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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

A cappella group Songburghs channel their inner spy at concert

The+student+a+cappella+group+The+Songburghs+perform+in+the+William+Pitt+Union.
Trinity Foster | Senior Staff Writer
The student a cappella group The Songburghs perform in the William Pitt Union.

The Songburgh’s fall show started with a bang — literally. The all-gender a capella group hosted a murder mystery-themed showcase on Dec. 2 in the William Pitt Union, opening with a blacked-out stage and the sound of one of their members “killing” an unknown victim. Throughout the hour-long show of a capella performances, with a progression of songs that subtly hinted at the identity of the killer, it was the audience’s mission to identify the culprit. 

The student-run group hosts a performance each semester, each with a special theme. This semester’s theme was “Spyburghs,” and the performers looked the part as they performed, zipped into black leather under moody purple stage lights. Spread in an arc across the stage, the Songburghs moved with the music, performing a diverse repertoire of six songs – the jazzy “If It All Goes South” by Sammy Rae and Friends, alternative 2000s mouthful “There’s a Good Reason These Tables are Numbered Honey, You Just Don’t Haven’t Thought of It Yet” by Panic! At the Disco and “Heaven” by Niall Horan. 

Sreya Dey, a senior neuroscience major and president of the Songburghs, said the group invests countless hours into each performance, but the ability to highlight Pitt talent makes it worthwhile.

“I love leading this group and showing the Pitt community how strong some of our musicians are on campus,” Dey said. “Being a completely student-run group, running events can be hard, but the passion that drives the members makes it all worth it.”

Many Songburghs members have years of musical experience under their belt — Dey, for instance, took six years of private lessons, sang in a choir for eight years and went to state-level choir festivals. Others, like first-year psychology major Erik Rodriguez, are less familiar with performance, but the welcoming environment both in and outside of rehearsal made him immediately comfortable, Rodriguez said.

“I have learned that I don’t need to know all the technical musical gibberish in order to be a part of something musical. I don’t know any of the notes, arrangements, tempos, and all that jazz, but I’m still kicking it with the group,” Rodriguez said. “We are a family… not just a bunch of college students showing up to rehearsal. We actually care about each other, and you get a sense of family when you walk in the door.”

Grace Willacy, sophomore early childhood education major, agreed that the Songburghs are more than just a music group.

“The biggest takeaway is making sure everybody feels welcome. I think our group does a great job with that and out of all the groups at Pitt, we’re pretty close-knit,” Willacy said. “We create this welcoming community so everyone feels like they have a place.”

Brayden Yan, junior computer science and data science major and assistant music director, helps arrange music for the Songburghs. He said the arranging process is tedious, sometimes taking up to two weeks, and is unlike arranging for any other instrument.

“You have to think about how [the song] would sound with people singing. It’s unique because the dynamic, expressive range of voice is so much more than any other instrument,” Yan said. “With a capella especially, all you have is voices, you need to be very detailed about how you want them to sound.”

Yan said they arrange songs on a volunteer basis, allowing any member to explore this new facet of music production. He said he and musical director Chris Chengshi are a resource for members interested in broadening their musical horizons, with Yan learning from Chengshi every day.

“I think it’s really valuable, having that exposure to making music, thinking about music, and now teaching music, with other people. There’s a lot you can do by learning and studying on your own, but at the end of the day, you want someone else to hear what you’ve made, you want other people’s opinions,” Yan said. “The interpersonal aspect of it is very valuable and contributes to my enjoyment of music as a whole.”

Yan joked that a cappella competitions are exactly like Pitch Perfect, complete with costumes and choreography. Last February, the Songburghs won second place for outstanding choreography at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, an achievement that Dey said is one of her proudest moments as a Songburghs member. The Songburghs released an EP, “Feel Alive,” in early September, featuring the setlist from their award-winning performance.

“I was the head choreographer last year, and it is truly such a hard job to create it, teach it to members, and clean it,” Dey said. “Winning this award with the other choreographers was one of the best feelings at this competition.”

Yan said the ability to reflect on the Songburghs’ achievements at the conclusion of each semester or competition is one of his favorite parts of being a member.

“It’s really cool watching all the work we put into the things we do come together. I think an important lesson is to not be discouraged by how difficult a song might be, to not be psyched out by what we want to do,” Yan said. “We’re here to win, we’re here to do as best as we can, but we also have fun.”

About the Contributor
Trinity Foster, Senior Staff Writer