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Opportunes Pop Champagne to 35 Years

Poppin' Champagne: A 35th Anniversary Jam
Jason R. McNeely ’00 performs with other alumni during The Harvard Opportunes’ 35th Anniversary Jam on Saturday evening in Sanders Theater.

Founded in 1980 after the 1977 Harvard-Radcliffe merger, the Harvard Opportunes is the university’s oldest co-ed acappella group. On Nov. 7 in Sanders Theater, the ensemble celebrated its 35th anniversary with “Poppin’ Champagne,” an event that showcased current and veteran members alike—including over 70 alumni—highlighting 35 years of heartfelt music making and solidifying the Opportunes’ sense of community.

Members of the Opportunes saw the jam as a way to access and appreciate an extensive alumni network, which comprises over 200 members. “Our goal is to really make this year the year that we engage the alums and make sure after this anniversary our alumni base and current group are in touch,” says Toni Divic ’17, president of the Opportunes. “We want to embrace the long history we have, and the jam gives us the chance to establish that long term-connection.”

According to Music Director Dylan R. Schaffer ’16, organizing a grand event like “Poppin’ Champagne” required extensive preparations. Although the Saturday evening concert was the main event, the group also planned a banquet Friday evening and brunch on Sunday. Members of the Opportunes started preparing months in advance, specifying their plans in the early summer. Despite the challenges involved with the planning, behind-the-scenes work was rewarding for the group. “We’ve had an amazing experience this time around,” Schaffer says. “It’s a testament to how important the Opportunes are to everyone who has ever taken part of it since 1980. Sharing that experience is a unique one, and getting to have that kind of energy in a room together is really exciting.”

The first half of Saturday’s jam exhibited the alums’ dedication and passionate spirit as they performed songs of their own choosing from their time with the Opportunes. The latter half of the show—a set of 12 songs—focused on contemporary tunes performed by the current group. To achieve a fusion of past and present, alumni and current members partook in Opportunes traditions during the performance. “There are two songs we’ve been doing for decades,” says Kathryn E. Kearney ’17, the Opportunes’ live production manager. “One is ‘Up the Ladder To the Roof’ [covered] by The Nylons, the second ‘Change In My Life’ from ‘Leap of Faith.’” Both have been sung by the group for years.”

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The jam also gave the Opportunes the chance to challenge themselves musically. The group usually focuses on performing reinterpretations of contemporary music, specifically Top 40 hits and popular throwback tunes. For the 35th Anniversary jam, they chose to extend their repertoire by including a variety of genres. “Thinking about this set especially, we tried to break out even further out of our normal comfort zone,” Schaffer says. “We’re doing some jazz music and Afro-punk and really cool genres that really push limits and definitely things that we haven’t done before to this extent.”

Divic, Kearney, and Schaffer all agree that meeting and working alongside former Opportunes was a memorable event in their time spent as members of the ensemble. “It’s going to be a really exciting weekend,” Divic said before the jam. “A lot of good stories are already starting to pour in. A lot of excitement about people coming back together, who haven’t seen each other in a long time.”

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