Sing Dynasty performs for the Obamas and at Pearl Harbor

by Andrew Sosanya | 1/11/17 2:30am

The Sing Dynasty, one of Dartmouth’s a cappella groups, capped off 2016 in a remarkable fashion: performing for thousands at Pearl Harbor and then for the Obamas in the White House before the family departs in January.

Before heading to Washington, D.C., the Sing Dynasty stopped in Hawaii for the second time on its annual winter break tour. The members performed at the 75th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration on Dec. 6 and 7. At the Commemoration, they sang at three ceremonies: the Interfaith Prayer Service, Double Interment Ceremony and Blackened Canteen Ceremony.

Taylor Lane ’20 was moved to tears when families mourned their loved ones as the ashes of survivors were placed into a gun turret of the fallen ship, USS Arizona. The group sang in front of a giant marble wall engraved with the names of Pearl Harbor survivors. Mourners cried as the group sang touching renditions of “Amazing Grace,” “When The Saints Go Marching In,” “The Naval Hymn,” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

“It was probably the most beautiful space I will ever sing in my lifetime,” Lane said. “To see the light that music can bring in sad moments is incredible.”

The group’s itinerary was unexpectedly lengthened when the members were told that they had secured the opportunity to sing at a White House holiday reception. They had less than two days to prepare songs. Some members had to quickly cancel their flights back home and reroute their trip to Washington, D.C.

Danielle Piacentile ’17, president of the Sings, traveled from New Jersey to the John F. Kennedy International Airport; the airport to Honolulu, Hawaii; Honolulu to Kona, Hawaii; Kona to Honolulu; Honolulu to JFK; and then from JFK to D.C., she said.

Unsure of the logistics of playing at a White House reception, the group was originally slated to play a one-hour set filled with Christmas carols and songs such as “White Winter Hymnal” and “Someday at Christmas.” But afterwards, the members were suddenly told that they had five minutes to prepare a 45-second set to perform for the Obamas. Luckily, the group had a holiday hit in their arsenal­­ — Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” President Obama’s head started bopping when Piacentile hit the notes in her solo.

“I was nervous, and I was hoping not to forget the words because I just learned the song the day before,” Piacentile said. “[The Obamas] were literally five feet away from us.”

Piacentile felt that the change in musical style was a nice refresher from the usual show in a fraternity house, where the group usually does covers of pop songs. She describes the performance as “affirming [our] musicality in a way we don’t get to on a normal basis.”

For Julie Solomon ’17, musical director of the Sings, being able to perform at both events in Hawaii and Washington, D.C. was an “unimaginable experience,” she said. Three Sings alumni and two members who had been off-campus were also able to join the group in D.C., making it a special capstone to their tour.

The Sing Dynasty hopes to release an album of its best covers before the end of spring term.