So many high notes at a cappella competition

Singing groups go it alone during International Championship semifinals at Berklee Performance Center

A+Raider+Times+reporter+poses+in+the+middle+of+the+a+cappella+group+Women+of+the+World+--+from+left%2C+Ayumi+Ueda%2C+Deborah+Pierre%2C+Annette+Philip%2C+and+Giorgia+Renosto+--+at+the+A+Cappella+Open+national+semifinals+at+Berklee+Performance+Center+on+July++29%2C+2017.
A Raider Times reporter poses in the middle of the a cappella group Women of the World -- from left, Ayumi Ueda, Deborah Pierre, Annette Philip, and Giorgia Renosto -- at the A Cappella Open national semifinals at Berklee Performance Center on July  29, 2017.

A Raider Times reporter poses in the middle of the a cappella group Women of the World -- from left, Ayumi Ueda, Deborah Pierre, Annette Philip, and Giorgia Renosto -- at the A Cappella Open national semifinals at Berklee Performance Center on July 29, 2017.

A Raider Times reporter poses in the middle of the a cappella group Women of the World -- from left, Ayumi Ueda, Deborah Pierre, Annette Philip, and Giorgia Renosto -- at the A Cappella Open national semifinals at Berklee Performance Center on July 29, 2017.

Catherine Papayannopoulos, Raider Times staff

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A cappella is more than several voices singing in unison. To each and every group that sang its heart out at the Berklee Performance Center on July 29 at the International Championship of A Cappella Open semifinals, performing was and is about sharing feelings and conveying emotions.  

Women of the World, Fermata Town, 6Mix, Birdland Avenue, Martini Glass A Cappella, Similar Jones, and The Cycle did exactly that.

With just 12 minutes each to impress the judges and mesmerize the audience, each group performed a mashup of different songs featuring disparate harmonies as well as precise vocal percussions and stellar soloists. 

More than 60 a cappella groups started in Open competition, with winners of the six semifinals automatically advancing to the Sept. 23 finals at Carnegie Hall. Two other finalists will be chosen from an international entry and a judges pick from the semifinals.

Ayumi Ueda and Giorgia Renosto of Women of the World shared insight as to what a cappella and this competition meant to their group. Although the chance to compete for the $25,000 cash prize for the overall winner is a strong enough allurement, the incentive went farther than that.

Ayumi and Giorgia both agreed that going to Carnegie Hall would mean the world to them, not because it meant they won the competition at Berklee but because they would have the opportunity to reach out to a much larger audience, and be able to spread their wholesome, genuine message of unity and bringing people together through music. 

“I want to go to Carnegie because I can reach more people and share the message that we have because I think more people are seeing the changes, too,” Ayumi said. “We could focus on, ‘Oh, the world is collapsing,’ but many people are also working hard to bring people together and I want to share that.

“We are a team. That’s the big reason I want to go to Carnegie, to reach more people. We are here, and let’s unite.”

Ayumi began Women of the World after graduating from Berklee College of Music.  Being from Hiroshima, Ayumi described her upbringing as being about accepting others and coming together in unity. She wanted to learn about other backgrounds and cultures, and thus formed Women of the World featuring three more women representing Haiti (Deborah Pierre), Italy (Giorgia Renosto), and India (Annette Philip).

“Since I was a kid I was always interested in learning about different cultures [and] people from around the world. And that’s why coming to [the] US especially to Berklee and studying music … was a big dream of mine,” said Ayumi. 

“My mom is from Hiroshima so I really started to learn about peace and unity and harmony, so even when I was a kid I really wanted to support this cause, support humanity, bring more peace, more joy. I kind of came up with the idea of making Women of the World, bringing people from different parts of the world together and learn about each other through music and share harmony and stories.”

Their message spread loud and clear through their performance that showcased not one, but six different languages. They sang songs that no one has heard in languages that few are fluent in, yet the immersion of all of their cultures echoed throughout the theater, making everyone feel connected for the duration of their piece.

The judges certainly felt this connection, too.

Many people are also working hard to bring people together and I want to share that.”

— AYUMI UEDA

During the judges’ difficult deliberation, Uproar A Cappella gave the audience a treat.  The funny and charming personalities of the eight Bostonians impressed the audience as they performed one of their first gigs after forming only months earlier. As their time onstage came to a close, Emily Flanders, the MC from Varsity Vocals who had the audience laughing and enjoying themselves the entire evening, walked onstage with the results of the intense competition.

Prior to announcing the placements, she explained that there are four categories of awards that the judges have the option to give out: Outstanding Soloist, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Vocal Percussion, and Outstanding Arrangement. If the judges see fit, they can hand out none or all four of the awards.  Since the performances were nothing short of top notch, all four categories were awarded.

Mike Stevens from Similar Jones took home an award for vocal percussion, Haley Castuera and Kayla Pichichero from Birdland Avenue won the award for choreography, Similar Jones won best arrangement for their song “Mercy,” and Jessica Savage from Martini Glass A Cappella won outstanding soloist during “Bottom of the River”.

When it came time to announce the placements, you could see every performer onstage tense up. The judges awarded Fermata Town with third place and Similar Jones with second place.

As the audience and remaining groups were holding their breath, Emily Flanders announced that the judges awarded first place to Women of the World. Their facial expressions were priceless. Each woman grinned from ear to ear as they held their trophy.

Ayumi’s wish is being granted as she is now able to reach a wider audience.  

We are all excited when these four extraordinary women take the stage at Carnegie Hall and continue to spread their message of unity and peace.

–July 31, 2017–

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