Kathryn Stamm / Sun News Editor

Julie Phan '20 performs a solo with her group, The Touchtones, on Saturday, March 14 during their last concert of the school year.

March 17, 2020

‘A Moment of Joy’: A Cappella Groups Honor Seniors One Last Time

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While students moved boxes into their cars, the sounds of a cappella music filled the arches across campus this past weekend.

Given the abrupt end to in-person classes following President Martha E. Pollack’s March 10 announcement, the a cappella groups around campus moved up their senior arch sings to let their seniors perform one last time for their friends and fans.

“The whole idea of an arch sing is that it’s intimate,” said Nicole Lehman ’20, a member of the Touchtones, Cornell’s first officially recognized a cappella group.

“It’s a smaller crowd, there’s not going to be flashy choreography or costumes,” Lehman continued. “This is more like getting to sing for your closest friends, your closest fans.”

The tradition usually sees old favorites sung and speeches given to honor the graduating seniors — the only thing different this time around was the expedited timeline.

The final performances were thrown together in less than a week, with members working and rehearsing on the fly to figure out how to address the changing landscape caused by COVID-19.

“There was definitely a sense of stress in the air. In a normal semester, you have all of April and May to work toward your senior arch sing,” Lehman said. “Instead, [the question was] What can we pull together in five hours of rehearsal that gives every senior a chance?”

For the all-female group Callbaxx, they had planned to have their senior arch sing on March 18, but after Friday’s announcement of canceled classes, many members planned to leave sooner than expected, said member Gaby Dickson ’20.

The group ended up planning their last hurrah — mostly through their GroupMe chat — for that Friday night.

But having the opportunity was crucial for both groups, members said, to celebrate the seniors’ hard work and all their traditions together.

“I’m leaving Cornell feeling so much of it is unfinished, there was so much more I wanted to see and do,” Dickson said. “But I feel much better having had the arch sing, because I got to sing my solo and sing with them one more time.”

And for both seniors, this was the space for them to find some semblance of closure amid the stress, sadness and confusion.

“It felt like a culmination of many years of work,” Dickson said. “It felt like a real moment of joy.”