In the fall of 1977, Barry Saunders and Tom Terrell formed the University’s first close harmony a cappella group. In December of that year, the all-male group (then known as the Morrison Dorm Singers) performed for the first time at the old Morrison Dorm Coffeehouse. It would not be until 1978 that the group settled on the name, “Clef Hangers,” adopted their now traditional vests and bow ties, and held their first official performance on a warm April afternoon in the Pit. Since that time, the “Clefs” have had the opportunity to delight audiences across the world with their vocal music.
Since the group’s inception, it has released 21 professionally-produced studio albums, with the most recent album, released in 2017, being Fixate. Songs from six separate releases have been featured on a total of seven Best of Collegiate A Cappella Compilation CDs, including the group’s newest single, “Castle on the Hill.” In 2004, The Clef Hangers received their first Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA) for “Best Soloist” in the song “Easy.” Since then, the Clefs have won two CARA’s for “Best Male Collegiate Song” with “My Love” and “Ain’t Nothing Wrong.” In addition, their album, Twist, has received runner-up CARA’s for “Best Male Collegiate Album,” “Best Male Collegiate Song” (“Nude”), and “Best Male Collegiate Arrangement” (“Boondocks”). The Clefs have received numerous other CARA nominations and runner-ups. More recently, the group has seen “Castle on the Hill” recognized as “2017 Single of the Year” by The Recording A Cappella Review Board. The group looks to continue its success in the coming announcement of CARA nominations.
Since their first tour to New Orleans, La., in 1980, the Clefs have performed for audiences in Spain, France, Scotland, Jamaica, Greece, Italy, Iceland, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia and numerous other locations. In their decades of experiences, the Clefs have found themselves on big stages such as the set of “Good Morning America,” the intermission performances in Bridgestone Arena for a Nashville Predators game, at the Charlotte 500, at the White House for President Obama and many other momentous occasions. In the spring of 2002, they were personally invited by Chancellor James Moeser to sing at Commencement, a tradition that has continued ever since. The Clefs were also humbled to be invited to perform “Amazing Grace” during the legendary Coach Dean Smith’s memorial service. Although the group has traveled far and wide, the Clef Hangers perform for a packed Memorial Hall every year during their fall and spring concerts, a semi-annual show that has sold out for the past seven consecutive performances.
As the group looks to their 40th anniversary, they cannot help but recognize the one thing that has fueled such a long list of accolades: a common love for music. Although this group has grown to unexpected heights since 1977, the close harmonies are the centric force that drive the group even further. With an unparalleled alumni base, deep friendships and unending dedication, the Clef Hangers only hope to broaden their strong history.