Article by Hai Yu, George Washington University, May 2017
In 1992, D.C.-based economist and a cappella singer Bill Cline was driving by Dupont Circle and was stunned to find many mentally disabled people wandering the streets, homeless. The scene reminded Cline of the impoverished Latin American countries where he had once worked.
In that moment 25 years ago, an idea was born.
Cline and his all-male a cappella group, “Augmented Eight,” would put on a “Sing Out for Shelter” concert in D.C. dedicated to helping the city’s homeless population.
In March, the concert—now in its 25th year—raised more money than ever before. A crowd of 550 concert-goers donated a total of $27,000, which Cline will turn over to the three D.C.-based shelters that he has long supported: Friendship Place, Christ House and Metropolitan House.
“The shelters are the professionals who know how to deal with the complex homeless situation,” said Cline. “We let them do their work to best help the homeless people.”
Despite a $14.8 million increase in funding for homeless services this year, the city’s budget still falls far short of meeting the housing needs of thousands of homeless people and their families, according to The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.
Officials at the shelters supported by Cline’s annual concerts said the extra money is critical to their operations.
“The donation helps us fulfill our programs,” said Jean Michel Giraud, president of Friendship Place, where programs including housing, job placement, youth training and outreach are provided to the homeless.
The concert has become so popular in recent years that the mayor’s office sent out a proclamation acknowledging “Augmented Eight’s effort to help the most vulnerable residents in D.C.”
Cline said that when the concerts first began, they drew small crowds in various locations scattered around the city
“We were sort of homeless ourselves,” said Cline. “We have performed at the Gaston Hall of Georgetown University and some small churches.”
The Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, which has a shelter associated with the church, took the group in 15 years ago. Since then, the concert has become closely associated with the congregation at the church.
This year, a system that allows the group to sell tickets online boosted sales. Information about the concert was also available on the Eventbrite website, a popular site for local event browsing.
The group behind the successful concert are 12 members who include lawyers, physicians, State Department employees and an architect. They reside in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, but come together to sing during weekly rehearsals.
John Symington, the current president and first tenor of “Augmented Eight,” is a former member of Yale’s renowned all-male a cappella group, “The Whiffenpoofs,” and was introduced to “Augmented Eight” at a “Whiffenpoofs” concert.
Besides the benefit concert, the group practices for an annual “Spring Sing” concert festival put on by the American A Cappella Alliance, a nonprofit organization promoting a cappella ensemble singing of all styles of popular music.
Symington said his recent favorite songs are “Who You Are” and “Oh Shenandoah.”
“Asking me what’s my favorite song is like asking a 100-year-old what’s his favorite pie,” said Symington. “I enjoy the song I am singing the most.”
WASHINGTON, March 6 — The fight against homelessness in Greater Washington was the winner of Saturday’s highly successful “Sing Out for Shelter” concert as cumulative proceeds for the last 25 years topped $300,000. All funds are distributed to Christ House, Friendship Place, and Metropolitan House, agencies working tirelessly in the District on behalf of our homeless population. The packed house at Metropolitan United Methodist Church was treated to a memorable evening of a cappella music, emceed by CNN’s Jim Sciutto, featuring hosts The Augmented 8, the Vassar Devils, the Knightlights of the Washington Waldorf School, and—a dramatic last minute substitution—the oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs of Yale.
The flu benched concert headliners, the Princeton Tigertones, leaving a potentially large gap in the anniversary program. But by divine providence, the Whiffenpoofs were between a Saturday afternoon concert in Baltimore and a Sunday concert in Alexandria amid a 29-concert,19-day tour. They agreed to give up a restful Saturday night to make it an even 30 and rewarded a grateful audience by filling the Tigertone slot in the program.
It should be noted that The Augmented 8 was formed over 65 years ago—a collaboration of graduates from both Princeton and Yale. Those ties remain strong today. We are grateful to all of our guest groups and faithful listeners for supporting this great a cappella tradition and the organizations doing such important work in our community. For the Tigertones, though, the pressure is clearly on. We will see you next year.
Tickets available at the door or online from our Eventbrite link above:
Please click here even if you can’t come but would like to donate.
The 24th Annual Sing Out for Shelter (SOS) concert to benefit organizations that serve homeless men and women is organized by the Augmented Eight, a non-profit, men’s a cappella singing group which has performed for Washington audiences for over 60 years. This year’s concert of a cappella vocal music will once again benefit three local organizations that serve the more than 30,000 individuals who experience homelessness each year in the Greater Washington DC Region – Friendship Place, Christ House, and MMUMC’s own Metropolitan House.
These concerts have raised nearly $240,000 over the past twenty-three years. In October, 2010, Friendship Place honored the Augmented Eight with the 13th annual Benjamin E. Cooper Award recognizing outstanding contributions by members of the Washington DC community to the cause of ending homelessness.
The Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church is located at 3401 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20016, on the corner of New Mexico Ave and Nebraska Ave, across Nebraska Ave from the American University. Free parking is available in the church lot or across Nebraska Ave in the underground garage of the AU School of International Service. All of the recipient organizations of SOS are 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations, and each will receive one-third (1/3) of the value of each ticket or donation. Your contribution above the amount of any value you receive will be exempt from federal income taxation.
