Campus Currents

High Notes
Not Too Sharp raises funds by raising the roof

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High Notes, photo by Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services

On a Friday night in the Strafford Room in the MUB, all 12 members of the male a cappella group Not Too Sharp are vying for the attention of a young woman named Josie, nudging one another out of the way as they sing the Motown classic "My Girl."

Josie is seated center stage, smiling and scrunching her shoulders when, halfway through the serenade, she stands up and turns around. On her back is a name, which makes it clear to the packed audience at the annual Spring Show that her favorite is "Brian," or Brian Rowley '09.

If this sounds like "High School Musical," then this is the college version. Josie, a friend, was handed the shirt on the way to the stage and slipped it on for fun.

Singing in the Round, photo by Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services
SINGING IN THE ROUND: Members of the a cappella group Not Too Sharp are, clockwise from lower left, Brian Rowley '09, Chris Chagnon '11, Tyler Hixson '12, Scott Gabreski '12, Harrison Kisiel '11, Charles Marlowe '09, Mark Taipan '09, Ross Seavey '10, Brendan McCann '11 and Brad Bensko '11. Not pictured: Seth Ohrn '10.

Not Too Sharp caters to its female admirers, but the group's fan base is growing. They were invited to sing in Concord this spring by New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch '74. They sang at the UNH commencements in Durham and Manchester. They've sung for grammar school kids, the elderly and college students in dorms. They've been hired to do weddings and private parties, and each new gig often leads to one or two more.

The group started out seven years ago singing barbershop music, but they've gradually segued to pop songs that span the last few decades. The title of their new CD, "Shifting Gears," reflects that transition.

The group got its start in 2002 when James Saucier '03, Jason Reed '05 and Kevin Cleary '05 traveled to Manchester with the UNH Chorus to perform background vocals at a Barry Manilow concert at the Verizon Center. The three students got to talking in the car about a friend who had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The friend's struggle with this incurable but treatable cancer inspired them to form a group that would raise money for cancer research. They held their first annual benefit for the American Cancer Society in spring 2003; the group now raises money for other causes, too.

Harrison Kisiel '11, a music education major from Derry, N.H., is the group's musical director. His arrangement of the Doobie Brothers classic "Black Water," with looping vocals, a soaring solo and dynamic vocal percussion--the simulation of a drum kit with the mouth--gives new life to a familiar song.

They performed "Black Water" as an encore at the Spring Show and when the doors of the Strafford Room opened, students were still clapping and singing about "some funky Dixieland." The song went over well when they sang it for Lynch and the state's Executive Council, too, though it might have been more fun than they were used to having in the morning at the Statehouse. "You guys got me in a good mood now," District 4 councilor Raymond Wieczorek told Kisiel. "And I don't know if that's a good thing."

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