Crooning and Swooming — the Bates Deansmen celebrate 50 years with a campus gathering

The alumni Deansmen who celebrated the a cappella group’s 50th anniversary last Nov. 2–4 turned up the volume on their shared memories — all the way to 11.

There were powerful public moments, like Saturday night’s Chapel concert — see the slide show at left — featuring current and former Deansmen. The family feeling was quite literal, in fact, for Deansmen Matt Sullivan ’94 and his father-in-law Russell Baker ’64. “It was the first time they have ever sung together,” says Matt’s wife, Kristin Baker Sullivan ’94, the daughter of Russell Baker and Sharon Fisher Baker ’65. “It was such fun to watch them having so much fun.”

Taking the Stage

Audio of the Deansmen singing songs from their 50th anniversary concert.

Kristin, who recalls how Matt and her father initially “bonded over being Deansmen” way back when, watched the Chapel concert with her mother. And from Sharon Baker’s perspective, the weekend figured at first to be a tagalong affair behind her husband. “But it turned out to be so much more than that,” Sharon says. “There was a surprising sense of being a part of the Deansmen family.”
The harmonious mix of Deansmen past and present was like a “superimposition of eras,” says Matt. For Russell, the embrace of Deansmen young and old quieted his worries about remembering words and music. “Although the voice has gone, the kid in me still had a great time,” he says.

Greg Arata ’96 performs with 1990s Deansmen John Shim ’98 (left), Jim Roberts ’99 (behind), and Jay Postell Pringle ’98 (right). Photograph by H. Lincoln Benedict ’09.

Other Deansmen moments were private but still in perfect pitch. Post-concert, Greg Arata ’96 and fellow Deansmen retired to a residence hall stairwell, where songs sung among friends recaptured a cherished sense of solidarity. “We sang for each other,” Arata says. “We pulled out songs from ’93 that we had performed only once. It is astounding what came flooding back. Guys just kept shifting configurations — if you knew it, you joined in.

“To revisit that, to find again that sense of harmony and brotherhood, was the highlight. If only for a night.”