Every Feb. 14, chocolate sales will increase, CVS lines will be filled with people buying last-minute gifts and the Vassar Devils will wake someone up at five in the morning to the traditional song “You are My Sunshine.”
After tabling in the Retreat the week before, the Vassar Devils celebrated Valentine’s Day by traveling all over campus to deliver their annual Valentinograms. The a capella group, celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, also recently received seven Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA) nominations for their 2017 debut album “Coming Alive,” including Best Mixed Collegiate Album and Best Pop Song for the track “Alive.”
The song options for this year’s Valentinograms featured jazz standards like “Fly Me to the Moon” to more contemporary numbers like The Rescues’ “My Heart With You.” The group offered to perform via Skype for those not on campus as well as for alumnae/i.
Social Media Manager Jojo Schreeder ’20 spoke about how the group’s working dynamic makes the Valentinograms so unique: “We work hard together to make beautiful music, and when we are able to share it and have an impact on people’s lives, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why Valentinograms are so great; we get to spread love with our voices!”
Schreeder elaborated on how the group rehearsed for this year’s holiday: “This year we prepared four love songs. In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, we rehearse the shortcut of each song. Knowing that members of the group will be unavailable due to class throughout the day, we also rehearse each song with hypothetical, small groups. This helps us feel prepared when on the day, we end up performing ‘Love On Top’ with two altos and a tenor!”
Even though the group determines their schedules around classes, it has been a tradition for the first-years to deliver Morning Sunshines from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. While a little bit more expensive than an ordinary Valentinogram—seven dollars as opposed to five—this option certainly makes a memorable gift.
Music Director Lily Carmichael ’20 acknowledged how Morning Sunshines can be overwhelming for the group as well: “Morning Sunshines are a lot. Only a few members do them. I did them last year. Honestly, they’re fun. It’s a bonding experience for the people that are doing them. It’s a tradition for all the people doing the Morning Sunshines to wake up all the other members of the Devils with a song. It was really cute. I loved being woken up for it.”
One such recipient of a Morning Sunshine, Yair Stein ’19, recounted his experience with this pseudo-wake-up call: “I was just asleep and suddenly I heard people breaking out into ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ and I was really confused, because I looked at the time and it wasn’t even 6 a.m., and I was just wondering why a group would hold rehearsal then. It took me a minute to realize that it was the Devils doing Valentinograms. They sounded lovely, and it was definitely not the worst song to be woken up by, but yeah, it was just very, very early.”
After releasing their debut album “Coming Alive” in May 2017, the Vassar Devils received seven CARA nominations on Feb. 12. The album, which took over two years to arrange, record and produce, features original songs like “Nothing” by Hannah Tobias ’16 and Matt Goldstein ’17 as well as covers of popular songs like WALK THE MOON’s “Iscariot” and “Blood I Bled” by The Staves. The group performed a joint concert with one of their fellow nominees, Northeastern University’s The Nor’easters, in November. The awards ceremony will be in Boston on April 8. The album also received a 4.75 out of 5 review from the Recorded A Capella Review Board.
Carmichael explained the jubilation spread throughout the group as a result of these nominations: “It’s thrilling, unexpected, but really really exciting. We’re up there with pretty prestigious groups like the Nor’easters. So it’s really an honor.”
Still reveling in the success of their first album, the Vassar Devils are already making plans for their sophomore effort, releasing a cover of Beyonce’s “Love On Top” on Spotify and other music platforms to coincide with Valentine’s Day. The recording is a collaboration with The Vocal Company, which helped produce “Coming Alive.” The Vassar Devils will also go on a mini-tour in April to Connecticut and Boston to perform with local a cappella groups and choirs.
Schreeder described the energy the nominations have given the group to record another album: “The CARA awards are completely overwhelming! As a newer member of the group that did not have any part in the album, it is very inspiring. It definitely is pushing the current members to find a balance between living up to our alumnae/i and creating our own path. That is why we have started the process for a second album; we are so excited to make our mark on this group!”
And just as this incarnation of the Vassar Devils hopes to carve their legacy with an album, they hope to continue making Valentine’s Day at Vassar a day filled with serenades and harmonies, even if that means in the wee small hours of the morning.