“RIGABAMBOO: An A Capella Concert” was a fundraiser event for Camp Kesem, a CIO that plans a week of summer camp for kids whose parents have cancer. There were four a capella groups performing: The New Dominions, The Academical Village People (AVP), ReMiX, and Hoos in Treble. Of these groups, I was only familir with ReMiX so this was something different for me and I was not sure what to expect from the other three groups.
A capella is an all vocal performance without instrumental accompaniment. This means you only see a group of people singing, with one or two people providing the backbeat and also a lot of harmonizing which brings a different texture to the performance in place of the instruments. Anything can be performed a capella, from rock to hip hop so I expected to see varying musical genres at the concert. There was one group that was especially interesting, the New Dominions. New Dominions is the oldest a capella at UVA, predominantly white and female. In terms of appearance, the New Dominions was coordinated like the other groups, wearing black and blue colors, but more formally, as girls wore dresses and skirts while the guys wore slacks and ties. Though I did not expect classical music or such from the group, I felt as though I would not be familiar with the artists or songs they would perform. The songs performed sounded very pop to me but I was not familiar with them. I actually had to write bits of the lyrics and come home to look them up. They performed “Melody” from Kate Earl, “Right as Rain” from Adele, “Almost Honest” from Josh Kelley, and “Devils and Angels” from Toby Lightman. What really struck me about the performance was the difference in performance styles between 2 female lead singers. The first performed “Melody” and throughout the performance I kept thinking she looked shy and a bit uneasy. Her voice was really soft and I could barely hear her but I chalked it up to her being nervous. Then another girl performed “Right as Rain” and it was completely different; she seemed confident, had some attitude, and at times it seemed she played up her sexuality. This could have been due to individual differences but, “Right as Rain” is a pop song with a heavy soul influence with power behind it and when looking at women in soul, it can be associated with confidence, sex appeal, and attitude. “Melody” on the other hand, sounds fresh and happy, with a bit of innocence that “Right as Rain” lacks. It seems both girls were playing two sides of female sexuality that the songs seem to carry: the silent and understated and the bold and assured. Not only did their mannerisms play to these qualities, so did their appearance. The first girl wore a blue tank top, black skirt and black opaque tights while the second girl wore a black cocktail dress with a low neckline. It made me wonder if the girls were performing these qualities to associate with the songs or if those are their actual personalities? If the first girl is normally a timid person and the other girl normally exudes confidence, did they select those songs to play to their strengths? Why did the first girl not perform “Right as Rain” instead? It causes you to wonder if the song molds the person or if the person is the song.
The audience at the concert was predominantly white females. Most of the a capella performed pop songs except ReMiX and AVP. ReMiX is UVA’s only hip-hop capella group so it performed mostly hip-hop and R&B songs. AVP on the other hand did not stick to one genre; it performed songs from rock to R&B. This may be why the audience responded to AVP more than any of the other groups. But aside from their variety in genre choices, they had a lot of interaction with the audience and their antics during the performance gave them a certain charm. They kept the performance very informal and the audience engaged. Girls were laughing and singing along with them while cheering. If the audience had been predominantly male or to a lesser extent, a minority race, you wonder if they would responded the same way. If AVP had performed strictly pop songs how would the audience have responded?
I went to the concert not knowing what I would have to discuss for this report but now it raises may questions about gender and race and how it shapes or is shaped by the music. But I also wonder if I would have this question if issues like race did not arise in the bigger setting of UVA. Would I have so much or something different to discuss if the concert was at a relatively diverse school like Rutgers University or predominantly black school such as Howard University?