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Spring Sing 2020 unites scattered student body in online festival of song, dance

(Andrea Grigsby/Daily Bruin)

By Brooke Cuzick

May 29, 2020 11:48 p.m.

Social distancing couldn’t stop this year’s Spring Sing contestants from taking to a virtual stage.

The annual music, dance and comedy event organized by the Student Alumni Association went live to computer screens around the world Friday night. Since Spring Sing’s decision of moving to an online format to abide with COVID-19-induced social distancing regulations, contestants began pre-recording video performances to be debuted during the event’s live stream. And between storytelling performances and comedy sketches making light of the difficulties of studying at home, Spring Sing 2020 united a scattered student body for the annual tradition.

Despite taking on an entirely new platform, this year’s event maintained the same format as years past. The live stream weaved its way through solo, duet, band and dance performances while interspersing sketches from the comedy group Company between each musical number.

To open the show, soloist Akshay Anand, a third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, showcased his track entitled “Years” accompanied by a pastel video of him playing his acoustic guitar on a sunset hike.

Nature was prominent part of other performances as well, including that by duo Jet Talandis and Xander Ambrose, a third-year human biology and society student and a first-year theater student, respectively. The pair used the video for their original song “River” to create a visual narrative to pair with their lyrics. As Talandis sang, “I go down to the river to watch it burn all my troubles and all my hurt,” viewers could watch the story unfold through black and white shots of him running through a forest towards water.

Aside from these visuals of nature, some larger groups utilized split-screen effects to effectively showcase each of their members. Even physically separated, groups such as Signature A Cappella found ways to make its performance feel united. In its mash up of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and Kesha’s “Praying,” the all-girl group appeared as a grid of individual videos, with the singers collectively looking at each soloist throughout the song.

Similarly, the band Wild Phlox’s music video for its song “If Only,” began with each of the members playing in different parts of the same house and concluded with them dancing from separate locations on the same video call.

Between each performance, Company members were sure to chime in with sketches mainly focusing on the social implications of COVID-19 with themes centered upon video-chat technology. The sketches ranged from students traveling back to UCLA via video background, awkward moments of group-project members struggling to mute their microphones and a romance unfolding in quarantine on Club Penguin.

However, as in years past, the group ended with a UCLA-themed song parody. This year, in their rendition of “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical “Rent,” Company members lamented about the 115,200 minutes that students have been away from campus, but they were sure to note that Spring Sing was a way to bring them back together again.

Following that trend, Social Art Project, composed of fourth-year musicology student Matthew Gilbert and fourth-year financial actuarial mathematics student Alena Abella, delivered a similar sentiment in its performance of its song “Carole.” Sepia-toned videos from UCLA’s early days faded into clips of current students on Janss Steps and at Rose Bowl football games as the pair finished the video by coming together to sing the lyrics “Can I still love you from so far away?”

These tones faded into the show’s intermission break, where viewers were given a glimpse of this year’s celebrity mentors coaching their performers during the filming process. Outside of performance advice from artists such as Young the Giant singer Sameer Gadhia and choreographer Tamica Washington-Miller, UCLA’s former gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field took a moment to encourage the musicians she mentored by relating the impact of their performances to the world at large as it faces quarantine and COVID-19 precautions.

“We are going to be a beacon for how to move forward … in our new chapter with tenacity, courage and enthusiasm, and let’s not forget gratitude,” Kondos Field said.

After more solo, duo and band performances, along with videos by a capella group Scattertones and dance group ICARUS Contemporary Dance Co – which both featured pre-recorded content of the groups united – the live streamed show came to a close.

The website’s live comment section continued to fill with viewers’ reactions during the show’s final moments. And in lieu of Spring Sing’s usual awards, it will only be presenting its Bruin Choice Award this year. The prize will be calculated based on how many likes each performer’s video receives on YouTube in the coming week, with the winner officially being announced June 5.

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Brooke Cuzick | Alumna
Cuzick previously served as a senior staff writing for Arts and Entertainment. She was the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2019-2020 and an A&E reporter from 2018-2019.
Cuzick previously served as a senior staff writing for Arts and Entertainment. She was the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2019-2020 and an A&E reporter from 2018-2019.
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