Essential Pittsburgh
4:41 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

'The Sweet Allegheny and Monongahela' Set To An A Cappella Love Song

BYU Vocal Point is a contemporary a cappella ensemble which released the song Allegheny, based on the rivers in Pittsburgh.
BYU Vocal Point is a contemporary a cappella ensemble which released the song Allegheny, based on the rivers in Pittsburgh.
Credit BYU Vocal Point / Facebook

The A cappella group Vocal Point, out of Brigham Young University, has just released their tenth CD titled Spectrum. One of the tracks on the latest album is titled Allegheny, with lyrics referencing "the sweet Allegheny, Monongahela.”

Carnegie Mellon Ph. D candidate Ben Tengelsen wrote Allegheny and said he had put his songwriting on hold indefinitely. However, the birth of his son, and a little motivation from his wife, provided the songwriter with the inspiration to write Allegheny.

“The words came first. My wife and I were driving around Pittsburgh when we first moved here (trying to get to know the place) and crossed the bridges many, many times. And the thought came to me once, ‘What would it be like to write a song with the words Allegheny and Monongahela in them? And is that even possible? Because I can’t think of many words that rhyme with or sound good next to those words.’ And so that was the prompt that was sort of sitting in the back of my mind. And my wife gave me a kick in the butt and said, ‘Why don’t you write me a song?’ And so those two things together got the words together." 

Ben’s brother, Jake Tengelsen is a member of Vocal Point. When Ben emailed his brother the song, Jake said,

“I thought it was really beautiful. It was kind of a rough recording, but it was simple and it was nice and the lyrics were beautiful.”

Even though Jake liked the song, he said he didn’t do anything with it until the bass singer of Vocal Point was getting married, needed something to sing at his wedding.

"I thought how neat it would be to have this representation of these rivers in the park and have one that’s flowing while the other is ebbing and have the other one pull and push each other until it turns into this beautiful melody. And I arranged this for this guy’s wedding, and he never ended up singing it.”

But the song reemerged for the group to sing months later.

“Our director was kind of banging his head against the wall and I was talking to him about how we needed another song for our album. And he was trying to explain conceptually what he wanted and he said, ‘It needed to be different and it needed to be special and soft and flow, but not the kind of flow that Vocal Point usually does.’ And Allegheny popped into my head and so I emailed him my arrangement and he fell in love with it.”