The Glorious Misfortune: St. Olaf students perform mostly original materialWORTHINGTON — The Glorious Misfortune has only existed as a musical group for a few months, but its members’ voices and aspirations have gelled so well that they feel like they’ve been performing together for much longer.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Glorious Misfortune has only existed as a musical group for a few months, but its members’ voices and aspirations have gelled so well that they feel like they’ve been performing together for much longer.
“That’s partially due to our friend dynamic,” explained Brandon Berger, who plays guitar, harmonica and contributes vocals to the group. “It’s very easy for us to interact onstage, and that brings out a lot of different emotions in the songs. The different songs mean something different to each of us, but when we bring it together, that’s when the magic happens.”
Berger and his co-Misfortunes — Helen Paolo, Sam Adams and Stina Nesbit — are all students, sophomores when next fall rolls around, at St. Olaf College in Northfield. They were drawn together by music.
“We’re all kind of friends from the beginning of the year, started off living in the same dorm, and Brandon and Sam went down and were playing the guitar outside on one of the first beautiful days in March,” explained Nesbit (vocals, percussion). “Helen and I had talked about how we’d always wanted to start a band, so we said, ‘Let’s start a band.’ We wrote two songs that night, and it just took off from there.”
On that first evening, the quartet talked about name possibilities, but couldn’t come up with anything suitable.
“Then, right before dinner, Sammy and I were walking to dinner, and it popped into my head —The Glorious Misfortune,” Berger recalled. “It was a done deal. We talked about changing it, but nothing else seemed right.”
“And it’s kind of fitting,” added Paolo (vocals, percussion). “Our relationships have had their ups and downs, but everything ends up happening for a reason.”
Besides the dorm connection, all the group’s members are actively involved in music endeavors on the St. Olaf campus. Paolo and Nesbit sing with the freshman girls choir ensemble, and the guys in its male counterpart, the Viking Chorus.
“Brandon and I started the year as music majors, and Brandon still is,” detailed Paulo, who is switching to environmental studies with a media studies concentration. “We always heard Sam and Brandon playing guitars in the stairwell and serenading girls in the dorm. And Stina and I would be walking back from choir, harmonizing together, and it was just serendipitous that we all came together.”
The members of The Glorious Misfortune characterize their sound as “Indy folk.” Although they’ve done a few cover songs — and have intentions of learning more — most of their repertoire is made up of their own compositions.
“When we’re writing songs together, Stina and Helen have this amazing ability to do these amazing harmonies and vocals, so that even though we’ve been together for just a few months, we’ve written a bunch of songs, and they sound really good,” said Adams.
The song-writing process also cliqued very quickly for the fledgling group.
“One of the things we knew right from the beginning, that made us realize that we might be able to go farther with this than other groups on campus, is that every time we’d get together, Sam and Brandon would have the entire structure of a song, with all the breakdowns, all the musical interludes, ready to go, and then we’d just sit down and write the lyrics and harmonies together,” explained Paolo. “So every time we’d get together, we have one or two new songs.”
They’ve been so prolific, in fact, that they group has struggled to keep up with the flow of material.
“There have been so many ideas that we’ve had to discipline ourselves to get one finished before we move on to another one,” Nesbit said.
But that doesn’t mean the group doesn’t put a lot of thought into each new composition collaboration.
“We always make sure to ask each other what we feel like the song means before we start putting words to it. We agree on a feeling to the song before the lyrics,” Nesbit added.
The Glorious Misfortune has performed a couple of gigs on the St. Olaf campus, including opening for Indy duo Pearl and the Beard in a recent concert. They’re anxious to spread their wings and get feedback from other venues, with the first opportunity coming at the Unvarnished Music Festival.
Berger, a 2011 graduate of Worthington High School and son of Jeff and Janice Berger of Worthington, was first contacted about performing as a solo act on the Regatta stage. The music committee is featuring homegrown talent at this year’s festival.
“That was before this group has even been formed. So I had accepted that, was trying to scrounge something up for that, and things started falling into place with The Glorious Misfortune,” explained Berger. “So I forwarded some of our stuff to Haley Moore of the music committee and told her I could bring these guys down and perform as a group.”
Berger will do one solo number — singing the national anthem for the opening ceremonies on Friday night and then will take the stage with The Glorious Misfortune at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve primarily been playing for college-age students, so it will be nice to see what (other age groups) think about our music,” Berger said. “I know the Regatta attracts a wide variety of people, so it will be nice to see their reactions.”
Berger is looking forward to introducing his St. Olaf cohorts — who come from Lenexa, Kan., Knoxville, Tenn., and Northfield — to the Worthington festival.
“We have a bunch of friends who are potentially coming down to hang out, too, so it should be a good couple of days,” said Berger.
“One of the things we’re really looking forward to is the Shoreline Jam,” he added, referring to the informal music-making time that starts both evenings once the stage presentations are concluded. “We’ve all gotten comfortable enough to wing things, and it will give us good exposure with the other musicians.”
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