The arcs of a cappella singers in Morey Hall last Thursday had a temporary addition — who sang not with words but with signs.
The Midnight Ramblers and Vocal Point were joined by the American Sign Language Club for a performance as part of Deaf Awareness Week.
The week, led by the latter club, was filled with events that embrace American Sign Language, the use and education of the language on campus, and deaf culture in Rochester as a whole.
Nick Kasper, the club’s president as well as a member of the Midnight Ramblers, organized the event, which allowed students who knew ASL to select songs performed by either a cappella group and stand alongside them and perform.
“All the performers had amazing expression, and we were blown away by their emotion,” said junior Liz Priore, a member of Vocal Point.
A major attribute of American Sign Language is expression, where the meaning of a sign is altered based on the intensity of the expression and the expression itself. As an example, a more intense expression would be used when signing “quiet” if the meaning should be “very quiet.”
First-year Katie Wong, a member of the ASL Club who performed “Pray,” by Sam Smith, spoke about her performance experience and translating between English and ASL: “It’s really interesting from the performer’s perspective. Analyzing the poetry of English and all the metaphors that are in that and translating it into another language and the poetry of ASL and how to convey the metaphors. All while still maintaining the message of the song and beauty of language.”
Each performance was expressive and embodied the purpose of the evening, which was to acknowledge and appreciate ASL in a fun and incorporative way.
First-year Madeleine Fordham told of an interesting situation that occurred that emphasized the difficulty of translation:
“It’s really a challenge. You can rehearse all you want, but doing it live is a totally different experience. Danny Jersey was supposed to sing the song I signed, but he was sick and so Nick Kasper sang it instead. And Nick sang a line at the end that I hadn’t prepared for, so I had to translate it on the spot.”
Various ASL Club members who performed took advantage of the spotlight to serenade members of the audience and goof around with some of the singers.
Classic Rambler covers such as “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and “Kiss Him Goodbye” were performed by ASL Club members first-year Phelan Conheady and Kelsey McKeon, an alumna. Other performances included “Hollow,” by Kasper, Clean Bandit’s “I Miss You,” performed by first-year Les Johnson, both with Vocal Point, and “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back,” performed by first-year Madeleine Fordham and “Brown Eyed Girl” performed by sophomore Bri Terrell both with the Ramblers.
“Performing with the Ramblers was a very humbling experience, and their energy really fused well with my signing style. I hope to have the opportunity to sign with them again,” Conheady said.
Correction (4/23/18): The original version of this article said that performer Les Johnson was an alum. Johnson is in fact a first-year.