The Augmented Eight is an all male a cappella group that has entertained Washington audiences for over 60 years with a blend of old standards and modern pop, with a bit of jazz, gospel, and doo wop arrangements.
Every year, 14 senior Yale men are selected to be in the Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group. Founded in 1909, the “Whiffs” began as a senior quartet that met for weekly concerts at Mory’s Temple Bar, the famous Yale tavern. Today, the group has become one of Yale’s most celebrated traditions.
Formed in 1991, the Deltones are one of the University of Delaware’s outstanding co-ed a cappella groups. In 2011, the group appeared on television in the third season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” Their motto is “Friends first, singers second.” They love taking road trips to visit a cappella groups at other schools, and inviting groups to perform with them at the University of Delaware. Their 14 current members are gearing up for the group’s 25th Anniversary Concert this spring.
Founded in 2008, Supreme Chord is a group of young professionals who live and work in Maryland, DC, and Virginia, who love to make beautiful a cappella music — but just as importantly, enjoy spending time with each other doing it. They pride themselves on the quality — and range — of their repertoire, with everything from Darius Rucker to Lorde, from the Indigo Girls to Metallica. The group has performed widely at venues throughout the DC area, from the Kennedy Center in DC to Jammin’ Java in Vienna to Brookside Gardens in Maryland — and are always looking for new opportunities: new music, new gigs, new members — and, of course, new fans!
Five O’Clock Shadow, Georgetown Day School’s all-male a cappella group, is a world-renowned ensemble of singing gentlemen. They have previously sung on the streets of DC, at GDS events, at a cat show, and at area concerts, dinner parties, and competitions. Their repertoire ranges from classic barbershop to modern pop, often with a twist of schtick and even humor. Recent repertoire included Goodnight Sweetheart, Moondance, I Kissed a Girl, Afternoon Delight, and a host of other fun songs.
Christ House: A full-care health recovery facility for the sick and homeless in the Washington, DC area, Christ House serves as a place of refuge and healing. Since opening in 1985, Christ House has served over 4,800 homeless men and women. Suffering from an array of illnesses and injuries including diabetes, cancer, and AIDS, patients at Christ House receive 24-hour health care as well as a full range of social services. The goal is for patients to leave Christ House with a new sense of hope and dignity and live independently in the community. For further information: 202-328-1100; www.christhouse.org.
Friendship Place is a leader in Washington, D.C., in developing and implementing solutions to homelessness that have positive, demonstrable results and a lasting impact. Friendship Place offers the most effective model for addressing adult homelessness, with innovative, customized, person-focused programs that empower participants to rebuild their lives, find homes, get jobs and reconnect with friends, family and the community, permanently. Programs include street outreach, hospitality, free medical and psychiatric services, job placement, case management, transitional shelter, permanent supportive housing, and specialized services for Veterans and their families. For further information: 202-503-2963; www.FriendshipPlace.org.
Metropolitan House: Metropolitan Church operates two residential housing programs – Metropolitan House located in the Metropolitan Memorial building and St. Luke’s House located at the St. Luke’s Mission Center on Calvert Street. Both provide shelter to homeless individuals who are working with Friendship Place’s AimHire program. St. Luke’s House and Metropolitan House were two of the first shelters to open in upper Northwest DC, and over the past twenty-five years they have provided safe, stable, and secure living environments that have empowered hundreds and hundreds of men to move beyond homelessness toward self-sufficiency, employment, and permanent housing. In 2015, Metropolitan House shifted its focus from serving men and now houses women. Both programs emphasize independent living and have expanded from the older night-shelter model of “in- by- 7am-out-by- 7pm” to offer residents 24-hour-a-day access. This accommodates the varied schedules of those who are working or seeking employment. For more information call 202-363-4900 or visit www.nationalchurch.org.
All of the beneficiaries of SOS are 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations, and each will receive one-third (1/3) of the value of each ticket or donation. Your contribution above the amount of any value you receive will be exempt from federal income taxation.
Location: Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church 3401 Nebraska Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
Copyright 2000-2015 The Augmented 8, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, chartered in Washington, DC.
|Saumit “Gen Z” Sahi – Second Tenor
Saumit graduated from Princeton in 2013. Notwithstanding the formidable curriculum offered at Saumit’s prestigious alma mater, Saumit occasionally requires additional explanation of cultural references in the A8 repertoire (such as references to whitewall tires, LP records and rotary dial telephones).
|Brandon “It’s not a party without the” Bierlein– Baritone
Brandon, a lawyer, intends to join the judge advocate general’s corps of the United States Air Force. When pressed, Brandon assures us that he can handle the truth.
Saturday night October 5th the A8 performed for guests of the Sanderling Resort in Duck and Sunday morning had a rare opportunity to sing inside the historic Currituck Lighthouse. Many thanks to Captain Alex Ross, Meghan Agresto, the Sanderling Resort and the other folks who made this special weekend possible.