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Spring Sing 2023: In throwback to ’70s, Deviant Voices A Cappella highlights disco with ABBA medley

Dressed in orange and pink hues, Deviant Voices A Cappella members pose together with their phones as microphones in hand. The group will perform at Spring Sing on Friday. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

By Emma Pierce

May 19, 2023 1:27 a.m.

Deviant Voices A Cappella at UCLA is bringing the groovy sounds of the ’70s back to Spring Sing.

Founded in 2010, the ensemble began as a noncompetitive a cappella group for students who are not studying music in college, said co-president and fourth-year global studies student Simon Thorpe. The group represents a diverse assortment of majors, backgrounds and personalities, which Thorpe said translates into its universal musical style. Co-social chair Catarina Paul, who graduated in winter quarter, said Deviant Voices has improved this year and decided to explore new territory by competing in its first in-person Spring Sing on Friday.

“If you asked anyone, (our mission) is to showcase the talent of people who … aren’t studying music but really have a passion for it,” Paul said. “We are an eclectic bunch, but somehow, we are really close friends and make great music.”

[Related: Coastalong Music and Sustainability Festival returns with bike-powered festivities]

In front of the live Spring Sing audience, Paul said Deviant Voices will be performing a medley of six “Mamma Mia!” songs by the Swedish band ABBA. Stephanie Zager, co-music director and second-year history student, said fellow co-music director Sean Seo arranged the mashup so that each song flows seamlessly into the next and spotlights a different soloist.

Technically, Zager said it is important that the group maintains expressive dynamics, unified vowels, distinct consonants and clean cut-offs. To practice creating one cohesive sound, Zager said she instructs group members to close their eyes and focus solely on the sound of each other’s voices. This can be a difficult exercise because people naturally fixate on their own vocals, but she said it is imperative to a cappella that everyone concentrates on singing harmoniously as a whole.

Staying true to the “Mamma Mia!” movie musical, John Calonia, co-choreographer and third-year nursing student, said the visual aspects are just as crucial to the Spring Sing performance as the vocal elements. For the first time in the history of Deviant Voices, the group will be incorporating choreography into its act, he said. Calonia said his approach was to channel the varied energies of each song – the movements for some songs are more playful and charming, while others are intense and fast-paced. Because ABBA dominated popular culture during the disco decade of the ’70s, the routine also integrates iconic disco moves, he said.

“It was definitely an interesting challenge, but I think we’ve created something that we’re very proud of,” Calonia said. “(The act) is more technically challenging compared to a regular a capella performance, which I’m really excited for.”

The group’s costumes will also celebrate ABBAS’s disco era, Calonia said, but with an added modern touch. Deviant Voices wanted to experiment with contrasting textures and embrace a color palette of warm yellow, rust orange and dusty rose, he said. Paul was responsible for creating a Spring Sing lookbook, which she said features an eclectic mix of ’70s-inspired pieces such as jumpsuits and bell-bottom jeans.

Members of Deviant Voices lean upon each other as they sing into their phones. The a cappella group will perform a medley of songs from "Mamma Mia" at Spring Sing. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)
Members of Deviant Voices lean upon each other as they sing into their phones. The a cappella group will perform a medley of songs from "Mamma Mia!" at Spring Sing. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Resonance empowers members, embraces diversity in a cappella performance]

While impressing the judges is important, Paul said Spring Sing is first and foremost a chance to share a passion for a cappella with the world. While Deviant Voices does not have much experience performing for large audiences, Paul said the group is going to transform its nervousness into positive energy. By the end of the set, she said, audience members should feel impassioned to follow their own artistic impulses and do what they love most.

“The closing song is ‘Thank You for the Music,’ which … (is) about how it’s such a blast to be able to make music, and we feel really grateful to be able to do it on such a cool platform,” Paul said. “It’s such a perfect way to end my college career.”

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Emma Pierce
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