The day after the UCLA-USC football game, Bruin choral singers filled Schoenberg Hall with a victorious eight-clap and enthusiastically chanted “We are the Champions” to their Trojan counterparts.
This scene unfolded during a rehearsal for Rivals in Harmony, a choral group comprised of students from UCLA and USC, said Rebecca Wade, a second-year anthropology student and singer in the choir.
Though hailing from opposing universities, members of Rivals in Harmony are united through music. Their first performance together will be a winter holiday concert, titled “Crosstown Caroling,” held on Sunday.
The concert is free with an open-door invitation, said Wade. The group will ask for voluntary donations to cover the funding of the festive decorations, treats that will be provided and possibly a large fireplace.
“When I came to UCLA, I thought that the rivalry was totally ridiculous and then I realized how fun it was,” Wade said. “I think it’s really great to show people that we can come together and make something really beautiful.”
The choir began when then-graduate music student Alexander Blake and fellow choral and conducting graduate students at UCLA held an ensemble recital at Powell Library in April 2014. Blake graduated from UCLA in June and is currently pursuing a doctorate of musical arts in choral music at USC.
Blake said his move from west to south Los Angeles sparked the formation of this joint UCLA-USC choral group, because he and fellow singers wanted to continue to work together despite attending different universities. Blake recruited his new Trojan peers, and now about 12 students from each of the two universities meet to practice in Schoenberg on Sunday nights.
The concert on Sunday is holiday-themed, Wade said, with performances of Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” “The Christmas Song” – otherwise known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” – and “Carol of the Bells” to form a mixture of classic Christmas pieces with more modern carols.
Elizabeth Seger, a third-year human biology and society student and a founder of the group, said the Crosstown Caroling concert will mostly be a cappella with some piano accompaniment. Two flutists will duet for a special piece as well, Blake said.
Since last spring’s concert included only UCLA students, this will be the first performance for the group that combines USC and UCLA students. Wade was the first to name the collaboration, dubbing them “Rivals in Harmony.”
“We were throwing around a bunch of ideas with the word ‘rivals’ in it or ‘crosstown’ or trying to integrate our school colors, but none of it seemed to ring very well,” Wade said. “I didn’t even think about it. (The name) just came to me on a whim,”
The members wanted the name to represent the harmonious blend of the students deriving from both schools and a variety of majors. Wade said although they enjoying poking or taunting their rival, the singers always cooperate in order to make music.
“We have a good time and we tease each other a lot, but we’re also really good friends,” Seger said.
Rivals in Harmony has fostered opportunities for new friendships between the traditional adversaries, said fourth-year ethnomusicology student Stephanie Sybert. She said members attend concerts at one another’s schools for more exposure and support. To encourage members to get to know students from the other university, Blake typically allots the last 10 minutes or so of rehearsal for a meet and greet.
“(The environment of the rehearsals is) just really relaxed. We still work hard, we get a lot done, it’s very friendly,” Sybert said. “We can joke around with each other, we can feel comfortable just being ourselves. The rivalry is funny … but we all want the same things.”
Rivals in Harmony plans on having auditions again during winter quarter in preparation for a spring performance, Seger said, but for now they are focusing on the upcoming Crosstown Caroling concert.
Rivals in Harmony envisions having a more prominent and permanent place in the marked Bruin-Trojan rivalry eventually, by singing the national anthem at the game or participating in the rivalry week, Blake said.
“We really are unique in nature,” Wade said. “It would be really great to get out and show the world some unity between the two schools instead of just a rivalry.”