having the chance to perform.

At the beginning of the year, Barrale butted heads with fellow freshman Statue, Colin Harris.

"We'll both go on the record as saying that we didn't like each other," Barrale said. "We were, like, 'friends,' but behind the scenes we were at each other's throats, and we didn't even know it. Colin and I are really good friends now, and we both grew up this year.

"I guess that's the best part of it, is growing up," Barrale said.

Looking back on his four years as a Statue, Fortney agreed, "It goes beyond just the singing and just the performing, and it really is about what's behind the music."

Since spring break, the Bare Naked Statues have been rehearsing in excess of eight hours a week in preparation for "Bare It All."

There's an acute sense of urgency about the Statues while they're practicing, and it's clear that the group of young men have their eyes, and ears, of course, trained on perfection-and they intend to get there no matter how many repetitions it might take. The Bare Naked Statues' music director, junior Brian Funke, steps outside of the group and listens to every song with a keen ear, poised to stop them and start over if it doesn't sound just right.

While the group rehearsed one of the show's slower songs on Monday night, the group's vocal percussionist, freshman Tommy Sheridan, was so focused that he didn't notice the silver Sharpie in his hand burst.

"I was wondering what that smell was," he said a moment after the song was through, examining the silver liquid on his fingers. "I really liked that Sharpie."

The Statues aren't all business, though. In the brief moments between songs, the Xavier Hall classroom where the Bare Naked Statues rehearse is filled with banter-and the only quarrels you'll hear are in jest.

"We love each other," said junior Will Heran, the group's choreographer, as he poked his head out from amongst the group. "Write that down."

The Bare Naked Statues will continue selling tickets for "Bare It All" in the Quad today and Friday. Admission is $5 for students and $7 for adults.

Tickets will also be available at the door-along with the Bare Naked Statues' CD "Don't Feed the Statues," and "Bare It All: Behind the Music" concert T-shirts.