50-plus years of harmony for Williams College a cappella group

Sunday April 7, 2013

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Michael Prigoff last sang a cappella as an undergraduate at Williams College during the 1970s, but on Saturday he returned and started singing as if he never left.

The 63-year-old New York resident was at Williams celebrating a previously postponed 55th anniversary of his former a cappella group, the Ephlats. Founded in 1956, the Ephlats are Williams College's oldest co-ed a cappella group,

Prigoff sang "Change in My Life" during rehearsal with about 65 to 70 others, spanning about 50 years and including current members.

"There's something special about coming back," Prigoff said.

The alumni spent Saturday morning and afternoon tuning their vocal chords for a two-hour Saturday night concert at Goodrich Hall.

Ephlats recalled singing spirituals and barbershop, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, along with other contemporary pop music from their various eras.

Similar to other a cappella groups at Williams, the Ephlats have a very loyal alumni group. Originally started as an all-male group,the group went co-ed when the college started accepting women in the early 1970s. During the 1970s, the group also strayed from a cappella by incorporating guitars and flutes

Current Ephlats president Jordan Roberts, who helped organize the event, said the large turnout didn't surprise him.

"Since I joined the group I've heard how dedicated [former members] are," said Roberts, 22. "It is still surprising, but on the other hand we were told to expect it."

Carroll Perry, who was in the group from 1964 to 1967, chatted with other former Ephlats as they reminisced about how singing allowed them to travel to other schools and meet girls.

Prigoff sang with the Ephlats from 1968 to 1970. There were significant changes following 1970 that included the introducton of instruments and inclusion of females.

Williams only had two groups in the 1970s, but since then a cappella singing has grown significantly. There are now nine, including a Chinese and Korean pop group called the Far Eph Movement and a group that only sings Disney songs, the Aristocows.

Perry said he was surprised by the growth in popularity of a cappella.

"I was shocked to come back and see [so many] groups," Perry said.

Perry was happy to be singing with others from the 1960s.

"Singing is non-age related," Perry said. "If we came back and got organized we could do this. There are very few things in life like that."

New York native Diane Ouchterloney hadn't seen Kendall James since the last reunion, but they talked as if they were still underclassmen in the 1980s.

"It's been a lot of fun, a trip down memory lane," Ouchterloney said.

To reach John Sakata:
jsakata@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata


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