VeVo: A Variety of Voices

A silent piano takes up one-third of a closet-sized room, leaving the octet circle tightly knit for optimum harmonic sound. The family environment of the a cappella group, the Vermillion Vocalists, otherwise known as VeVo helps to keep their members in check, even in these tight quarters.

Anxiety, although felt, remains suppressed by the 17 members as they fine-tune their full group songs with playful humor that they pour out throughout hours of singing.

“One of the biggest advantages that a co-ed a cappella group can have, is that you have a lot of variety as to what you can do,” said Jessica Chen, who is Business Manager of VeVo. VeVo performs everything from “jazz to The Beatles, Korean pop to today’s Top 40,” Nguyen said.

“Ashley Mac [the original founder of VeVo] and her friends wanted to sing, and they actually had some friends who had wanted to start up an acappella group, which was perfect,” Nehemiah Chen said, one of the founding members and resident bass of VeVo.

VeVo made their public debut at the annual Coolest A Cappella Festival Ever (CAFE), hosted by Circle of Fifths in Spring 2009.

In the beginning stages, VeVo sang at concerts hosted by other UC Irvine a cappella groups like Circle of Fifths, Clair de Lune and United Voices. The group wanted to showcase their variety of songs and therefore decided to host the first Vevofication in 2011.

“We definitely got our name out a lot this year,”  Chen said.

VeVo has been commissioned by both UCI students and community members to sing at events, which have included a bridal shower and a date-night serenade that a UCI student gave to his boyfriend. The group will start off the summer with a performance at a wedding ceremony cocktail hour at the end of June.

VeVo’s sensational performance at Soulstice this year put VeVo on the map, catapulting their popularity as a viable entertainment group. Rie Castro, Choreography Director of VeVo had her work cut out for her in preparing for Soulstice. The choreography would be one of the important elements in awarding them the best a cappella group at the competition.

“Especially in front of an ASUCI-hosted event, the largest audience that we have performed for; it felt really good to be awarded for all the hard work we’ve been doing,” Angela Allen, Secretary of VeVo, said.

“We like performing smaller spaces so we can hear each other,” Chen said. For their personal performance, VeVo had the luxury of performing in the intimate Humanities 1800 room, ideal for a cappella acoustics.

Throughout the year, VeVo has arranged and practiced an entirely new set-list for their Second Annual VeVofication concert.

“Every year we want to take advantage of the members in the group because we have the lowest of lows and the highest of highs,” Chen said.

Groups divide into their quintet, septets, octets, and solos to practice the variety of hits from swing jazz to John Mayer’s “Back to You,” performed by the adored singers, bass Chen and Josh Kupanoff.

A lot of time and energy is spent bringing together all of the members of the unit into one small classroom for late night practices, three nights a week, including Saturday. Weekend practices are never a sacrifice though; members are often found lingering for hours after rehearsal.

“We’re a big family,” Allen said.

A theme of nostalgia threaded through VeVofication II, with half of the songs from our childhood movies and shows, like Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Toy Story 2, the Peanuts, and the Powerpuff girls.

Throughout their childhood, these singers worked hard on their musical skills to be talented enough to join VeVo.

“In addition to voice lessons and high school show choir, Angela grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll from the 1960’s,” said Allen’s father, Byron Allen.

For members of the VeVo family, singing solos or sharing their passion for certain songs with others gives them the vehicle to express their gratitude, love or frustrations to the audience.

At VeVofication II, a few performers at VeVofication dedicated songs to their loved ones. Allen shared her emotions to her boyfriend with her solo, “The Scientist,” by Coldplay. The group also sang a surprise “Happy Birthday” to Allen’s mother.

David Wu, Musical Director of VeVo who beat-boxes and directs,  dubstepped his way into the spotlight, amazing the audience with his skills. Beat-boxing is just a hobby compared to his significant efforts in arranging nearly every VeVo song, with the help of the other experienced members.

This year, two songs were arranged by members who were new to the job. Josh Kupanoff arranged an original, ethereal and spiritual piece set to the Latin prayer, “Pater Noster.”

Roxy Kennedy, one of the singers found swaying barefoot for balance in the circle, arranged a nostalgic “Second Star to the Right.”

Some members even write their own lyrics. Graduating this year, Gabrielle Castro gave her last UCI performance at VeVofication II with her original song, “Temporary.”

The Vermillion Vocalists concluded VeVofication II with the performance that made them famous –– “Paradise,” by Coldplay, showcasing each of their own talents in a seamless and original take on the new tune.