Walking into the Georgetown Chimes’ rehearsal is like stepping into another world. Stifled vocals come from the back room of the house where members of the Chimes gather before rehearsing, while members who are not warming up sit in the front room, bonding and waiting to sing.
The Chimes House is located on Prospect Street, just around the corner from The Tombs, where the a capella group often performs. Inside their house, the walls are covered in memorabilia and photos of past Chimes groups; the history of Georgetown’s oldest, all-male a cappella group is encapsulated in this space.
“It’s such a storied history that it’s tough to know it all,” Chimes member Quincy Tichenor (COL ’19) said in an interview with The Hoya.
A significant part of that storied history is the Chimes’ yearly a cappella festival, the “Cherry Tree Massacre,” a four-day annual event that has been held since 1973. In the 45 years since “Cherry Tree” began, the Chimes has invited other Georgetown a cappella groups like the Saxatones and Gracenotes, groups from other universities and even professional ensembles to perform on the stage of Gaston Hall.
“Cherry Tree” is one of the biggest events of the year for the Chimes hosts. The Chimes set the date of the festival a year in advance, and preparation for the event begins a few months before the start of “Cherry Tree.” The Chimes’ setlist is drawn from a list of 70 songs, which gets whittled down in a multi-round selection process.
“It’s kind of the paramount time of our year every year. We look forward to it all year,” Ephus Beshke (SFS ’18) said.
The Chimes emails groups from various schools along the East Coast to gathers its talent for “Cherry Tree”; many groups, like University of Virginia’s New Dominions and Duke University’s Speak of the Devil, have been performing in “Cherry Tree” for years. These invitations make for an evening full of diverse voices and entertainers.
At this year’s “Cherry Tree,” professional, all-female barbershop group GQ performed on Saturday. As an all-women group, GQ is the perfect foil to the Chimes, making for a dynamic performance.
“Chimes has a reputation of being ‘the male barbershop group,’ and we wanted people to see that women can do barbershop,” active Chime Derek Hasse (COL ’19) said in an interview with The Hoya
“Cherry Tree” on Friday and Saturday also showcased the range of Georgetown’s a cappella talent, with performances from Georgetown groups like Resonant Essence Live, the Saxatones, Superfood and the Capitol G’s. Each group has a different style, making the festival a celebration of a variety of musical genres and sounds.
Even the Chimes, known for its classic doo-wop sound, dropped some of its more traditional songs to showcase more modern selections specifically for this year’s festival. Every year, “Cherry Tree” begins with “We Meet,” but this year, the group managed to introduce a mashup of the popular hits from the pop group fun., including “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” into its opening.
One tradition maintained at this year’s “Cherry Tree” was the combined performance of the Georgetown fight song by current Chimes members and their engaged alumni network. For the Chimes, “Cherry Tree” is largely about forming a sense of community between alumni and current students.
“’Cherry Tree’ is great for us, but it’s so great because it gives us an opportunity for us to connect with Georgetown as a whole,” Beshke said.
“Cherry Tree” is not the only Chimes’ tradition however. The Chimes members stay connected to their roots by continuing to learn the same songs that Chimes from decades ago sang, and the a capella group frequently invites its extensive alumni network back to Georgetown.
Once a year, it hosts an alumni-oriented show for which Chimes members invite alumni to return and sing with them. This show provides a chance for current Chimes to sing with Chimes who graduated decades ago.
“The alumni show is a cool example of that tradition of learning the same songs and still being connected throughout the years. I could get a quartet from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and sing 40 or 50 songs together,” Beshke said.
For the current members of the Chimes, the organization is more than another a cappella group. Rather, the group is about a connected brotherhood of both current members of Chimes and its alumni. “Cherry Tree” is just one way that the Chimes members continue to strengthen this bond and share it with the Georgetown community.
“We build relationships — relationships that kind of transcend college and kind of become a lifelong brotherhood that is different than you might find in other groups” Beshke said.
“Cherry Tree Massacre” has two more performances: Feb. 10 and Feb. 24. Tickets can be purchased at the Chimes’ table in Red Square or the Leavey Center or online at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cherry-tree-massacre-2018-tickets-41847218156