December 17, 2021 | LIFE | By Rhetta Power | Image by Gabe Wright

When I arrived at Cornerstone around 7:20 p.m. last Friday, there was already a line going down the grand concrete steps to the Richard F. Celeste theater. We were all there to see The Back Row, CC’s masculine-identifying a cappella group, one of three a cappella groups on campus.

As people got settled inside, there was friendly waving across sections, and chatter filled the auditorium. Eventually, the lights got dim, the large screen at the front of the theater lit up, and the familiar music of the Full House intro sequence began to play. The Back Row had created a Full House parody intro video.

The members of The Back Row, photo courtesy of Gabe Wright

It was funny and informative, all members of the group were introduced, most were engaging in silly activities before turning to the camera with a cheesy sitcom grin. After the video finished, the members of The Back Row ran on stage, greeted by a cheering audience. All members had tested negative for COVID-19 that day.

The group began their show with a rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” by Straight No Chaser, a group classic. While singing, members of The Back Row “mistakenly” sang over each other, pantomiming confusion to us in the audience, prompting laughter.

The next song, “High Definition” by Waterparks, was performed by Nick Gordon ’25. Following Gordon, Gabe Wright ’23 sang a falsetto mashup of Kanye West’s “Moon” and “Sober”by Childish Gambino. Wright called to the audience to join him during “Sober,” and many sang along.

Next, Nathaniel Rice ’24 sang “Ring of Fire” by Home Free. Before Rice’s performance, he casually asked the crowd “How’s it going?” resulting in some chuckles.

More laughs followed after Sam Yolles ’25 told a joke: “Which reindeer made the dinosaurs disappear? Comet.After this classic Christmas dad joke, Yolles got the crowd to heartedly sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Yolles, sporting a sparkling Fuschia Santa hat, beatboxed along with the crowd.

Offering the audience a cheeky smile before taking the mic, Markus Bergstrom ’23 gave a lovely performance of “Heather” by Conan Grey and “Traitor” by Olivia Rodrigo. Some of the audience joined in for Rodrigo’s popular hit. Chris Tobin ’22 followed with a classic by John Mayer, “Shot in the Dark.”

Following Tobin, Carlton Moeller ’21 — whose position as the neuroscience lab tech has allowed him to keep performing with The Back Row — took to the stage. He dedicated his rendition of Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” to his mother, who was proudly sitting in the second row.

Next up was Will Broder ’23, who gave a lively performance of “Can’t Rock My Dream Face” by Umphrey’s McGee. Broder danced while singing, prompting his fellow group members to join and infecting the audience with the urge to bop. Group member Oliver Goslin ’25 didn’t have a solo in this show but participated in all the songs.

Following Broder’s performance, the group took some time to thank the audience for coming and shared that they are looking for new members. Chris Tobin declared that “men need to know that they can sing!”

The finale was a group rendition of “Cecelia” by Simon and Garfunkel, a signature closing piece that the group is known for. The song included body percussion and was overall a crowd-rousing performance. Ending “Cecelia” to a burst of applause, The Back Row joined arms and bowed to a standing ovation from the crowd.

After the performance, I spoke to some audience members. When I asked Kenan Brittan ’23 which song was his favorite, he vehemently stated that he couldn’t pick, “they were all great!”

Mary Kate Girard ’24 was drawn to the performance by posters that she had seen plastered across campus. Some of these posters depicted the faces of The Back Row members on a menorah, others with their faces imposed on the bodies of a nativity scene painting.

Girard liked how “laid back the atmosphere was,” and said that it definitely was not what she was expecting for an a cappella show, but that it was “really fun” and she is “so glad that she went.”

Toby Ellingwood ’23 had this to say about the performance: “The Back Row has returned to CC! The intro video was hilarious and set the tone for a wildly fun performance. I loved their new arrangements, and still love their classics, like ‘Cecilia.’ The only thing I’m bummed about is that they didn’t get a proper recording of the show, because I want to hear those new arrangements again!”

The Back Row lost their footage of the show, so if you have recordings, send them to!

Overall, the concert was a melodious hoot. The Back Row does an effortless job at integrating comedy into their performance: you could hear chuckles and applause throughout the entire theater. Their comfort with singing and informal approach to performance creates an atmosphere that clearly puts the audience at ease, prompting sing-alongs and woops for well-known tunes.

Get a seat in the front row for The Back Row’s next performance!

If you’re interested in joining The Back Row, contact

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