Singing in versatile voices
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 00:02
Opening the doors of the Memorial Union on any given Friday afternoon, visitors can expect to hear ballads from Stevie Wonder, Beyonce and Aerosmith, to name a few — without headphones or sound systems.
These ballads come courtesy of Divine, Oregon State University’s female a cappella group, which performs weekly on the Memorial Union steps.
Divine began 10 years ago as a small group selected from OSU’s all-women choir, Bella Voce. Today, the group has greater renown and performs in the Memorial Union and local venues around Corvallis.
“We notice the shows are getting larger each week,” said Courtney Solem, merchandise and sales manager for Divine. “Ever since we’ve made it to the semifinals we are noticed much more.”
Solem, a mechanical engineering student, heard about Divine through Bella Voce and has been involved in the group for three years. Over the years with Divine, Solem has taken note of the group’s development.
“We want people to maintain the status we’re at right now,” Solem said.
Last year, Divine received attention by placing second at the International Championships of A Cappella quarterfinals in Eugene and competing in the semifinals at the University of Southern California. This year, freshman Diana Alarcon won the award for best soloist at the competition.
Monica Rodrigues, a senior in apparel design and two-year Divine member, said most of the groups competing were mixed gender groups and they were only one of a few all-female groups.
“We may have some limitations on our repertoire because we cannot pull off the bass, but we can perform a lot of music that men’s groups cannot pull off,” Rodrigues said. “We are known for our power songs.”
Rodrigues explained the group’s process for selecting songs to include in their repertoire. The process includes a group vote to select the music and often hiring professionals to arrange the music. This part of the process is a sizable financial investment for the group, as the professional must adjust the sheet music to fit into an all-vocal adaptation.
As an example, the group performs Sia’s song “Titanium,” which required key and range changes in the arrangement.
“Arrangements are a way to interpret pop culture songs,” Rodrigues said. “There is an intense decision process to choose our songs.”
Rodrigues and Solem point to the diverse academic range of the group. Instead of seeing their varied music backgrounds and life-goals as a challenge, they view the variety as a means for a learning experience.
“We have many different educational backgrounds, from fashion to music to engineering,” Rodrigues said. “For some, singing has really been their life and now they are going a lot more in depth. I think if everyone focused solely on music, it would be less of a learning experience. Right now we have a good sense of community.”
The group typically holds two rounds of auditions to select members and the commitment includes bi-weekly practices in addition to their rehearsals before their Friday concerts.
Looking forward, group members are in the process of planning a 10-year anniversary concert. For now, Rodrigues says the group has found its niche.
“Our group has become a brand when we go into competitions,” Rodrigues said. “We have overcome so much, and are continuing to give recognition to female groups.”
The reward for group members like Solem, who commit a large portion of time to academics, comes from the euphoria of performance.
“Getting off the stage after singing and leaving everything out there is a really good feeling,” Solem said. “That is just how we perform and now people realize who we are and what we do.”
Jack Lammers, news editor
On Twitter @jacklammers