In its nearly 20-year existence, UW-Eau Claire’s a cappella group Fifth Element has been an all-male group.
This fall, the group’s leaders decided to make that change, Collin Sorenson, a junior and acting vice president for the group, said.
“In this day and age there are people who aren’t comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth and people who are in between, and we didn’t want to exclude those people,” Sorenson said. “However you want to think about yourself, you’re welcome in the group.”
Fifth Element, one of several a cappella groups at UW-Eau Claire, will be holding its first concert as a mixed-gender group at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in UW-Eau Claire’s Schofield Auditorium in Schofield Hall.
Sorenson said he’s only noticed one difference with the addition of female Karlie Kolish this year, and it’s been a relief.
“We don’t have to sing as high anymore,” he said with a laugh. “She clicked with us right away.”
The concert also will double as an album release for the completion of the group’s fourth album, “Neon.”
Though it coincides with the album release, Will Johnston, president of the group, said they will only perform one piece off the 1980s-inspired album — “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.
While many of their recent shows have had themes, Johnston said the group didn’t want to be confined to a certain set of songs.
Instead, they will perform a variety of songs ranging from the 1975 hit “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” by the Four Seasons to more recent hits such as 2017’s “Stay” by Alessia Cara and 2015’s “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors.
“There’s no real theme (to the concert),” Sorenson said. “This one is just songs that we liked, so I guess that’s our theme.”
There also will be a video skit leading into the second half of the show, which Johnston said he didn’t “want to disclose information, but it’s very funny.”
“Neon” and other Fifth Element merchandise will be for sale before and after the show and during intermission. Tracks from the CD also will be played during intermission, Johnston said, so the audience can get a feel for the album.
Though it’s being released in 2017, “Neon” features singers from the group’s spring 2016 members because it was recorded in the summer of 2016. Johnston is the only current member who performed on the album, though Sorenson is featured in two of the songs as he had just joined the group.
When the album arrived this fall at Sorenson’s home, he was ecstatic. Since many of the members singing on the album have graduated, he said it was also nostalgic.
“The cool thing, at least to me, is I had gotten to know the group (in 2016) even though I wasn’t formally in it,” Sorenson said. “Right after that a bunch of them left, and now we get to hear their voices again through this album.”
Fifth Element will celebrate 20 years since the group’s formation in 1998, and Johnston said he thinks next year’s winter concert will be an anniversary celebration. He also hopes the group will record another album this summer as a 20th anniversary album.
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