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Ah! cappella: 2004 WHS graduate brings singing group to Worthington for April 29 concert

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NORTHFIELD -- In the dictionary, limestone is described as "a common sedimentary rock consisting mostly of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, used as a building stone and in the manufacture of lime, carbon dioxide and cement."

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The Limestones, however, is a group that's far from common, with a sound that defies description. Although there is some musical chemistry involved, it consists not of calcium carbonate but of seven students from St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Among them is Jeremy Berger, son of Jeff and Janice Berger of Worthington and a 2004 graduate of Worthington High School. Jeremy is a biology and chemistry major, looking toward an eventual career in dentistry. But during his high school years, he was active in music, including a lead role in the musical "Crazy For You" in his junior year.

Now a sophomore at St. Olaf, Jeremy first heard of The Limestones during his first week of college. The seven-voice, male a cappella group performed during an annual fall concert, and he was duly impressed by its unique sound and harmonies. But Jeremy didn't consider becoming a part of it until a year later.

"I played golf my freshman year, but I missed that musical aspect, missed being involved in choir," he said. "Two days before the auditions, I saw a poster and decided to try out. I was lucky enough to be chosen."

The Limestones have been in existence since 1989, evolving each year as new members are needed.

"Every year, when the seniors are ready to graduate, we have auditions in the spring," Jeremy explained. "We just got done with auditions for next year."

Over the summer months, each member looks at new music and brings his selections to what they call Camp Limestone, an intense rehearsal time just prior to the start of the classes.

"We meet at a cabin and bring all the ideas together, decide what new music we want to do and what old stuff we want to keep. It's 10-hour days of rehearsing, a big week, but we get a lot of stuff done."

In his first year as a Limestone, Jeremy discovered that the group is much more intense than he anticipated, but he highly enjoyed the experience.

"I thought it was just going to be a bunch of guys who get together and sing a little bit," he said. "But it's more of a business. It's not founded by the college, not affiliated with the college. It's just the seven of us, so it's pretty unique in that sense.

"I've loved every step of the way, although it's a lot more work than I thought it would be. It takes all seven of us giving it our all."

In addition to their singing duties, some of the members take on extra responsibilities to sustain the business side of the venture. For instance, Jeremy, who sings bass, is The Limestones' merchandise representative.

"I deal with all the sales of the CDs off the Web site," he said. "I keep a tally on how much we sell, on all the merchandise."

The Limestones try to rehearse three times a week, although studies and other activities occasionally create conflicts with the schedule. They have performed in a variety of venues, booking for private parties, at schools, businesses and in such places as the Ordway Center in St. Paul and on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion." Most of the music is written or arranged by members of the group.

While each voice is necessary to create the harmony, the foundation of the group -- and what makes it unique --is a vocal percussionist, who uses his voice to imitate traditional percussion instruments such as a drum. St. Olaf senior Skip Napier, a church music major from Pittsburgh, Pa., currently fills that role.

"He's perfected it," said Jeremy. "He got into the group last year with me. He'd been in a smaller a cappella group before that. His snare drum just sounds perfect."

During The Limestones' early years, the members snapped their fingers or clapped their hands to create the beat. A Limestones' reunion was organized this year, and the changes over the years were demonstrated.

"Just to see how the music had evolved was amazing," said Jeremy.

Throughout its history, the group has periodically recorded music, and the current rendition of The Limestones recently released a CD, "Stone By Stone."

"We spent more than 100 hours in the studio over interim break," Jeremy related. "It was recorded at The Terrarium, a great facility in the Twin Cities. It was definitely something I'll cherish. A lot of people don't get that opportunity."

The Limestones are currently booking gigs and scheduling concerts -- including one at Worthington's Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center -- to fund the CD.

"We don't come away with a profit," explained Jeremy, "but we do concerts to make money to make a CD. Next year, when I'm a junior, we won't do a CD, but hopefully, during my senior year, we'll do another album."

Jeremy is excited to share his a cappella endeavors with family and friends in his hometown.

"I thought it would be really awesome to be able to give something back to the community, show how I've progressed, come back and share the music I've been doing since I graduated from Worthington," he said.

The concert will feature songs from the CD, which Jeremy describes as "pop songs, a few hits," including "This Love" by Maroon 5, "Desperado" by The Eagles, "Taking Up" by Inside Out and "Waiting All My Life" by Rascal Flatts.

The Limestones also try to incorporate some lighthearted songs such as "Malt-O-Meal," a Limestones' original piece, into their repertoire.

"We're hoping to have a couple new songs by the time we come to Worthington," Jeremy added.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. April 29 at Memorial Auditorium. Tickets will be available at the door.

On the Net:

www.stolaf.edu/orgs/limestones

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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