Aires alumni and undergraduates reunite for their 75th anniversary weekend

The celebration was marked by a series of on-campus concerts featuring a variety of musical styles.

by Madeline Sawyer | 24/05/22 02:00

Photographed by Naina Bhalla (’22)

The Dartmouth Aires Reunion concert, part of the a cappella group’s 75th anniversary weekend, brought together 120 alumni and 20 undergraduates in a dynamic performance on Saturday, May 14. The show included a list of contemporary and classic tracks.

The Aires kicked off the show with a lively rendition of the alma mater, which the audience championed and joined in singing. Other fan favorites include ‘Football Medley’, ‘Sh-Doom (Life Could Be a Dream)’, ‘Desperado’ and ‘Mood Indigo’. For current Aires member Sheil Sharma ’23, singing and interacting with alumni was a highlight of the event.

“It was so special to see the bond that I didn’t realize we had such a crazy number of alumni,” Sharma said. “[They] are so supportive, talented, excited and passionate about what undergraduates do and Dartmouth in general.

The Saturday show was part of the Aires’ four-day reunion weekend, which brought together more than 100 alumni. The Dartmouth Aires were founded in 1946 as the College’s first a cappella group. The reunion began with an impromptu rehearsal Thursday afternoon at Tom Dent Cabin and ended with brunch Sunday morning, according to Dartmouth Aires Elders Council Meetings Chairman Matthew Schwartz ’06.

Preparing for the Saturday show required more rehearsals the previous week than the Aires ever did for other meetings, Schwartz said.

“Myself – somehow I’ve been working on this particular meeting for about three years,” Schwartz said.

To plan this elaborate event, the council of alumni appointed graduate members from each decade to reach out to other members to engage with the project early on. They compiled old sheet music, found recordings of songs that alumni could use to practice their parts, and encouraged alumni to gather on a regional basis before the meeting.

Details related to the show, including the set list, were handled by Music Director Adamah Cole ’06 and Show Manager Adam Frank ’09. They asked alumni to choose their favorite songs from each era and voted for the songs they wanted to perform. These songs are added to the “perennial songs” that all the Aires learn and maintain in their repertoire. On Saturday morning, the Aires conducted a series of two-and-a-half-hour structured rehearsals in the basement of Silsby Hall.

Even with all that planning, a last-minute venue change meant the Aires had to scramble to set up a PA system and redirect audience members, as Channing Cox’s lawn tent, the original location , was unsure in Saturday’s 90-degree weather. The atrium of the new Class of 1982 Engineering and Computing Center ended up being the perfect space – the size accommodated a large crowd, who sat on tiered steps and stood on the upper levels looking down on the stage, and the natural light and high ceilings made the show seem like it was outdoors.

“It’s such a testament to the band’s professionalism, years of experience performing in the weirdest and weirdest places and being a fun-loving, not-too-concerned crowd. by formality,” Schwartz said.

During the show, the alumni performed songs from different decades and shared their experiences in Dartmouth. Before intermission, the current undergraduate members joined in an energetic rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” – a song chosen at random by spinning a wheel during the show.

“It was an amazing experience, especially after a few years without live music. It was great to see them having fun,” said Emilie Hong ’25, who attended the show.

The combination of the randomly chosen song and the “heartfelt and humorous” introduction to each decade by the emcees created an authentic, informal tone that epitomizes the Aires band, Schwartz said.

While the show was more formal than in previous years, the band still wanted to maintain an “impromptu, fun energy,” according to Schwartz. Aires reunion weekends traditionally include two shows: an informal alumni-led show on the steps of Dartmouth Hall and the undergraduate show at Spaulding Auditorium. For the outdoor show, a crowd organically gathers, members sing tunes that everyone shouts, and shows can last up to four hours. This year’s show was more structured, with a set list and a time limit.

“We wanted the 75th reunion to be special,” Schwartz said. “We wanted it to feel elevated…I think we all do better when there’s a big crowd on campus to experience it with us.”

After Saturday’s show, another round of private performances at the Dartmouth Skiway gave the class of 2020 – who missed their last show due to the COVID-19 pandemic – the chance to sing together again.

“It was really moving to see that connection manifest over the weekend through the interactions we had with the alumni,” Sharma said.

An in memoriam video, created by John Sadd ’70 to honor deceased Aires, played at the end of Aires rehearsal on Saturday morning. Members described this celebration of the history and heritage of the Aires as a particularly special moment.

“The experience of living through the history and memories of the band, doing this memorial service… celebrating the band’s history was just an amazing bonding experience,” Schwartz said.

Video footage of the event will be available on the Dartmouth Aires YouTube channel.

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