|Glen Newton and Joyce Scofield co-led the joint effort by FarmHouse fraternity and ZTA sorority to win the 1968 Greek Sing competition at Michigan State University.
FarmHouse fraternity at Michigan State University in the 1960's was not known for its social activities. (It did, however, consistently top all the fraternities at scholarship and Red Cross blood drives.) 1968 was the first year that the group combined with a sorority in the mixed voice division of the Greek Sing competition.
The previous year, FarmHouse had placed third in a field of three for the men's voices division, singing Glen Newton's arrangements of "What Kind of Fool am I?" and "Just Once in a Lifetime". Both the first and second place fraternities had scored highly by prancing around the stage in silly costumes singing "There is Nothing Like a Dame", so it was clear that a big dose of showmanship or something would be needed if FarmHouse was to improve its standing.
The solution for 1968 was to join with Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, who provided not only the upper voices but a skilled choreographer who devised simple, yet effective abstract dance steps to accompany the musical selections.
The songs were "Turn, Turn, Turn" (whose choreography consisted of moving in various interlocking circles) and "Come the Day", an uplifting, yet relatively obscure song by the New Seekers, whose "Georgy Girl" had been a recent hit. Glen's six-part arrangements were based in part on this group's recordings of both songs, which were on the same album.
The arrangements were fundamentally written for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, with a maximum high range of F for sopranos and tenors, a practical range for recreational singers. The other two parts appeared occasionally: a second soprano part and a tenor part that matched the first sopranos an octave lower, to accomodate those fraternity members who enjoyed singing but found harmony parts a significant challenge.
The extra vocal parts, pulchritude on stage, and choreography provided by ZTA sorority sisters certainly gave FarmHouse a boost it needed. There was one other innovation: accompaniment by 6-string guitar and electric bass (played by FarmHouse fraternity brothers Phil Downs and Bill Bailey); 12-string guitar (played by Glen); and tambourine. This was both effective and controversial, since up to this point the only accompaniment for any act had been from a piano. After a flurry of consultation, the rules-interpreters for the competition concluded that while they didn't approve of it, this ensemble didn't break any of the written rules, so FarmHouse and ZTA were permitted to proceed with their plans.
The competition was very close. FarmHouse and ZTA tied with another act when the points were added up, so the judges huddled and broke the tie by giving FarmHouse and ZTA one more point.
The following year, FarmHouse joined forces with Gamma Phi Beta sorority for Greek Sing, but despite Glen's innovative six-part arrangements of "California Dreamin'" and "Hurry Sundown", accompanied by piano, 12-string guitar, bass, and tambourine, the group finished in the middle of the pack.
Friday, February 07, 2020.
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