Villanova students hear a Siren song

Matilda Swartz

It is widely known that Villanova is a breeding ground for talent in the realms of athletics, academics and service. Flying further under the radar is the skilled world of Villanova Music Activities.

While the basketball team is practicing lay-ups and the Blue Key Society is giving tours, six Villanova a cappella groups are harmonizing and beat-boxing their way to performance perfection.

I sat down with sophomores Rachel Friedman and Christie Liberatore, co-music director and co-executive director, respectively, of one of Villanova’s three female a cappella groups, the Sirens.

Q: How long have you been singing?

Liberatore: Since I came out of the womb, literally.

Friedman: On my own, since I can remember, but I didn’t get into group singing until my junior year of high school.

Q: What is your definition of a Villanova Siren?

CL: A Villanova Siren is not like any other a cappella singer because each member is really different – both in physical appearance and mindset. Each member has her own major, her own set of clubs. Together, we represent all facets of this campus. A Siren is open-minded to all types of music; we’re always looking for ways to incorporate more artists and genres.

RF: Someone who doesn’t play into the typical Villanova student image. Someone who can adapt to different situations because, a lot of the time, [while singing] you have to think on your feet.

Overall, someone who is nice, sweet and personable.

Q: What differentiates you ‘Cats from the rest of the a cappella pack?

CL: We are diverse. I mean, in one semester we are going to songs from both Destiny’s Child and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. We aren’t afraid of deviating from the norm. We’ll give any song a chance.

RF: In terms of solo distributions, last year every girl but one had a solo throughout the year. We sing so many different types of music. We don’t stick to any one style.

Q: Any new material or recent additions to the group?

CL: We have four new girls this semester, including three freshmen. I’m so glad we got them because we really needed sopranos and low altos. Our new girls are so different as far as voice type and personality go, and they fit right into the group dynamic.

New songs for this semester include “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child, “The Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and a ’90s theme-song medley.

Q: What is some of the Sirens’ older material?

RF: We’ve brought back Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” which the current seniors first sang three years ago. Some other Siren classics include “Shout” by The Isley Brothers and “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, which we learned early last year and have sung routinely ever since.

Q: What is your favorite song to sing (in or out of Sirens)?

CL: “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon, “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera and “Once Upon A Dream” from “Jekyll & Hyde.”

RF: With the Sirens, “Sunday Morning,” which was my first solo as a Siren) and “Just Dance.” It’s a great song to get the crowd going. Outside of Sirens, any Jason Mraz song.

Q: How exactly does one beat box?

RF: I just started learning by listening to the upperclassmen. When I first saw someone beat box, I couldn’t believe it.

I wanted to learn so badly. Basically, you try to mimic the sounds of a drum as much as you can. You have to breathe a lot or else the sounds won’t come out. Beat boxing is pretty crucial to keeping the pace of a song, giving it energy. A lot of the time it signals a transition to the verse or chorus and really gives the song more life.

CL: One time, the musical director filled in for someone else who was supposed to beat box and gave it such a unique style.

I am beat boxing for the first time in “The Impression That I Get.”

Q: What are some typical Sirens antics during rehearsal?

CL: The first half hour of rehearsal is spent talking about each other’s lives, anything crazy or out of the ordinary. There’s always food and random conversation. The rest is just an ordinary practice, with the occasional inside joke. Sometimes there will be a random outburst that gets us off track for awhile. Once we get down to business and finish a song, though, everyone hears the magic.

RF: Maura is a chemical engineer and, last practice, we analyzed the projectile motion of macaroni and cheese. There is a lot of joke-singing, as in loud and obnoxious.

When we really focus, though, everything else melts away. The result is quite amazing.

Q: If the Sirens had an official mascot, who or what would it be?

CL: Something girly but fierce. Destiny’s Child. They can harmonize, but they’re not afraid to be in your face.

RF: I agree. Something really powerful. Definitely Destiny’s Child.

The Villanova Sirens will be holding their next concert on Dec. 4 with the male a cappella group Vocal Minority. The time and place is yet to be determined.