A Cappella Live! hosts global acts, encourages love of musicPhoto by Photo by Courtesy of Kelly Blithe | The Daily TargumWomen of the World is an a cappella group that features four women from different countries: Ayumi Ueda, Annette Philip, Du00e9bo Ray and Giorgia Renosto.
A Cappella Live!, was a concert featuring four unique a cappella acts: Committed, Women of the World, Blake Lewis and The Filharmonic. They’ve been performing all over the country and made their stop at the State Theatre in New Brunswick on Saturday.
Before the show, there was a dedication speech to educators in the audience on behalf of the State Theatre. “Attending live performances is good for the soul” was met with several nods and cheers. Children’s musical and artistic education was a theme that persisted throughout the night.
A cappella is when a performer’s only instrumentation in a song is done through their vocal chords, usually by harmonizing in a group. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It was very big a few years ago with movies and TV shows, such as "Pitch Perfect" and "Glee," and still remains popular with viral Facebook and YouTube videos with segments like Riff-Offs on "The Late Late Show with James Corden."
Each acappella act did its own separate showcase with a few group songs sprinkled in between. It was never boring, and you never really knew what to expect next.
The first group was Committed, which specializes in gospel and R&B songs. It started off with a soulful rendition of Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.” The members spoke a bit about sending prayers to the people in Nashville affected by the tornado and the COVID-19 fears. They dedicated a touching cover of “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye to it.
The ones who really blew me away was the next group: Women of the World. It is a group made of up four women, each representing different countries: Annette Philip representing India, Débo Ray, representing the United States via Haiti, Giorgia Renosto representing Italy and Ayumi Ueda representing Japan. While the other groups covered more mainstream songs, this group focused on making an unforgettable experience with its own respective languages.
Ueda’s “Sakura” performance was alluring and enchanting like a siren’s song. Ray's Haitian tribute was moving and emotional, calling upon a uniquely Caribbean experience of leaving the tiny island in order to appreciate how special it was. Annette taught the audience a little konnakol, an Indian musical language. She would give a specific rhythm and we would repeat it over and over again. We became the bass of the song she was singing. It was a beautiful collective experience.
“We loved how they brought everybody together to feel like they were part of something really special,” said Teresa, a fellow audience member.
Lewis really delivered. He’s basically a one-man musical improvisation show — a concept I didn’t know existed outside of jazz. He makes it possible with the use of a loop machine — it instantly records himself and plays it back on a loop. He creates a beat live on stage!
The last performance was The Filharmonic, a Los Angeles-based Filipino pop group. It opened with “Finesse” by Bruno Mars. I got to talk to Jules Cruz, leader and vocal bass of the group, about what their heritage means to them.
“We’re Filipino-Americans and something that’s important is actually the hip-hop and R&B music scene,” he said, specifying the '90s era. “So we try to harp back to that, because it’s very important to a lot of other FilAms.”
The Filharmonic members looked like they were having the time of their lives on stage. The audience was having fun along with them. They talked about their work on the Riff-Off segments, with each celebrity they mentioned being one of the other groups’ members. Their control, both in their low and high tones, kept my mouth wide open in shock.
The show ended with a beautiful cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” with all the performers. Everyone in the audience clapped and stood, expecting the show to be over afterwards. Surprisingly, the performers had one last surprise for us.
“What the world needs more than anything right now is kindness” was what opened a captivating rendition of “Fragile” by Sting. There were no microphones in sight, only their voices carried the song. There’s something beautiful when an audience’s full concentration is devoted to only listening.
As a whole, I really enjoyed the show. While there was a lot to be desired in the staging (a meager stage with only a full color backdrop screen), the seamless sound, lighting and the performers’ stage presence made me forget all about it quickly.
There was so much representation: the Black gospel truth from Committed, the intersectional experience from Women of the World and the '90s pop boy group Filipino fun from Filharmonic. Everyone left the show feeling identified and seen.
“The exchange of the different voices throughout our whole show really just brings something out that we didn’t expect,” Cruz said, about A Cappella Live! “We always talk about how we have eight countries represented on stage whenever we go on, so it just feels like it’s an important time for that.“