At a recent rehearsal of the Silver Lake Chorus in Los Angeles, warm-ups began with a roomful of tuneful hipsters going up and down the musical scale. “Sing it to someone!” shouted choral director Mikey Wells. “Listen to each other!” Suddenly their tone tightened, and the group launched into a heart-stopping performance of a song penned for them by Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon.
The chorus, made up of a ragtag bunch of 20-odd twentysomethings (and a few 30-plus geezers), has a cult following in L.A. and is known for its indie playlist and sophisticated a cappella arrangements. The group’s members are cute and unabashed (they call their performances joy mongering), and although amateurs, they’re dead serious about their music.
Founder Sam Rader, a practicing psychologist who began singing at L.A.’s prestigious all-girls Marlborough School, started the chorus last year. It has had gigs at the Satellite and other venues, and it’s working on an album, to be produced by Ben Lee, of songs by the likes of Beck, the New Pornographers, Of Montreal, and Aimee Mann.
Cool, but are the members ever teased for being hyper-Gleeks? Only by people who’ve never heard a performance, Rader says. Unlike the Glee ensemble, the SLC is more akin to classical large-scale chorales like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. “We sing choral music with seven-part harmonies,” Rader notes. “It’s a totally different vibe, with an indie sound but no dancing—and no Auto-Tune.”