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Signature A Cappella emphasizes female unity, connection in emotional medley

(Andrea Grigsby/Illustrations director)

By Phoebe Chen

May 28, 2020 12:39 a.m.

Signature A Cappella is taking a break from its usual happy and carefree song choices to deliver a more serious and emotional performance at Spring Sing.

While the all-women a cappella group will still center its performance around its usual theme of female empowerment, it will move away from its usual cheery tunes. Instead, the group hopes to convey its message of unity and resilience through a medley of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and Kesha’s “Praying.” The inspiration for the arrangement and its emotional message came from the supportive atmosphere the group promotes within itself, said president of Signature and second-year human biology and society student Chloe Winnett.

“We call (the medley) a song for resilience,” Winnett said. “It’s very much about a community of empowered women supporting each other, learning through trauma (and) developing themselves as people.”

While the mashup contained themes of strength applicable to many of the performers’ own experiences, its emotional impact made it challenging to practice, Winnett said. The gravity of the arrangement led to tearful rehearsals that would end with group hugs when they were able to practice in-person together. Through similar shared moments and discussions surrounding the emotional messages of the medley, the group became more closely bonded, Winnett said.

Signature’s previous performances – though still focused on representing the strength of united women – have not been as raw and emotional. The decision to veer from the group’s regular song choices came from a discussion about the power of storytelling, which Winnett said has led to the different direction it is taking from its last Spring Sing medley.

The last time Signature made an appearance at Spring Sing in 2015, its members performed a Beatles arrangement. Though it was fun to perform, Winnett said it was harder for a group of modern women to identify with songs written and performed by men in the 1960s. So for this year’s competition, Signature created a medley that related to its members more personally, which allowed the emotional element to set itself apart from previous performances, said second-year human biology and society student Sapna Ramappa.

“This piece means a lot to me because I’ve always been a huge feminist and … a huge proponent of sticking together and supporting one another,” Ramappa said. “This medley … we’re performing strongly emphasizes this.”

On top of its feminist narrative, Signature’s performance this year aims to explore the connection between mothers and daughters through “Survivor” and the potent empathy of women with “Praying.” Although the group has still kept the audience in mind, Signature’s piece will be less focused on appealing to spectators, centering around a more grounded story of female compassion, Winnett said.

Along with its prerecorded audio performance, Signature also produced a conceptual art video to drive home the message of its medley. The video will contain scenes of rehearsals and moments shared between Signature members as they prepared for Spring Sing. Ultimately, fourth-year dance student Sabina Schaffer said they hope the video is able to bring the virtual audience into their performance by demonstrating their group’s behind-the-scenes culture and creative processes.

“(A) goal with our page is to kind of give people a little bit of a sneak peek of what it’s like to be in our group and in a community of women who love each other so much and love performing,” Schaffer said.

Although the online nature of Spring Sing takes away the synergetic feel members usually have while singing together, the obstacle has allowed Signature to test new methods to bring forward the members’ identities as performers, Winnett said. During a live Spring Sing performance, spectators are not typically aware of Signature’s intersectional backgrounds and personalities, but the group’s accompanying video will attempt to close this gap, shedding light on the group as a community of united women and friends, Winnett said.

“There have been times when we … forget that it’s a performance because it’s such a celebration of who we are as women and who we are as musicians,” Winnett said.

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Phoebe Chen
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