Chicago Men’s A Cappella, affectionately called CMAC, came into existence at a bus stop on a cold night in Winter Quarter 2005, when two first years, Josh Sauerman and Ben Patterson, were discussing the lack of an all-male a cappella group at the University of Chicago.
Soon thereafter Patterson, a member of the University’s music scene, enlisted help from Bruce Tammen, his voice teacher, and many founding members from different choral ensembles to create such a group. Meanwhile, Sauerman took care of the technicalities of becoming a registered student organization at the University.
At the start of Autumn Quarter 2005, CMAC held its first auditions and rehearsals, recruiting twelve members. The first year was spent learning a core repertoire of University fight songs and classical men’s choral arrangements while performing at small concerts on and around campus.
The following year, the group nearly doubled in size, acquired uniform attire thanks to many generous gifts, and presented quarterly concerts, selling out Bond Chapel three times. CMAC also served as featured entertainment for a number of receptions connected with President Zimmer’s inauguration, and sang at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel for the Alumni Weekend convocation and awards ceremony.
In 2007-08, having burst the seams of Bond Chapel, CMAC began presenting concerts at Hyde Park Union Church. The group expanded to thirty members, formally established a governance structure, and took its first “roll”– a weekend trip to The University of Virginia, where the group performed with the UVA Men’s Glee Club.
The 2009-2010 season was monumental for CMAC. In April 2010, the group performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 – known as “The Symphony of a Thousand” – in the Chicago Symphony Center in Orchestra Hall with the Symphony of Oak Park River Forest and numerous other groups, directed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal trombonist, Jay Friedman.
In Spring Quarter 2011, CMAC released its first CD: Chicago, Hail! The CD was named for one of the group’s signature songs, which is set to Sibelius’ Finlandia and was written by two of the group’s founding members.
In 2011-2012, CMAC kept up its momentum, picking up more gigs on campus and increasing concert attendance. In April 2012, CMAC rolled in to Ann Arbor for its first joint concert in four seasons, this time performing with the University of Michigan Women’s Glee Club.
CMAC’s seventh year saw possibly the group’s largest concert, a Winter Quarter joint performance advertised as “Brothers, Sing On!” with The University of Virginia Men’s Glee Club. Given the unique chance to perform in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the group attracted a large audience of UChicago students and community members alike.
Spring Quarter 2013 saw another “roll,” this time with CMAC embarking on a weekend trip to Minnesota. Stops included Prior Lake (a suburb of Minneapolis) and Duluth.
The 2013-2014 season saw CMAC share the stage with the Chicago Children’s Choir for its annual Christmas concert, and also saw a return of the Winter Quarter “Brother’s, Sing On!” concert, this time with the group hosting the Notre Dame Men’s Glee Club. This season CMAC also moved rehearsal space, from Hyde Park Union Church back to Bond Chapel, and was given the opportunity to perform two of its three concerts at Rockefeller Chapel.
CMAC’s ninth year was a busy one, with the group performing in numerous gigs in Hyde Park and across Chicago. The group performed in Handel’s Messiah, an annual performance presented by UChicago Arts. Invited to perform by James Kallembach, UChicago’s Director of Choral Activities, CMAC shared the stage with members of the various University choral ensembles, including the Motet Choir. During Winter Quarter, CMAC sponsored another joint performance at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, this time with Golosa, a Russian folk group on campus. Finally, CMAC ended the year in style with QED, held at Augustana Lutheran Church.
For the tenth anniversary season of the group, CMAC pulled out all the stops. Among several gigs for the University, Alums, and for those in Hyde Park, CMAC also performed a total of five concerts over the year. The first was for the UChicago Choral Showcase during fall quarter’s parents’ weekend, the second was the annual Christmas Concert with returning special guest the Chicago Children’s Choir at Rockefeller, and the third was when the group returned to perform Messiah under James Kallembach for the second year in a row. That made for three total concerts in fall quarter alone, but CMAC could not and would not stop there. In the winter, the group presented the “Forward, March!” concert at the end of the quarter, only to turn around and immediately go on tour to Rochester, New York! Then, upon returning to the UofC, the members of CMAC prepared for and subsequently presented QED X at Augustana Lutheran Church.
CMAC is preparing for its 2016-2017 season, and the group is excited about welcoming new members as well as having new opportunities to perform around campus and in the greater Hyde Park community.
Response to our phenomenal growth and most recent performances has been tremendous, both throughout the University and the surrounding community. We look forward to further rolls, to hosting more guest groups, and to recording future CDs!