International Vocal Festival Takes on Music of Latin America

The second annual International Vocal Festival primarily dove into the music of Latin America and featured performances by Ramapo groups, as well as two acts from outside of the College.

Opening the show was 12-piece Take 12, directed by Dr. Lisa Lutter. The collection of singers performed “Malaguena/Danza,” a piece originally written by Ernesto Lecuona. The counterpart to the all-male choir Take 12 is Skylark, which is comprised of a dozen women and also features Dr. Lutter at the helm.

Skylark went head first into Spanish language songs and did a rendition of “Los Bilbilicos” or “The Nightingales.” This was followed up by “Duerme Negrito,” or “Sleep, Little Black One,” by Emile Sole, as Itay Goren provided wonderful piano melodies beneath all of the songs. The final and most crowd enthusing song of Skylark’s set was a riveting performance of “Quien Sera,” popularly known as “Sway.” A solo by Michelle Encarnacion, a native speaker, was particularly powerful.

Dr. Lutter rounded up all 24 Ramapo students as they formed a circle on stage around the piano and came together as CantaNOVA. The fusion allowed for a real choir experience and was a strong transition into the first guest act, the Northern Valley Regional High School Chamber Singers Old Tappan. The high school students, directed by Janine Nehila, spent an entire day on campus and provided a memorable cover of Phillip Phillips’s “Home” and Shawn Kirchner’s “Cornerstone.”

The final act was duo “FreePlay,” made up of musicians Dylan Bell and Suba Sankaran, who originally hail from Toronto, Canada. The pair has brought their act around the world, including stops in Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, South Asia and India. They specialize in incorporating music from around the world and using that material to vocalize songs in unique and interesting ways. They utilized a live looping system, which they explained to those unfamiliar with it, and covered songs of well-known artists like Michael Jackson (“Butterflies”) and Owl City (“Fireflies”). They also stayed true to the theme of the event, songs outside of the United States, by tapping into Sankaran’s Indian ancestry by performing a traditional style.

“FreePlay” was very well received by both the former performers and the audience members and even garnered enough energy for an encore performance. The second installation of the International Vocal Festival is in large part the work of Dr. Lutter, who works to bring in acts that showcase music outside of the United States, while still maintaining the tradition and musicianship of her various choirs.